Some people believe the popular tile strategy game, Mahjong, originated in China hundreds of years ago. However, most evidence points to the tile strategy game originating sometime in the 1800’s.

Introduction to the Western World

The popularity of Mahjong exploded in the early twentieth century. In the 1920’s, British and Americans took up the exotic Eastern tile strategy game. There was even a song called Since Ma Is Playing Mahjong (written by Billy Rose and Con Conrad) made popular by Eddie Cantor.

Ambercrombie & Fitch was the first U.S. company to offer the game to customers. The game was imported by Ezra Fitch after a customer looked for the game that she had played in China. Mahjong was a big hit at the store and Abercrombie & Fitch was swept up in the Mahjong craze. The store sent employees to China to buy as many Mahjong sets as possible and eventually sold over 12,000 sets.

One of the first Mahjong advocates was Joseph Park Babcock. He published a Mahjong rules book that came to be known as the “Red Book.” Mr. Babcock had learned the game of Mahjong in China and came back to the west with rules. He also simplified the rules for Americans to make it an easier game to learn and play.

With these simpler rules and a desire for exotic diversions, Mahjong was wildly popular in America around the 1920s After the fad ended, many of the rules changed and went back to a more original version of the game.

What is the Correct Spelling of Mahjong?

The answer – it depends! Here are the different spellings of Mahjong: Majong, Ma Jong, Ma-Jong, Majongg, Ma Jongg, Ma-Jongg, Mahjongg, Mah Jongg, Mah-jongg, Mah-jong, Mah Jong, Mahjohng, Mahjongh, Maujon, and ma jiang. The most common spelling is Mahjong, but that’s an English language derivative of the original Chinese name.

Mah Jong means “flax/hemp” and “sparrow” in Chinese. This possibly refers to the rustling of the leaves in the wind, and the sound of birds chirping, relating to the sound of the tiles as they are played. Mahjong is also translated as “bird of 100 intelligences” a reference to the potential complexity in the game.

Present Day Mahjong Play

After Mahjong’s popularity started to wane in the 1950’s, the tile strategy game became known as an “old lady’s game” played by grandmothers and women who had grown up during it’s heyday.

However, with the advent of free online and digital solitaire versions of Mahjong, the game has seen a resurgence. In addition to the digital popularity, the game has remained popular internationally, especially in countries like Japan where they have their own version of the game called “Riichi.”

There are now two major American organizations that have standardized the rules National Mah Jong League and American Mah-Jongg Association. Tournaments and competitions are held across the country and even on cruise ships!

For more info on the history of Mahjong and current governing bodies, check out these links:

Whatever version or rules you are playing, enjoy this entertaining and endlessly changing tile strategy game, Mahjong!

Play Mahjong Decades!

Mahjong Decades main game page.
Main game page of Mahjong Decades.


Play with these beautiful mahjong tiles and have a zen experience. Mahjong is one of the best strategy games of all time. One of the myths of the origin of mahjong suggests that Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, developed the game in about 500 BC. Mahjong is a free solitaire game where the player is challenged to eliminate all of the tiles from the board by finding their pairs. Find matching pairs of images from the end lines of the puzzle layout. Play our free Mahjong game now!