Chinese Mah-Jongg -- Rules & Options

Chinese Special Hands(Contains many pictures; can be slow to load.)

If you have not yet familiarized yourself with the chapter on Mah-Jongg Basics, it is recommended that you do so before reading this chapter.

Shanghai: Second Dynasty's Chinese game is based on the classic Chinese game as it was played in China in the 1920s and 1930s, and as it is played today in Europe and around the world.

Many players of the Chinese game use different optional "table rules," so Shanghai: Second Dynasty offers optional settings so you can simulate the way you normally like to play. When you click on the Chinese option in the Mah-Jongg Game Setup dialog box, you will see the following dialog box which gives you different options for the Chinese Mah-Jongg game:

Explanation of the Options for Chinese Mah-Jongg


In Chinese Mah-Jongg, the Flowers and Seasons are optionally used to give a player extra points. If you draw a Flower (or Season; for simplicity's sake these are usually referred to as just Flowers), it is immediately placed in your meld area and replaced by a tile from the back end of the Wall.

Then if you go out, you'll get four points for any Flowers you drew. If a Flower that you drew matches your seat, and you go out, your score is doubled. Flowers numbered 1 match East, Flowers numbered 2 match South, Flowers numbered 3 match West, and Flowers numbered 4 match North. E-S-W-N = 1-2-3-4 (ESWN is the order of play around the table). If you get four Flowers in a row (all the Seasons or all the Flowers), you get 1000 points immediately from all players.

False Declaration Penalty

If you declare Mah-Jongg, and it is seen that your hand is either not a winning hand or below the minimum score, then you have to pay big bucks to all the other players. The hand is over. When this option is on, the Win button is always lit up - be careful!

Thrower Pays For All

If you're the one who discards a tile that lets somebody win, you have to pay for everybody else if this option is checked.

7-Pairs Hands

Traditionally, Chinese players never used all-pairs hands, but with the "globalization" of Mah-Jongg, it is not unusual to find tables that accept hands composed of seven pairs. You can turn this option On if you wish to play Chinese Mah-Jongg with all-pair hands allowed.

Jewel Hands

As with the all-pair hands, Jewel hands were not traditionally used in the Chinese game, but some players nowadays have adopted this Western style of hand into their table rules. Turn the option On if you want to play with Jewel hands allowed. More about the Jewel hands in the Special Hands section, later in this chapter.


The Limit determines the maximum amount that any player can win from the other players on a particular hand. You can set the Limit to 300, 500, or 1000 points, or you can play with "Roof Off" (no Limit -- if someone wins with a Limit hand, the player scores 2000 points). When starting to learn Mah-Jongg, it's recommended to play with a low Limit. Roof Off is only for very experienced and skilled players!

Payment To: All/Only Winning Hands

Check one of these options to determine who will get points at the end of a hand or round. Normally in Chinese Mah-Jongg, all players receive score for the hands they've achieved at the time of someone declaring Mah-Jongg. If you prefer that only the winning player receive points (as is done in American and Japanese Mah-Jongg), then you can change this to "Only Winning Hands."

Minimum Score

This option allows you to set the minimum score requirement for going Out. You can select Chicken (0 fan), 1 fan, 2 fan, or 3 fan minimum score.

A "Chicken" hand is a low-scoring hand (a cheap mix of chows and pungs, composed of various suits, with no pungs of Dragons or valuable Winds). Such a hand does not score any doubles -- thus it's a "zero fan" hand. If you are a beginner, we recommend using this setting until you are very comfortable with Mah-Jongg.

A "fan" is the Chinese term that in the West is usually termed "a Double." So if the game has been set to "3 Fan" that means the hand does not qualify to go Out unless it earns a minimum of 3 Doubles. Players who use the 3 fan setting are very skilled at the game.

See the Scoring section later in this chapter for more about the Doublers for Chinese Mah-Jongg.

Reset To Default

Clicking on this button resets all the settings of the Chinese game to their "factory" settings.

Playing the Game

When the Mah-Jongg game begins, the game table is displayed. Each player is assigned a wind. The player who is East is the "dealer" and he/she gets to go first. If the East player loses the hand, the deal moves on to the next player around the table. If the East player wins that hand, then he/she remains the dealer in the following hand. Your name is at the bottom left corner; your opponents' names are arranged across the top of the screen. The computer automatically builds the Wall, rolls the dice, and deals the tiles (as explained in the chapter "Mah-Jongg Basics").

When the initial deal is complete, if Flowers are used in the game, the computer automatically arranges them off to the side. The Flower tiles are replaced from the back of the Wall. (If another Flower tile is drawn from the back of the Wall, it joins the others for even more bonus points!) The computer then automatically sorts the tiles in your hand, and play can begin.

East plays first. At the beginning of the game, East is dealt 14 tiles (all other players are dealt 13), so East starts by discarding a tile. To discard a tile, click once on the tile to select it. Then either click again or select the Discard button in the Action bar.

Chinese players intentionally and purposefully discard the tiles in random locations in the middle of the table, so Shanghai: Second Dynasty follows this practice. All tiles are placed right-side-up for ease of reading them (whereas in real life they would be placed helter-skelter, right-side-up, upside-down, and sideways and at all angles). In Shanghai: Second Dynasty, the discarded tile is highlighted with a flashing highlight so all players can easily see it.

When a discard is not claimed by anyone (including the next player in turn), then the next player in turn draws a tile from the Wall. Draw a tile by pressing the Draw (Pass) button. A new 14th tile appears in your hand, raised and highlighted. The previous player's discard is now no longer highlighted (that tile is now dead, and can never be used by anyone). On your turn your name is highlighted so all players know whose turn it is (and who's holding things up, if you think too long).

Chinese Mah-Jongg Scoring

Shanghai: Second Dynasty will automatically score winning Mah-Jongg hands. However, players who play games where the Minimum Score option is not set at zero points (Chicken Hand) need to know how to score their own hands. If the False Declaration Penalty option is on, and you go out with a hand that does not meet the necessary minimum score, you will not only fail to win the hand, but you will be penalized and some of your points will be taken away.

First calculate base points earned by your hand, then multiply if the hand earns doubles (double the base points for each double earned). Winner earns the resulting amount from each other player. If score goes above the preset limit, the winner earns the maximum amount (the limit) from each other player. The purpose of the Limit is to limit the size of winnings, to keep a game going. If a non-dealer wins with a Limit hand (or has a hand which earns even more points than Limit), that player collects the Limit amount from the other non-dealers, and double Limit from the dealer. If a dealer wins a Limit hand, the dealer collects double Limit from all other players. If you have selected "Roof Off" (No Limit) then a limit hand is worth 2000 points.

In the Chinese game, "Payment to All" is an optional rule. When this rule is in effect, after the winner collects from the other players, the other players pay each other according to the value of the base points and (if applicable) doubles earned by the tiles in the hand. It's possible for a non-winner to earn more than a winner when Payment to All is in effect!

Here is a summary of Mah-Jongg scoring for the Chinese Game. Some of the terms are defined in the glossary in "more About Mah-Jongg" later in this guide.

Base points:

Going Mah-Jongg - 20
Exposed Pung of Simples - 2
Concealed Pung of Simples - 4
Exposed Pung of Terminals - 4
Concealed Pung of Terminals - 8
Exposed Pung of Honors - 4
Concealed Pung of Honors - 8
Exposed Kong of Simples - 8
Concealed Kong of Simples - 8
Exposed Kong of Terminals - 16
Concealed Kong of Terminals - 32
Exposed Kong of Honors - 16
Concealed Kong of Honors - 32
Flower - 4
Season - 4
Pair of Dragons - 2
Pair of Prevailing Wind - 2
Pair of Own Wind - 2
Sweep - 2
Going Out on Self-Drawn Tile - 2
Completing A Pair to Go Out - 2
One Chance Chow - 2
Non-Scoring Hand - 10
Bouquet of Flowers - 1000
Bouquet of Seasons - 1000

A bouquet must be four flowers or four seasons.

A bouquet cannot be a mix of flowers and seasons. It earns 1000 points from each player.


Rounding Before Doubles: - NO
Pung of Dragons - 1
Pung of Own Wind - 1
Pung of Prevailing Wind - 1
Own Flower - 1
Own Season - 1
Clean Hand - 1
Pure Hand - 3
All Honors - 3
No Chows - 1
Going Out on Loose Tile - 1
Going Out on Last Tile - 1
Robbing the Kong - 1
Fully Concealed Hand - 2
All Honors - 3 (See Special Hands)
Little Four Winds - 1 (See Special Hands)
Little Three Dragons - 1 (See Special Hands)
Limit: You can set this to 300, 500, 1000, or "Roof Off" (Limit hands are worth 2000) -- remember that East pays and receives double
Opening stake: 2000

When any player goes Mah-Jongg, the Mah-Jongg Results box is displayed. Study the Results to learn more about how hands are scored, and you'll be on your way to developing your own strategy for playing.

When the Score Display is visible, you can use the Up and Down buttons (when highlighted) to scroll up and down the list, to see how the winning hand is scored. You can use the Hide button to hide the Score Display so that you can examine the center of the table. When the Payments Display is visible, you can use the Next and Prev buttons to see how other hands in the game were paid.


When someone makes a complete hand, s/he can declare Mah-Jongg. Two score boxes appear.

This first score box shows the winning player's score breakdown. If the list of attributes of the hand is larger than the score box, you can use the Down button to scroll down and view the bottom of the list (and the total). The Hide button shrinks the score box so you can examine the tabletop. Pressing the OK button causes the next score box to be displayed.

The second score box shows the distribution of points between the players. In this example, "A.I. #1" has won a hand worth 104 points, and "Payment to All" is in effect. A.I. #1's name is highlighted in red because this player won the hand. Beatrice's name is highlighted in green because this player discarded the tile which gave the winner the hand. In the Chinese rules, the discarder does not pay double -- rather East does. So A.I. #3 pays 208 points, while the other players pay 104 points to A.I. #1. Because Payment To All is in effect, A.I. #3 also has to give 4 points each to Beatrice and A.I. #2 (subtracting A.I. #3's score from the other players' scores shows why). A.I. #3 has been, and still is, the big winner of the game thus far, as can be determined from the bottom line. If you want to examine how the non-winners' hands are scored, you can click on their names to see a breakdown for each player. In this example, the cursor is pointing at the Prev button so the player can look at breakdowns of previous hands in the game.

You can take as much time as you want studying the score boxes and learning how to improve your game, and click OK to go on and play the next hand. Of course, if you're playing against other players over the Internet, you shouldn't spend too much time doing this.

Playing a Complete Game of Mah-Jongg

A complete game of Chinese Mah-Jongg consists of four rounds. Each round has its own special wind (East, South, West, North). A round is complete when the deal has passed completely around the table. The deal passes around the table only if the dealer (East at the beginning of the game) does not win that hand. So a complete game of Mah-Jongg normally consists of sixteen or more hands. There are many fine points you'll need to learn (all described hereafter), but if you are just starting, you should jump right in and play against A.I. players and observe what goes on. When you have questions, consult this guide or the onscreen Help menu's Manual - Rules feature.

When playing offline (against A.I. opponents only), you can save an unfinished game and continue again at a later time. When playing online (against other people), you will most likely play as many hands as the four of you can manage - saving is not possible when playing online.

More about the Chinese game:

Chinese Special Hands(Contains many pictures; can be slow to load.)

Strategies for Chinese Mah-Jongg

Or on to the next chapter:

Japanese Mah-Jongg