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Quick Review: The "Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules"
by Cofa Tsui (December 1998)

[A reproduction of a posting in the mahjong newsgroup]

From: Cofa Tsui
Subject: Quick Review: The "Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules"
Date: 22 Dec 1998 00:00:00 GMT
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Hi Group,

This is the review I once mentioned that I would post. Sorry to keep you
waiting but I was busy these days. Although this Quick Review was done in a
hurry, I have tried best to do it right. Please, however, feel free to point
out any error or mistake or post your questions.

Holiday greetings!

Quick Review: The "Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules"
By Cofa Tsui. December, 1998.

This Quick Review is basically the English translation of the original text
of articles of the "Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules (Beta version)". The
translated contents (enclosed by " "), although are quoted to capture the
best of the original meaning, may not necessarily be exactly the same as the
original text, and may be subject to errors. The CMCR and the whole book are
published in Chinese language. All names, terms and phrases in English are
used as part of this translation and are not the official names, terms and

Contents enclosed in [ ] are those comments of the author of this Quick
Review. Following terms have its general meanings in this Quick Review:
"CMCR" or "the Rules" shall mean the "Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules (Beta
version)" and "the Book" shall mean the publication detailed herein.

Title of the book: Chinese Mahjong Contest Rules
ISBN: 7-5009-1630-2
Approved by: State Bureau for Physical Sports of China.
Publisher: People's Sports Publishing House.
Distributor: Xin Hua Books Store, Beijing Distribution Office.
Specifications: 98 pages, paper back, 8.5 x 11.68 cm.
Price: $10 (Renminbi / Chinese dollar).

[Since the Book is available to the public, and the majority of the CMCR are
similar to rules of other mahjong styles, I have only selectively quoted some
Articles that I think could be of interest to the readers. Should anyone have
any question related to any subject that he/she wishes to compare/verify with
those of the CMCR, please feel free to e-mail me or post to the mahjong
newsgroup ( and I will be pleased to provide information
accordingly. Thanks for your understanding.]

Preface: "Mahjong was initiated in China, considered to be games among
members of the emperors and imperial families in different dynasties. The
history of mahjong could be traced back as far as three to four thousand
years. During the long term of its evolution, mahjong gradually became part
of games played by the ordinary people, and has reached its fundamental form
in the middle of the Ching Dynasty."

[Some time ago we have a short question in the mahjong newsgroup about how
long mahjong has been on earth. Although lack of further description, the
Book does support that mahjong should be an ancient game initiated in China.]

Chapter One and Chapter Two
Articles 1 through 4

[Contains mainly regulations to be used in any public contests/tournaments.
These regulations prescribe the behaviour of players/participants, referees,
related staff, etc. It also sets the standardized specifications of all
instruments and accessories to be used, including specs for the tiles, dice,
score cards, premises (the contest hall), game table, chairs, "direction
sign", clock, and "stopwatch". The CMCR uses 144 tiles, including 4 Seasons
and 4 Flowers. Note the following "new stuff":]

"Art. 4.5. Direction Sign In the premises where the contest is being held, a
sign showing the word "EAST" in the diameter of 60~90cm shall be posted in
the direction of the natural East, for the purpose of verifying the seating
positions of the players."

"Art. 4.7. Stopwatch
To determine the time limits during play."

Chapter Three General Rules Related To Play

[Contents are as clear as the title above. Art. 5 lists definitions of all
terms used in the rules. The following might be of interest.]

"Art. 5.2. Game From the start of dealing of Pies until the occurrence of a
Win or a wash out."

"Art. 5.3. Round
Each of the four players has tried to be the Jonga once."

"Art. 5.4. Break
The completion of four Rounds or the reach of a specified time."

"Art. 5.7. Seating Position The table number and direction of seats of
players determined by a cast prior to the commencement of play."

[Note: There is no mention in the rules portion of the CMCR how the Jonga is
determined. However, my understanding (from Art. 5.7 above and from the
"appendix" of the Book) is that the seating positions of players are
determined by a cast prior to the commencement of play. Therefore, the Jonga
of the very first Game, as well as the seating positions of all players, are
determined prior to the commencement of play.]

"Art. 5.8. Jonga (Dealer), Sub-players The player holding the East position
is the Jonga, others are the Sub-players. Whether there is a winning hand or
not, the Jonga must pass his Jonga status in the next Game."

[You should be familiar with the term Jonga (used in IMJ) or Dealer. The CMCR
uses the term "Pang Jia" (to be read in Mandarin, meaning "side player" or
something like that) for "other players" or "Sub-players", the later is my

"Art. 5.21. Calling
The status of a player where a winning hand can be achieved with one more
particular Pie."

"Art. 5.23. Selfmake [term used in IMJ, or Winning On Selfdraw]
A hand of Pies being qualified and declared as winning hand upon drawing a Pie
by oneself."

"Art. 5.24. Checkwin [this is a term created by the author of this Quick
Review] Win upon a Pie discarded by other player."

[Note: Having gone through the whole of the CMCR, I found that the definition
of Selfmake is very clear - must be caused by a Pie drawn by oneself.
However, the ruling of Checkwin might be a bit concealed. The above rule
(Art. 5.24) did use only the word "discard" and no other. Throughout the
Rules I could not see how a player could win upon robbing a Kong. In the
listing of recognized "Score Elements", there is an Element called "Win upon
robbing a Kong" - awarded 8 Points. There is one rule which obviously
/implies/ the ruling "Win upon a Pie konged by other player" - see Art.
8.2(2) below.]

"Art. 5.26. Score Elements [similar to Awarded Formats used in IMJ.]
The formats of different combinations of tiles or the hand of tiles that are
awarded with a specified amount of scores."

[This is another rule set, other than the IMJ rule set, that I know of which
awards scores to different /formats/ of different combinations of tiles,
rather than to the whole of a winning hand of tiles. Note that a winning hand
could contain many /Awarded Formats/.]

"Art. 5.28. Single Placement
The tile which causes a Selfmake must not be placed inside the concealed hand,
and should be placed separately for verification purpose."

Art. 6 Regulations Related to Play Progress

"Art. 6.4. Contest Time
Each Break complies of 3 hours of contest time. There is an adjournment of 15
minutes in the middle of a Break..."

"Art. 6.5(5) Casting of Dice and Dealing of Pies 1. Dice are cast twice. The
player who casts the dice must release the dice from 20~30cm above the centre
of the Floor. The acts of shooting one dice with the other, or blowing the
dice out from the tile wall, are prohibited. [Isn't the latter part
interesting!] 2. Dice are first cast by the Jonga. The number shall determine
the row of Pies to be broken and the player who performs the second cast. 3.
The total number of the two casting shall determine which stack of Pies to be
dealt first. 4. Dealing of Pies. The Jonga shall count from right to left
[counter-clockwise] the stacks of Pies of the wall built by the player who
has performed the second cast, until the total number of the two casting is
reached. The Jonga shall draw two stacks of Pies, ... Jonga shall have 14 Pies
while each of other players shall have 13."

"Art. 6.5(6) Arranging, Reviewing and Replacing Pies [Players shall] arrange
the hand of Pies in a neat manner, and review the overall conditions of the
hand. Should there be Flowers in hand they must be replaced, first by the
Jonga, then the Nexta, Opposa and the Lefta. The process must be completed in
no more than 30 seconds. Then, the Junga discards the first Pie."

[Note that the terms Jonga, Nexta, Opposa and Lefta are terms of IMJ.]

[Note, that the first action, other then replacing the Flowers, the Jonga is
to perform! Note also that words like "shall, must" are not used to stipulate
the Jonga discarding the first Pie, leaving the rule a bit ambiguous. For
instant, can the Jonga win right away, instead of discarding the first Pie? I
should also mention at this point, that there is no mention of winning hands
of The Heaven and The Earth (terms used in IMJ, meaning the "Heaven's
Blessing" and "Earth's Blessing", respectively) throughout the CMCR.]

"Art. 7.1. Declaration Requirements During the play only the terms "Seam",
"Bang" (not to be used for Kong), "Kong" (not to be used for Bang), "Win",
"Replacing Flowers" are allowed and must be declared when making sets of
Seams, Bango, Kong, or upon winning or replacing Flowers. The terms "hold
it", "wait", "let me see" or the like are not allowed. When discarding one
shall not call out name of the Pie being discarded."

[The terms Seam/Seams, Bang/Bango, Kong/Kong are terms used in IMJ.]

"Art. 7.4. Discarding A Pie ... Jonga must discard a Pie within 30 seconds
after the dealing of Pies (including replacing Flowers). Thereafter, for all
players, a Pie must be discarded (inclusive of all actions of seaming,
banging, konging and replacing Flowers) within 15 seconds after the previous
Pie is discarded. Discarding the same Pie that has been seamed is allowed.
[This is interesting, if not confusing!] Pie discarded must be shown by
placing it in front of one's concealed Pies for a short while, then be placed
in the Floor from left to right in rows of six Pies per row. Pies should be
placed in a neat manner for easy viewing purpose."

"Art. 7.5. Seaming A Pie ["Chi", etc.] ... Seaming (or banging) the same Pie
that has been discarded is allowed. Seaming, banging (konging), winning on
identical Pies discarded in sequence are allowed. Declaration for Seam shall
be made with a short wait."

"Art. 7.6. Banging A Pie ["Pong", etc.]
... Bang must be declared fast, and be made within 3 seconds."

[Note the specified duration of time allowed for each action, thus eliminating
the similar argument about timing we once have in the mahjong newsgroup.]

"Art. 8.1. The Procedures of Declaring Win
A player wishing to win must declare Win verbally, he then shall arrange and
disclose his hand of Pies, and announce the Score Elements, Points, and same
shall then be agreed upon by other three players and approved by the Referee.
Other players must not smash up their hands of Pies before the winning hand is

"Art. 8.2(2). The Manner of Winning
1. Selfmake: Win upon drawing by oneself (including Win upon Kong on Kong and
Win upon Replacing Flowers).
2. Checkwin: Win upon a Pie discarded by other player (including Win upon
Robbing a Kong)."

"Art. 8.2(3). The Winning Player There shall be only one winning player in a
Game. If more than one players declare Win at one time, the first player
counted anti-clockwise from the player who has discarded is the winning

[There is no mention of the priority of a player holding The Thirteen Yuls.]

Art. 9 The Value of Score Elements and Scoring

[This article lists 81 Score Elements that are recognized and are awarded
with scores. The Score Elements are divided into 12 levels, each level is
entitled with a fixed number of scores, namely 88, 64, 48, 32, 16, 12, 8, 6,
4, 2, 1. Many of the Score Elements are familiar to you, including the Seven
Pairs (a winning hand consists of 7 Pairs, where Pair means two identical
Pies of any kind, scored 24 points). Some could, however, be rare to you,
like the Seven Consecutive Pairs (a winning hand consists of 7 Pairs of
consecutive Pies of any one kind of the Serials, where Pair means two
identical Pies, scored 88 points).]

Art. 10 and Art. 11 contain rules related to the scoring of contest results.
Art. 12 deals with situations where no show occurs.

"Art. 10.1(1). Prerequisite of a winning hand
1. Must be in the formats stipulated by the rules.
2. The total of all Score Elements must be not less than 8 points.
3. Must win in a manner prescribed by the rules."

"Art. 10.1(2). The formation of the scores of a winning hand The scores
consist of the following parts: 1. Minimum Points: This refers to the point
value, which is 8 points, paid to the winning player by all other three
players who have not won the Game. 2. Basis Points: This refers to the total
point value of all the Score Elements of the winning hand. 3. Penalty Points:
This refers to the point value ordered by the Referee against a player who
has made a foul during play, which shall be deducted after each Game."

"Art, 10.1.(3). How Scores are awarded
A winning hand is awarded with scores computed as follows:
1. Selfmake: (Minimum Points + Basis Points) x 3 players (non-winners).
2. Checkwin: (Minimum Points) x 3 players (non-winners) + (Basis Points) x 1
player (who has discarded).

[This is something similar to "the Chucker shall pay for all" principle
applied in IMJ.]

Chapter Four contains rules relate to penalties. Some relate to tournament
procedures, other relate to conducts during play. The following may be of

"Art. 14.2. Seam, Bang, Kong in error
A player who has seamed, banged, konged in error is not allowed to win in that

"Art. 14.3. Declaration In Nil
[Declaration in nil means] declaration to seam (bang, kong) without having
suitable Pies in hand for setting up the Seams (Bango, Kong); or declaration
followed with no proper action [the player has the necessary Pies in hand, but
fails to set up the Seams, Bango or Kong according to his/her declaration].
While happening in the same Game, the first foul shall be reprimanded, the
second foul be fined 5 points, the third foul be fined 10 points, the fourth
foul be fined 20 points, and so on."

"Art. 14.4. Drawing A Pie
It is a foul for a player to draw a Pie before his Lefta has discarded a Pie.
While happening in the same Game, the first foul shall be reprimanded, the
second foul be fined 5 points, the third foul be fined 10 points, the fourth
foul be fined 20 points, and so on."

"Art. 14.5. Banging [i.e., "Ponging" or "Punging", etc.] Bang in a time of
more than 3 seconds [after a Pie is discarded] is a foul, and may be
prohibited by the Referee. While happening in the same Game, the first foul
shall be reprimanded, the second foul be fined 5 points, the third foul be
fined 10 points, the fourth foul be fined 20 points, and so on."

"Art. 14.6. Win In Error and Win In Nil (1) Win In Error. Win with a hand
which is scored with less than 8 points in total. The player must withdraw
the Win and pay 10 points to each of other players. The Game shall then
continue. The player who has won in error shall not win in the Game, but is
required to pay according to the rules should the Game is won by other

"(2) Win In Nil.
A player who thinks that he is calling, when in fact he needs one more Pie to
reach the Calling status, declares Win upon a discarded Pie. The player must
withdraw the declaration and pay 20 points to each of other players. The Game
shall then continue. The player who has won in nil shall not win in the Game,
but is required to pay according to the rules should the Game is won by other

"(3) Win With A Wrong Pie.
After reaching the Calling status, a player declares Win on a discarded Pie
while the discarded Pie is not one that he needs. (Penalty is the same as "Win
In Error").

"(4) Win In Nil With Intention.
If a player who has declared Win upon a discarded Pie is found that he needs
more than two Pies to allow him to reach the Calling status, he is defined as
having declared Win in Nil with intention. The penalty is the player being
disqualified from the contest."

"Art. 14.7.(2). If one discloses all of his concealed Pies when another
player has declared Win, if the winning hand is established, the player shall
be reprimanded. If the winning hand is not established, the disclosed Pies
shall be discarded and the player is thereafter not allowed to win, and shall
pay if the Game is won by other player."

"Art. 14.8. Discarding A Pie
It is a foul by calling out its name when discarding a Pie. If a player should
declare Win in error due to the wrongly called name of the discarded Pie, the
player who has called out shall pay all three players the penalty scores

"Art. 14.9. Having too many or too few of Pies in hand A player having too
many or too few of Pies in hand shall have no right to win."

[Chapter Five deals with complaints. Chapter Six indicates who has the
authority to interpret the rules.]

End of Quick Review


COFA TSUI 12/21/1998
IMJ Rules, the world's 1st full version mahjong rules

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