Category Archives: Mah Jongg and Me

A HUSBAND’S LAMENT…

Our dear friend, Jan E, found this fabulous poem as she was going through her mother’s belongings. Jan has allowed me to share it with you…I have a feeling that many of you will be showing it to your significant others!

Jan wrote: “Going through my Mom’s belongings and found this poem just as is on a white piece of paper all folded up. Not sure where she got it from, or how long she had it. I’m thinking it must be pretty old since the cost of membership was 60 cents. I wish I knew who or when it was written, but it’s on a plain piece of folded up paper. The .60 to join makes me think it is from late 1960’s or 1970 as the card was .50 in the late 60’s and jumped to .75 in the early 1970’s. BUT who knows? I also found a set of mahj tiles in a yellow wood box that my brother purchased in Formosa, now Taiwan, back in the 60’s.  Only 148 tiles and they are as big as sugar cubes, but very interesting.  

Much thanks to wonderful Jan for sending this to me and to the memory of her mother who saved this poem from so many years ago. BTW, the photo has nothing to do with Jan or her mother…I was just looking for a photo of a husband who was lamenting his wife’s obsession with Mah Jongg!

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A HUSBAND’S LAMENT

I am a lonesome husband, I’m writing to complain
That since my wife plays Mah Jongg our home is not the same
She doesn’t nag or scold me for an “office work” delay
For that just gives her one more chance, that Mah Jongg game to play.
She never dallies at her work, her tasks are quickly done.
She gets the girls together for an afternoon of fun.

There was a time when I’d come home feeling pains of stress.
My wife would give me at the door, a kiss and warm caress.
The table would be neatly spread, the food would be divine.
And I would feel that I was blessed to have a wife like mine.
But now alas! All this has passed, ‘tis just a memory…..
I’m now a Mah Jongg widower, as you can plainly see.

She must find plenty in the game to like it more than me.
But she will find I’m not a guy who gives up easily.
I’m sending you the sixty cents to join your membership
In hopes you’ll send me all the rules and any other tip
To help me in my troubled hour achieve my final aim
To bring her back into my life and beat her at this game!!!!

I NEVER REALIZED THAT MAH JONGG COULD BE DANGEROUS!

Has anyone ever seen – or even heard of! – this movie called Cry Woman? I just read this review on eFilmCritic.com and also found a review written in Italian on Cinema Avennire where the movie is called Les Larmes de Madame Wang and then yet another write-up on Rotten Tomatoes. It really sounds absurdly funny!

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Ku qi de nü ren (Cry Woman) (Les Larmes de Madame Wang) (2002) is the funny, offbeat tale of a young Chinese woman who, when faced with a financial crisis, finds an unexpected solution in the lucrative career of a professional mourner.

Guixiang (Liao Quin) is young, beautiful, and married to a loser. Loud, opinionated, and scrappy, she struts about like a ghetto diva and makes ends meet by selling bootleg DVDs and CDs on the street while her husband whittles away the days playing low-stakes mahjong with his equally aimless friends. When a fight erupts during a game, and her husband puts one of his friend’s eyes out, she comes home to find that he has landed in jail for assault, and the wife of the now one-eyed mahjong player is on her doorstep demanding restitution for medical bills. Somehow she has to come up with enough money to pay off the bill and arrange for her husband’s early release. The only problem is she’s been almost-arrested too many times for selling bootlegs (by cops who eagerly confiscate her wares in order to take home the good stuff. The all-too-common option of prostitution doesn’t exactly appeal to her either.

When she picks up an affair with a now-married ex-boyfriend who owns a funeral parlor, he notices that she has a flair for the dramatic, especially when it comes to crying and lamenting (a technique she uses to avoid arrest or temper the wrath of creditors). When he suggests that she have a go as a professional mourner at his funerals, she throws herself into learning the gamut of traditional Chinese funeral chants. With as many people in the city who die during an average year, they figure they’ll be rich in no time. So naturally, once they embark upon this scheme, nobody dies for several weeks. But when they are having wild monkey sex in her apartment one afternoon, and hear of a prominent local businessman’s death on the television playing in the background, she falls off of her lover and jubilantly exclaims: “We’re back in business!”

The Cry Woman soon becomes the talk of the town, and a funeral favorite. But when she finally makes enough money to get her husband out of jail, she is suddenly forced to wonder whether she wants her old life back, or if she is willing to take a chance on the new boyfriend who seems in no hurry to leave his wife for her.

Much of the humor of Cry Woman is derived from the character of Guixiang. She is so feisty and opinionated, and struts about with such pronounced exaggeration that it’s hard not to find a smile on your face while watching her life unfold. She throws herself into the mourning, wailing, and chanting like a bored cheerleader who obviously doesn’t really care but is doing her part for the Rah-Rah cause anyway (not to mention the $$$ – or rather, Yuans). Only when a tragedy touches her own life do the tears become real, and we finally see the soul of this irascible young woman laid bare.

Though you probably won’t find it anywhere outside of a festival screening, a short art-house run, or perhaps on DVD, CRY WOMAN is an archly amusing look at the Chinese culture of the day, and well worth checking out should it cross your path.

IT’S HERE!!!

Guess what I found waiting for me today in my mailbox…

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I haven’t spent a lot of time with it yet but, at first glance, it looks like so much fun! I do think some of the hands are harder than on the 2014 card because in a number of the hands where last year’s card asked for a Pung of Flowers, this new card is asking for a Pung of Dragons instead. Much easier to get those Flowers, as we all know. So, this is going to be a fun challenge – can’t wait to start playing with this card!

Did you receive your card yet? If so, what are your thoughts on the new 2015 card?

GLADYS KNOWS BEST…

Another interesting question and informative answer from

Gladys Grad‘s Mah Jongg Madness newsletter

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Q. I have been playing for over 40 years and just love this game.  My friends are all experienced players and we live in Canada. This week during a game, I had one exposure and no other player was exposed.  The last tile from the wall was picked by a player opposite of me and she put it in her rack.  She then took a tile from her rack,  discarded it , but did not name it.  I was just about to say mah jongg when she picked it up from the table and put it back in her rack, and replaced it with another tile.  The fact that she did not say what the tile was, does this make this move okay?I think that she should not have taken the tile from the table because it was discarded  But she feels that because she did not name it, that it was okay.  Was it okay? Sheila

A. Your opponent did you wrong.  First, once a tile has been placed on the table – or named….it is considered discarded.  No-take-backs.  The National Mah Jongg League says “Down-is-Down.”  Further, once Mah Jongg has been declared…that ends the game.  It doesn’t matter that this was the last tile.  Would she expect to retrieve a tile she threw to someone in the middle of a game, so it wouldn’t give her opponent mahj?

JUST WONDERING…

A friend recently sent me this article from The Jewish Journal. My only argument with the article is the suggestion that the game is ancient, perhaps dating back to Confucius. Alright, I’ll get into that pet peeve of mine on another day! Anyway, it’s a cute article. Enjoy…

How Mah-Jongg Became Jewish

December 12, 2014 | By

How Mah-Jongg Became JewishHow did a game that graced ancient Chinese tables (in the company, some posit, of Confucius) come to grace contemporary Jewish tables (in the company, perhaps, of babka and Slivovitz)?

While books, documentary films and traveling museum exhibits have puzzled over mah-jongg becoming such a Jewish craze, no one has reached a definitive answer. Could it be connected to the formation of the National Mah Jongg League (NMJL) by a group of Jewish women in 1937? Or to its popularity among Jewish wives during World War II while their men were away? Or the game’s prominence at Jewish bungalow colonies in the mid-20th century? Or else, as NMJL president Ruth Unger believes, that selling mah-jongg cards functioned as a fundraising source for synagogue sisterhoods and Hadassah chapters?

Whatever the reason, the game has remained a fixture in the Jewish world ever since it came to the U.S. in the 1920s. And even today, says Annelise Heinz, of Stanford University’s Department of History, the game is enjoying a Jewish renaissance. “Many of the Jewish daughters who once rejected mah-jongg are now returning to the game as a way to connect with their Jewish identities and rekindle memories of their mothers.”

KEEP PLAYING!

I know I posted some similar articles last year but recently Johni Levene posted this on her new “Mah Jongg, That’s It” Facebook site (be sure to join – it’s really wonderful) and so I thought it might be time to post it again to remind us all that not only is our beloved Mah Jongg fun but it’s good for us too!

The Effects of Mahjong

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Mahjong can have powerful effects on improving memory.

Mahjong is the Chinese word for “sparrow,” and is a game of strategy and skill played with tiles featuring Chinese characters. It resembles the English card game Rummy. Four players construct a wall from tiles that is 18 tiles wide and 2 tiles high. Dice rolls determine the play order and each player takes 13 tiles from the wall into his hand with an extra tile for the east player, then collects and discards tiles in order to build sets of three. Mahjong is mental exercise that, according to recent psychiatric and cognitive behavioral studies, can have powerful effects on improving memory and reducing dementia. Mahjong is thus a highly effective and low-cost therapy that can be integrated into the daily routines of most institutions.

  1. Reduced Dementia

    • Hong Kong researchers found in a 2006 study that participants with a median age of over 83 years who met a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) diagnosis of dementia significantly improved after playing mahjong twice or four times per week over the course of 16 weeks. This was true for players in both experimental groups, regardless of the frequency of play. The study also showed that the effects lasted even a month after mahjong play stopped, demonstrating that the positive cognitive effects of mahjong are powerful and long-lasting after participants have reached a certain threshold of improvement.

    Lower Risk of Dementia

    • Mahjong not only reduces dementia already affecting patients, but additional studies show that mahjong reduces the risk of ever developing it in the first place. Research on different varieties of cognitive games demonstrates that those who regularly do crossword puzzles or play strategic and mentally stimulating games like bridge and mahjong have a far lower risk of developing dementia compared to their peers who perform non-stimulating activities like watching television.

    Verbal Memory

    • Mahjong is a visual game, and players need not be able to read or understand the Chinese characters written on the playing tiles in order to benefit from its positive cognitive effects. Interestingly, though mahjong does not necessarily involve reading or speaking, playing it improves verbal memory for players of all nationalities. Verbal memory refers to the ability to remember words and other abstracted concepts from language (like syntax). The 2006 Hong Kong study found that verbal memory was improved moderately to significantly for participants who played mahjong on a regular weekly basis.