Chinese culture scoring points abroad with mahjong

By Erik Nilsson ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-11-01 07:41:01

While many see the Chinese loss in Europe as a national humiliation, it can be a point of pride. China may not win all over the world but has won over the world.

Ultimately, the contest's loss shouldn't be viewed in the context of a zero-sum game but rather one in which a cog of Chinese culture is scoring points around the globe.

A situation enthusiasts across the planet lament is the lack of rules' standardization. Mahjong's rules vary throughout China like dialects. The rules, like languages, vary even more widely throughout the world, as countries develop respective rubrics.

Some experts say mahjong is like a language, one that enables four (in some foreign versions, three) proficient people who couldn't verbally communicate to converse as long as they have a board and tiles.

Yet they point out the proliferation of mahjong pidgins and parlances makes this more difficult.

Say the players are respectively disciplined in American Mah Jongg (distinctive jokers and melds), Japanese richi mahjong (unique "ready hands" and bonus tiles), Vietnamese mat chuoc (16 extra tiles) and the Australian Navy's Pussers Bones (streamlined).

They may draw a blank - literally, as blank tiles generate the most divergence among rulebooks. Getting the gist of divergent yet largely overlapping mahjong vernaculars may not be enough for this foursome to play a glib game - hence the call for homogeny.

But perhaps a Tower of Babel constructed on the mahjong board is better built up than torn down. Localization can prop up mahjong's internationalization.

Regional rule variants develop for a reason, rather than in a vacuum. And they can proliferate while, simultaneously, more people coalesce around a dwindling number of increasingly dominant rulebooks.

This enhances the chances that in a world increasingly interconnected by the Internet and airlines, mahjong tiles' click-clack may be heard more around the globe. Maybe it'll prompt jetsetters to crack new jokes.

Chinese culture scoring points abroad with mahjong

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