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By Tom Sloper (湯姆 斯洛珀)
May 30, The Year Of The Tiger

Column #453

Ningbo, China. I wrote about Sushila Singh in column 399. She'd brought me to Bombay, India, to speak to her mahjong club there last year. This year she organized a junket to China. The purpose of the trip was to visit two mahjong museums: one in Chengdu and one in Ningbo. The museum in Chengdu opened in March 2008 and splits its focus between mahjong and tea culture. The museum in Ningbo has been around longer (I first heard of it in 2002). I was less interested in the Chengdu museum, but greatly wanted to visit the Ningbo museum, so gratefully accepted her invitation to that portion of the trip.

I met up with Sushila and her husband, Pete, in the lobby café of the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai. We journeyed by car to Ningbo, where Sushila wanted to visit the Tianyi Pavilion. I wanted to visit the Display Hall of the Birthplace of Mahjong (DH/BP/MJ). We decided to go first to Tianyi Pavilion. There, I learned, a portion of the museum/library/historic site was dedicated to mahjong. So I figured we would get to see two mahjong sights!

I had forgotten to bring the written name and address of the DH/BP/MJ in Chinese. I knew the street address: 74 MaYa Road, but I couldn't write it in Chinese. So when I found myself in a gift shop in Tianyi Pavilion and found a copy of the booklet "The History and Culture of Mahjong," the official DH/BP/MJ publication, I bought one so I could show it to the taxi driver when we were finished at Tianyi Pavilion so he could take us to the Display Hall.

In the Tianyi Pavilion, we saw mahjong floor tiles in a courtyard, walls covered with illustrations of the genealogy of mahjong, information about Chen Yumen (the creator of mahjong), displays of mahjong sets, and life-size bronze statues of mahjong players arrayed so the visitor could be the fourth at the table.

We exited Tianyi Pavilion by a back gate and found ourselves on a charming street. At the main road we hailed a cab and I showed him the address we wanted to go next. Looking confused, he drove in reverse down the street we'd just walked, and pointed to the gate we'd just exited from! How was I to know that the DH/BP/MJ was within the grounds of the Tianyi Pavilion??

Full story and pictures online at


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