Mahjong Buying Tips

How To Buy a Mahjong Set for Yourself or as a Gift

I'm buying a Mahjong Set as a Gift. Should I buy an American, Chinese, Japanese or other type of set?

The first and most obvious question to ask is: is the person you're buying for American, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or from Taiwan? If so, most of the time they and their friends will play the type of mahjong from their respective countries. Some other generalities:

  • Northern Europeans most commonly play Japanese mahjong (aka Riichi Mahjong).
  • People from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries play with standard Chinese mahjong sets, even if scoring rules differ slightly.
  • Likewise, even though there are regional differences in mahjong play in China, everyone in China plays with standard Chinese mahjong sets.
  • Jewish-American mahjong players almost always play using American mahjong sets. American mahjong sets are commonly referred to with the alternate spelling "Mah Jongg"

When in doubt, we recommend that you purchase an American mahjong set. American mahjong sets contain all of the tiles for Chinese mahjong as long as you substitute dragons for the "zhong"and "fa" tiles. Also, American sets include Roman letters and Arabic numerals on the tiles for those who can't read Chinese characters.

Why are American mahjong sets the most expensive?

American mahjong sets have 166 tiles (Chinese sets only have 144) and include a set of racks to hold the tiles. More tiles, the addition of racks, and a larger box makes the entire set more expensive.