British Rules
A gentle introduction to the game
The Game
Download printer friendly rules
Examples of sets and advice about where to buy them
Mah-Jong sites, their content, and an indication of how interesting it is
Mah-Jong clubs, organisations and other contacts
Mah-Jong teachers and courses in the UK
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Mah-Jong  (variously known as Mah-Jongg, Mahjongg, Majong and Mahjong)  is a charming Chinese game played with engraved tiles.  Traditionally, the tiles have been made from ivory or bone dove-tailed into bamboo.  But a variety of other materials has also been used including wood, Bakelite, resin and modern plastic.


The exotic tiles, the oriental associations and the rituals which surround the game lend it a certain mystique and perhaps make it somewhat forbidding.   However, although the rules are quite intricate, the rudiments of play are surprisingly easy to master and it is not unusual for a beginner to do quite well.

Origins of the game

Although there have been claims for its antiquity, it seems most likely that the game originated in the Nongpo area of China in the latter half of the nineteenth century.   It quickly spread to other countries in the early part of the twentieth century, becoming popular in the West in the 1920’s.

Forms of the game

Along the way the rules mutated into a variety of national forms; Hong Kong, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Western Classical, American, etc.  Even within one country there are home grown variations.  


This lack of standardisation is reflected in the many books which have been written on the subject. And it’s shared by the, often obscure, rule books that accompany Mah-Jong sets.  It’s a confusion that can be quite frustrating for the newcomer trying to learn the game.

Which rules to play by ?

I first met this difficulty when I joined a local “University of the Third Age” (or “U3A”) Mah-Jong group in Peterborough, England which - with little previous knowledge of the game - was struggling to find a set of rules to play by.  I discovered that the game I had enjoyed for some time, thought I knew and had documented for others, was not the only Mah-Jong around.


After a brush with the “Chinese Official International Rules” we settled on those produced for the British Mah-Jong Association  (BMJA).  Unlike certain other versions, the British game is quite close to the original Chinese gambling game, but it is played differently and with only notional money.


Charged with explaining the rules to the group, I modified my documentation so that it  conformed with the BMJA rules.  I have set it out here in web form using many illustrative photographs.

Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile
Season or Flower Tile

Examples of the different types of Mah-Jong tiles. Some are made from bone and bamboo, some are made from Bakelite, and others are made from modern plastic.   The tiles shown are all Flower or Season tiles.

© 2008-2010   Peter Gregory
© 2008-2010   Peter Gregory
The British Mah-Jong Association logo

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by the British




University of the Third Age

Site History

Text Only
Site Map

(80 A4 pages)

Click to see a quick sample of the book

Click here for a quick sample of the book

(the first 11 pages)

Contains the same information and illustrations found in this web site,

but in a format that can be printed easily.  

Click to find out how you can obtain this book
Mah-Jong, British Rules  Book
Laminated  Playing Aid

A laminated Playing Aid card, giving a summary of Mah-Jong scoring and other helpful information, is also available if you live in the UK.  

Click here

for an

order form

Click on images

to see more detail

Picture of book
Written in collaboration with the British Mah-Jong Association in an attempt to curtail the confusion over how to play and to allow the beginner an easier passage into game.  It gives the official BMJA rules.

It also contains a short history of the game, something on tactics and etiquette and - for the more serious player - tournament play rules and penalties.

Since it’s first publication in 1978, it has sold over ¼ million copies.

Mah-Jong  (Know the Game)  by Gwyn Headley and Yvonne Seeley


The Complete Book of Mah-Jongg  by A. D. Millington

Considered to be an authoritative, but perhaps over wordy, guide to classical Chinese Mah-Jongg.  Besides delving into the minutia of these rules it covers the history, philosophy and symbolism of the game and assesses its various rival forms.

Buy from       Buy from

Buy from

The Great Mahjong Book: History, Lore and Play  by Jelte Rep

Beautifully illustrated and well written book about the history of Mah-Jong and the rules that it is played by in various countries.

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Buy from


Click to see larger image


& Tiles

This is very useful to have to hand as a reference when playing the game.


Summary of

Mah-Jong Scoring

More general information  about Mah-Jong is also to be found here.

Buying Mah-Jong sets

There’s  advice about buying  a Mah-Jong set,  examples of sets  and a  list of web sites  in the UK and elsewhere where you can purchase sets.


For the UK , there’s a regionally organised  list of shops  that sell Mah-Jong sets and a list of  manufacturers and wholesale suppliers.

Other Mah-Jong web sites

You can find a list of other Mah-Jong web sites  here.  There’s an indication of their content  (using keywords, such as “Pictures”, “History” and “Terminology”) and an assessment of interesting it is.


For a selected view of these sites click  here.

Mah-Jong clubs & organisations

For those who are interested in meeting other Mah-Jong players there’s information about this here.   All forms of Mah-Jong are included.


If you want more information about the British Mah-Jong Association (BMJA), click  here.


A regionally organised  list of UK clubs  and details of how to contact them is also given.

There are also some suggestions for  club activities.

Mah-Jong teachers & courses

Although few in number, there are Mah-Jong teachers and courses to be found in the UK.

These are shown in a  regionally organised list.   All forms of Mah-Jong are included.

Now with two new chapters on strategy and FAQs




Learning the Game by Stages

The Game


Mah-Jong Strategy

Mah-Jong FAQs    

Highest Mah-Jong Score   


Scoring Sheets

Playing Aid for BMJA rules