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By Tom Sloper
January 15, 2012

Column #503

On January 23, the New Moon will usher in the Year of the Dragon. For every Chinese New Year, I like to create a new special hand. So here's my hand for the Year of the Dragon:

In American mah-jongg, white dragon is used to represent zero in number/year hands. Since most of the Year of the Dragon takes place in the year 2012, the special hand begins with "2012." And of course, since this will be the Year of the Dragon, the dragon tiles are featured. If you play American mah-jongg, here is the hand as customarily shown in NMJL-style symbolism: 2012 DDD DDDD DDD.

The numbers 2, 1, and 2 may be in any suit, but must all be from the same suit. The zero must be a white dragon. The rest of the hand is made of two dragon pungs and a dragon kong. The kong can be any of the three dragons (in American mah-jongg, since there are jokers, a joker can be used to make a kong of white dragons even though one white dragon is used as zero in 2012).

The pungs or the kong may be exposed, but of course not the 2012, since that is composed of single tiles. The hand scores maximum value.

The Dragon is the fifth symbol in the Chinese zodiac. Every year in the zodiac is not only associated with one of twelve animals, but also one of five elements or attributes: Wood, Fire, Metal, Earth, and Water. 2012 is the year of the Water Dragon.

The Dragon embodies benevolence and kindness (despite the usual Western notion of evil fire-breathing demonic mankind-haters). The Dragon also symbolizes the male aspect of fertility; "yang."

Water symbolizes North, the color black, the moon (because nighttime causes dew to fall), and femaleness, or "yin." Wolfram Eberhard, in his "Dictionary of Chinese Symbols," goes on to note that "water is soft, yielding and pliant, as a woman should be." He goes on to say, "the weak can overcome the strong, just as a woman overcomes a man."

The Sea Dragon king lives in a fine palace at the bottom of the sea, and if you play your tiles right, he may offer you a daughter in marriage.

So, apparently, 2012 will be a wet black weak strong male female kind of year, in which we're mooned by a dragon... Whatever all that means!

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October 2010 article on American mah jongg's rise in popularity, from the WALL STREET JOURNAL: ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2.
There's a movie of the WSJ story too -- just click the Video tab on the above page, or go to ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2#articleTabs%3Dvideo.

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

© 2012 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.