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By Tom Sloper (湯姆)

January 29, The Year Of The Dog
Column #251

Chinese Official Tournament Rules. Today is the Lunar New Year, the first day of the Year Of The Dog. Our usual group of players has gotten together to celebrate in their favorite way - by playing mah-jongg. It's Earl who suggests a way of marking the special day. "Have you ever seen those 'dates' hands in Western mah-jongg?" Noriko asked, "You mean that kind of mah-jongg the Jewish ladies play?"

"No, that's American mah-jongg. And they're not all Jewish. I'm talking about this one." Earl produced a little booklet. "Here, take a look."

"This hand is called 'Civil War.' See, North, South, 1861, and 1865."

Waiyee asked, "Can somebody explain that for me, please?"

Earl did, pointing at the tile groupings as he spoke. "The American Civil War was fought between the North and the South. The war began in 1861 and ended in 1865. See?"

Samantha said, "I thought you said this wasn't American mah-jongg?" Earl showed everybody the book's title page. "This is printed in Australia."

Noriko was astounded. "What??" Earl shrugged. "Don't ask me, I can't explain why anybody but Americans would memorialize that war. But I'm suggesting we try playing a special hand tonight, in honor of the Chinese New Year. We ought to have two years that are significant in Chinese history. I was thinking the beginning of the Republic of China, 1911..."

Samantha interjected. "Of course, the end of the Qing Dynasty." Earl nodded, "... and the founding of the People's Republic, 1949." He put tiles together on the table as he spoke.

Samantha suggested, "How about the Taiping Rebellion?" Waiyee asked, "That's not very significant, is it? Anyway, which year would we use, the year it started, or the year it ended?" Earl said, "Well, it's significant for mah-jongg, but I think 1949 is more pertinent for today's Chinese people." Nobody disagreed.

"Now we need two pungs," Noriko said. "Maybe a pung of East?" Waiyee agreed with that idea, and there were no objections raised. Samantha finished the hand. "And a pung of chung." Earl raised an eyebrow. Samantha explained: "The national symbol of China." Waiyee nodded. And so they had their new hand.

It was agreed that the first player who made the hand would be treated to Sunday dim sum.

To be continued...


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