Mahjong is an Asian game, even though most people think it’s only a Chinese classic. However, for people who have tried different game variants, it may be a bit difficult to tell which is which. Here, we explore the difference between Chinese and Japanese Mahjong to help you tell them apart.
The Chinese variant of Mahjong is called “Zhongguo Maqiang” or simply “Maqiang.” It was introduced in China during the Ming Dynasty and has been played ever since.
Playing Mahjong online is easy once you find a reputable site, but it's good to understand the rules. The rules are simple: each player gets a hand of tiles with numbers from 1 to 9 on them. Each tile must contain at least one number that matches the number on the tile next to it. When all tiles are used up, players take turns removing tiles from their hands until they can no longer play.
If tiles remain after the last player runs out of tiles, then those tiles are eliminated from the board and added to the pile for future use. The game ends when all tiles have been removed from the board. Players gather points based on how many tiles they had remaining after the final round.
The Japanese version of Mahjong is called “Rangō,” invented by the Japanese monk Sei Shōnagon. In Japan, this variant is usually referred to as “Shanghai Rangō.”
Like its Chinese counterpart, the rules are simple: each person receives a hand of tiles with the same numbers like the ones shown above. However, unlike the Chinese version, the Japanese version does not require the tiles to match. Instead, the goal is to remove all tiles from your hand before anyone else removes theirs.
When someone removes a tile, the other players try to guess what color it is. Whoever guesses correctly wins the tile. Once everyone has guessed, whoever still has tiles left with them loses. The winner in this game is determined by the total amount of points they earn.
There are two types of Mahjong games in Japan: “Kakushi” and “Gokui.” Kakushi means that the tiles are empty, while Gokui means that the tiles are full.
In Kakushi, players start with a set of tiles, but they don’t know what colors they will receive. They can choose to either keep the tiles they already have or discard them. After every turn, players add new tiles to their hands. If a player discards a tile, they can’t re-use it later. At the end of the game, the punter with the highest score wins.
In Gokui, players start with a full hand of tiles, and they do not discard anything. Every time a tile is played, a color is chosen. If a player picks a tile that they did not initially determine, they take back the tile. At the end of a game, the player with more tiles left in their hand wins.
If you wonder which variant is better, you may have to try both and decide which appeals to you the most.