Basic strategy

September 15, 2021

Crazy Rich Asians Movie: Hidden Symbolism About Mahjong Game Explained

Mahjong is a game that is deeply rooted in Ancient Chinese culture. Therefore, when the directors were making a movie with an ancient Asian theme, they included a scene that would resonate with most players. However, you might have missed the symbolism if you don't know how to play Mahjong. Before continuing to read this page, make sure to watch the movie. We would hate to spoil the epic scene for you as we break down the Mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asians.  

Crazy Rich Asians Movie: Hidden Symbolism About Mahjong Game  Explained

History of Mahjong 

The game originated in China before spreading across the entire Asian region. Records of communities playing Mahjong go as far back as 1927. In the game, players compete to form a series of three or four matching tiles. According to Mao Zedong, a renowned Chinese philosopher, Mahjong is the perfect tool to understand the relationship between chance and necessity. Surprisingly, Crazy Rich Asians movie is not the first to use a Mahjong scene. Other films referred to the game include "The Joy Luck Club" and the TV series "Fresh Off the Boat."

The Key to Winning in Mahjong

Every player gets 13 tiles with markings on one face, and a 14th tile can be picked to win the game. The goal is to get a series of tiles with matching numbers or numbers that follow each other. As you try to put a set together, your opponent also does the same while trying to break your set. Winning sets in the game are named as follows:

  • Chow: Three consecutive numbers of the same suit
  • Pong: A set comprising three identical tiles
  • Eye: A pair of identical tiles

The Mahjong Scene in Crazy Rich Asians

In the movie, Nick, the son of an Asian Native, brings home Rachel Chu, his American fiancé of Asian American descent. Eleanor, his mother, disapproves of Rachael after learning that Rachael's mother fled China to settle in America. 

Eleanor and Rachel meet at the community Mahjong parlor. During the heated moment packed with suspense and emotions, they start playing the game amidst a conversation.

The Start of the Game

Eleanor sits in the "East" when the game starts and gets the dealer position while Rachel sits in the "West." The naming of the sides follows the primary directions on a compass and symbolism between America and Asia. 

An Early Lead

Eleanor achieves her first "Pong" set early in the game, showing more experience. However, before in the movie, the audience is shown that Rachel is a Game Theory expert. As such, she can plan a long-term strategy to win the game. 

As the game progresses, Rachel and Eleanor keep having a conversation. She reveals that Nick has proposed to her and was willing to leave everything behind. At the same time, Rachel draws the most important tile for a win. In a twist of events, the same tile would tip the game in favor of Eleanor. Here the symbolism is clear; The tile represents Nick, who is essential to both ladies, and Rachel has the upper hand with him.  

The Plot Twist

Although Rachael has the winning tile, she folds and lets Eleanor win. This is another symbolic action. It represents her decision to turn down Nick's proposal. As a Game theory expert, she saw no-win insight had the marriage proposal gone through. If Nick married her, he would lose his family and mother's, love. If Nick had to leave her because of Eleanor, he would resent his mother for the rest of his life. Therefore, Rachel decided to decline the proposal for his own good. 


The symbolism of the game between Rachel and Eleanor adds depth to the scene. But even without knowing how to play Mahjong, the scene is still epic. If you have already watched the movie, this explanation hopefully gives you a better understanding of what the directors were driving when they recorded the Mahjong scene.    

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