The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Hong Kong Style Mahjong.. maybe. Part I 港式麻雀簡介

I remember watching my parents and relatives playing Mahjong when I was small. I thought it was something only old people play (especially when my mom always stressed that playing mahjong can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease). 

Then my sisters and cousins started playing it. I was so jealous. All I knew was the flowers in Mahjong. Nothing else.

Later when I grew older, I asked my aunts to teach me. It was NOT EASY at all. Maybe I was just not smart… or my aunts were too good. But then I fell in love with it (not the gambling part). I ask new friends if they play mahjong and if not, I would teach them the Hong Kong Mahjong Style (That’s the only style I learned). And of course, I am not an expert but those basic techniques are just what you need to play an enjoyable game… Now I want to make a simple guide to introduce you to the wonderful mahjong world!

The Mahjong 

A mahjong set has 144 tiles and They include tiles of four different groups- Ten Thousands, bamboo, circle, character cards and flowers. The first three categories each consist of 36 tiles, and there are 28 character cards and eight flower cards. The Cantonese romanizations inside the following parentheses tell you how we read the tiles in Cantonese.

Ten-Thousands 萬子 (Maan6 Zi2) 

There are 36 ten-thousands tiles in a mahjong set, four tiles for each “ten thousands,” from ten thousands to ninety thousands.

Pictures of a set of ten-thousands tile. 


The characters on top are traditional Chinese numbers:

一 One (Jat1 – J as y)

二 Two (Ji6)

三 Three (Saam1)

四 Four (Sei3)

五 Five (Ng5)

六 Six (Luk6)

七 Seven (Cat1 – c as z)

八 Eight (Baat3)

九 Nine (Gau2)

And the character at the bottom is 萬 (Maan6), which means ten thousands.

Pronunciation example:

Ten thousands: Jat1 Maan6

Bamboo 索子 (Sok3 Zi2)

Pictures of a set of bamboo tiles. 


Same as the ten-thousands tiles, there are 4 tiles for every number in the bamboo tiles, from one to nine. Notice that the “one” in bamboo is a bird. 

Pronunciation example:

One bamboo: Jat1 Sok3

Circle 筒子 (Tung4 Zi2)

Picture of a set of circle tiles.


From one-circle to “nine-circle”, each number has four tiles, same as the previous two groups. 

Pronunciation example:

two-circle: Ji6 Tung4

Character cards 番子 (faan1)

Character cards are the most tricky ones for foreigners, but they are also the best tiles in a mahjong set said Alice. 

When I say character cards, I am referring to the followings: 

Picture of the character cards.


Each of them has four tiles. 東 East (Dung1)

南 South (Naam4)

西 West (Sai1)

北 North (Bak1)

中 Middle (Zung1)

發 Make-a-Fortune (Faat3)

The last one is a white board. It pronounces 白 (baak6)

東南西北 are the direction cards. 中發白 are power cards. I will talk more about how you use it later!

Flower cards

Eight flower cards include the followings:

A set of flower cards.


春 Spring (Cheun1)

夏 Summer (Ha6)

秋 Fall (Chau1)

冬 Winter (Dung1)

梅 Plum Blossom (Mui4)

蘭 Orchid (Laan4)

菊 chrysanthemum (Guk1)

竹 Bamboo (Juk1

You can treat these flower cards as extras, good or bad. If you draw a flower, you can draw another tile … I will talk more about it later.  I spent like two weeks on writing this blogpost. I think I should stop it here for now. Let me continue writing on the rules of Mahjong next week. 

(Thanks for reading it if you are still with me here! Hehe)


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