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Traditional Mahjong Tile Designs Explained

Rate this Article We all love Mahjong games, but what do the icons on the tiles actually mean. In this article we will explain what each of the types of pattern are and what they symbolize. Mahjong Games Free - Traditional Mahjong Tile Designs Explained

While there are a lot of Mahjong games around, and many of them use the classic Chinese symbols there are quite a few of us players that do not know what they are or what they mean. So we have taken it upon ourselves to try and bring you that information, and we discovered it is pretty interesting too.

In a standard set of tiles you will have 144 tiles, divided into 3 categories, the Suited Tiles, Honor Tiles and Flower Tiles. Within these 3 areas there are also several different kinds of tile each with a unique design and color scheme. When the game was first developed the circle symbols we see today represented coins in a variety of amounts. The other tiles represented the 4 winds or aspects of the beliefs of the ancient Chinese.

The Suited Tiles are the largest of the sets, and they are then subdivided into 3 distinct groups: Circles, Bamboo and Characters. Each suit has 5 of each tile, and there are 9 unique tiles which means that there are 34 of each type. We will begin with the Circle Suit, these are represented by colored circles on the face of the tile, from 1 large multi colored circle to several all of a unique color. These represented 1 copper coin in currency as the physical coins of the period were circular with a hole in the middle of them.

The Bamboo Suit also ranges from 1 to 9 with the number 1 being represented as a bird. The origin of the name Bamboo is actually a small mistake, as the symbols represent 100 copper coins, which were carried tied together by a string through the middle. So on the original tiles the circle shapes were batches of coins, but when the tiles moved west they were mistaken for Bamboo and that is where the name originates from.

The Characters Suit use the actual numbers in Chinese script, rather than using a picture. As you look at a tile the icon in red on the top is the number, between one and nine, and the symbol on the bottom is wan, which roughly translated is myriad. A Myriad represents ten thousand coins, 100 strings of 100 coins and was the highest value of the Suited Tiles.

Following these you have the Honor Tiles which are divided into two groups rather than three. There are also less of these in a set, with 4 of each of the Wind tiles (16) and 4 of each of the Dragon Tiles (12). The 4 Winds are as you would expect, North, South, East and west. There are 3 Dragons, each with a unique color Red, Green and Blue. In most western sets there is an image of a dragon, where in the original sets the symbol is used instead.

There are several theories as to why the Honor Tiles entered a Mahjong set, either as an dedication to the spirits, or to bring fortune and luck to the players. While these tiles are fewer, 28 in total they are powerful within the original game, and so also appear less in Mahjong Solitaire layouts.

Finally we have the Flower Tiles, named as such because they depict flowers or floral themes. Though other symbols can also be used, people or birds are a prime example. These are the fewest tiles, with only 4 of each type. The 2 types are often called the Flower and the Season tiles. The most unique of all Mahjong tiles in many games they are both easy to spot but sometimes difficult to match as there are so few of them.

So there we have a bit more information about what the tiles mean, and we hope you found some useful information here. In many of the games we have played these symbols are changed into something cute or fun, and that is really enjoyable to play but there is nothing quite like looking at a board of these amazing traditional symbols. Knowing what they mean is not something you have to know to play, but it does actually add a little something to the game when you do.

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