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By Tom Sloper (湯姆 斯洛珀)
1月26日, The Year of the Ox 牛

Column #395

It's the Chinese New Year!

Farewell, Year of the Rat. Scurry away, you little stinker! What's keeping you, already?? (See, the column comes out on Sundays, but I've already dated this one for tomorrow, because the Year of the Ox doesn't start until then. And I want rid of the Rat!)

Welcome, Year of the Ox! In celebration of what I hope will be a very good year (or at least a better one than 2008 was - good riddance!), please permit me to introduce the Year of the Ox hand for 2009:

That's 1/26/2009 in one suit, and 2/13/2010 in any second suit (craks permitted; not only dots and bams as shown). Per the American custom, white dragon ("soap") represents the number zero.

The Chinese use a lunar calendar, so the year begins on a new moon (thus the Oxen year begins in January and ends in February this time around). The hand must be concealed, obviously, since it uses all single tiles. "2009" is arguably two singles and a pair, but since no form of mah jongg permits exposure of sets smaller than three, what the diff. If you wanted to look at the hand another way, here's what it consists of (grouped together by suit for convenient viewing):

It should go without saying that since the zeroes are used singly or in a pair, it's not possible to expose them all as a kong, no matter what kind of mah jongg you play.

Because the hand requires all four zeroes, without permitting exposure, it would be very difficult to make. Thus, it should be valued highly. May I suggest the following values:

For Taiwanese, since the game uses a hand of 17 tiles rather than 14, add a pung of any wind.

Whatever you do, don't just make this hand and expect everybody to fork over. Discuss and agree first.

This hand would only be valid as long as it is the Year of the Ox. Beginning February 14th, 2010, this hand would no longer be valid.

Question or comment about this column? Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

Haven't ordered the 2009 NMJL card yet? 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).

Watch the video by Jay Firestone of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, about a young man (himself) learning to play American mah-jongg. You can see it at

Links about Japanese-style mah-jongg:

Photos of the 2007 WMJC in E Mei Shan, China.
Photos of the 2007 OEMC in Copenhagen.
Photos of the Fourth China Majiang Championship and Forum in Tianjin, 2006.
Photos of the Third China Majiang Championship and Forum in Beijing, 2005.
Photos of the 2005 OEMC
Photos of the 2003 CMOC.
Photos of the 2002 WCMJ.

  • FAQ 22 answers the most frequently asked questions about Chinese Official scoring.
  • Download the official English translation of the Majiang Competition Rules for free at
  • And be sure to download the MCR Errata/Addenda HERE. And you should also download Per Starbäck's "Beyond the Green Book" at
  • Competition Mahjong Official International Rulebook ("OIRB"). Takeshobo, 2002. ISBN 4-8124-0944-6. Condensed and now somewhat outdated English translation of the official Chinese rules, still useful as a reference. Translator: Ryan Morris. You can download it HERE.
  • World Champion Mai Hatsune and fellow Japanese champion player Takunori Kajimoto have written the definitive strategy guide to Mahjong Competition Rules. It's been translated into English and is available for free at
  • For more help with your MCR strategy, see
  • Another useful MCR strategy tool is at

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    Copyright 2009 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.