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By Tom Sloper (トム·スローパー 湯姆 斯洛珀)
2015年 1月 4日
Column #627

A departure from tradition, or rather the start of a new take on the tradition. The Year of the Sheep officially starts on February 19, under the lunar calendar used by the Chinese. But I was reminded by a friend that the Japanese use a more convenient and modern system; the Japanese celebrate the new zodiacal year on January 1st. It's certainly easier that way. The numerical year of the Western calendar begins on January 1, and isn't it just simpler to start the animal year on the same day? Besides, many mah-jongg players don't want to let the holiday season end too soon. And those of us who play American mah-jongg have our own "new year" of sorts around the first of April, when the new card arrives from the National Mah Jongg League. Consider the possibility that three New Years in a year is at least one too many.

In the first sentence of this column, I mentioned tradition. I was referring, of course, to my own tradition of offering an original Chinese New Year hand each year. The departure—the new tradition?—is to offer the new hand in the beginning of the New Year, rather than adhering to the lunar calendar. For those of us who play American mah-jongg, having a New Year's hand in January gives us more time to use it and enjoy it before the new card comes out.

Enough chitchat: here is my hand for the Year of the Sheep (or Ram, or Goat, if you prefer):

This is written in American notation as follows:

Obviously, it's a Concealed hand (it contains no exposable sets). For those unfamiliar with the ways of American mah-jongg, the "0" is the white dragon, and when it's used as zero, it goes with any suit. And the two flowers are used as part of the hand (again, based on the American way of doing things). Also, note that the 2015s may be made in any suit (not only craks and bams). As per the parenthetical, if a player has the tiles for it, the two 2015s may be made in the same suit. The order of the single winds is inconsequential. As for value: go with maximum value (whatever your maximum value is in the style of mah-jongg that you play).

According to tradition, those born under the sign of the Sheep (or Ram, or Goat) are compassionate but assertive, determined but gentle and shy, as well as artistic and elegant. Sheep tend to indecisively avoid problems rather than tackling them head on, and can sometimes be moody. They are said to be most compatible with Horses, Boars, and Rabbits, but are definitely not compatible with Dogs, Oxen, and Rats (that last one is me).


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