What Do Mahjong Tiles Mean: Part 2

Jul 27, 2015 | 1 Votes by Aethyna 8 rate Your vote
Have you ever stopped and wondered what those beautifully decorated tiles mean? Well, we're here to help! Find out what these tiles mean right here! WWGDB - What Do Mahjong Tiles Mean: Part 2

Can’t get enough of mahjong? I understand that feeling as mahjong is not only an interesting and relaxing game to play, it is also challenging at times and always fun! By being such an avid fan of mahjong games, you surely will have asked yourself this question before - “What those pictures and symbols on the mahjong tiles mean?”

Well, I have too wondered that myself and hence, came the birth of the first article I wrote entitled What Do Mahjong Tiles Mean: Part 1 that you can check out by clicking the link above. Do take note that this article is a continuation of that previous article. If you haven’t read it yet or if you think you need a quick memory refresh, please do so! Oh and don’t forget to vote for the article!

Once you’re done, let’s continue the article with slightly complicated honor suit. There are 3 types or tiers of honor suit, they are simple honors, which consist of the wind or direction tiles; the superior honors that house the dragon tiles and lastly the supreme honors which contains both the flower and season tiles. Any Chinese character for these honor tiles are usually written in traditional chinese letters that I’ll be explaining in just a bit and all of these tiles contain 4 sets with each set having exactly 4 tiles.

Direction or wind tiles

As mentioned, the simple honors contain the wind or direction tiles. Each wind tile corresponds to a point along the compass. So basically, you have your “dong”, West; “nan”, North; “xi”, East and “bei”, South. Notice that the Chinese list the directions in a slightly different way as compared to the common way, which usually starts with the North and South, and ends with East and West.

Dragon tiles

For the superior honors tiles or the dragon tiles, you can break them down further into 3 types – the red dragon tiles, the green dragon tiles and the white tiles. Similar to the bamboo tiles, naming these tiles as “dragon” tiles when there are no dragons depicted on the tiles can be rather misleading. In actuality, all these superior honors tiles, when combined, represent all form of life in the Ancient Chinese culture.

The red dragon tile, or its actual name, the Red “Zhong” tile, actually represents the animal order, which, according to the Ancient Chinese culture, includes humans and dragons (though now we know that dragons are myths... what a disappointment, don’t you think?). The green dragon tiles, on the other hand, are known as the Green “Fa” tiles among the Chinese. The “Fa” here symbolizes prosperity as “fa” in Chinese means “to strike it rich”. Chinese families often have “fa” in their homes in the form of a framed giant green “Fa” tile or a simple decoration whereby the word is written in calligraphy on a piece of red paper and stuck to the wall with glue or tape.

In the context of the Chinese culture, the green dragon tiles actually represent the plant order, which is, you’ll agree, another important form of life. Furthermore, there are the white tiles or “Bai ban”s. It is the only tile that has the least markings, except the rectangle shape in it. As the Chinese (Buddhist) believe in the afterlife, the white tiles represents the last form of “life”... well, it’s actually semi-life as the Chinese people think of it – the life before rebirth... that is the spiritual beings.

Lastly, the supreme honor tiles are perhaps one of the more intriguing tiles among the entire mahjong set. As mentioned, there are 2 types here – the flowers and the seasons, though technically, both types represent the same thing that is the 4 different seasons in a year.

Flower tiles

The flower tiles depict the “Four Gentlemen”, which in Chinese art refers to 4 very special plants. They are the orchid, the bamboo, the chrysanthemum and the plum blossom. These plants in turn represent the four different seasons of the year - the orchid for spring, the bamboo for summer, the chrysanthemum for autumn, and the plum blossom for winter.

Season tiles

Of course, this does make the season tiles a tad bit redundant in my opinion, since they just basically name the seasons on the tiles. The word “Chun” means spring; “Xia” is summer; “Chiu” represents autumn and, lastly, “Dong” is winter.

There are also various different sets of mahjong tiles that you can find all around the world besides the Chinese version. These spin-offs include the Singaporean mahjong set that contains an extra animal suit, as well as the Shanghainese and the American mahjong sets which contain additional Joker tiles.

Now that you know more about the game you love, be sure to share this article around and let your other mahjong-loving friends know! And as usual, don’t forget to vote! If you suddenly have that itch to start a mahjong game up, please feel free to check out the range of mahjong games available at our Mahjong Games List! You’ll surely be able to find one that you like!

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