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FAQ #22. Chinese Official Scoring Explained

The most frequently asked questions about Chinese Official mah-jongg (Mahjong Competition Rules, or MCR, also called Guóbiāo Májiàng) concern the scoring. Especially, newcomers to this variant ask about which scoring patterns (fan) may or may not be combined. This FAQ assumes that the reader is already aware of the basics of Chinese Official scoring:

  1. The winning hand must score a minimum of eight points, not including points for flowers;
  2. when the hand is obtained by discard, discarder pays score total plus eight points, and non-discarders pay eight points;
  3. When the hand is obtained by self-pick, all non-winners pay the winner the score total plus eight points.


There are other books besides those pictured above, in a variety of languages. See FAQ 3.


Here's How It Works

In following the steps above, certain rules apply. The following is based on the Chinese-language book, CHINESE MAHJONG COMPETITION RULES ("CMCR"), published by People's Sports Publishing House in 1998 (ISBN 7-5009-1630-2/G - 1529). Pages 29-30.

10.1.5. Principles for Scoring the Hand
The scoring of a completed hand is based on the table of scoring elements provided in the rule book. When a player completes the hand, the player shall identify the primary scoring element first, then add other scoring elements that are not inevitably related to, or derived from, the primary scoring element or one another. In calculating the hand's score, the following principles must be observed.


To recap: start by choosing your Primary Scoring Element, usually the highest-scoring element (often encompassing all the tiles or sets of the hand), as a starting point.

  • Then, build scoring patterns of ever-decreasing numbers of sets. First combine sets into larger combinations, and then build smaller combinations. When one or more scoring patterns can be made from all the sets in the hand, all the tiles in the hand, or four sets, do those first (as many as you can find, which do not violate; but note that some picky Chinese opponent or judge might put rule into play).
  • Then, after making all-set and four-set combinations, make a three-set combination, if possible. Then create any one possible two-set combination using no more than one set used in the three-set combination.
  • When there are no three-set combinations in the hand, create one two-set combination. Then use an unused set together with one of the used sets to create a second combination. Then use the fourth set together with a set that has not already been used in two combinations.
  • If some scoring element that you make is decreed invalid by either a majority of your opponents or a judge, then just accept their ruling and move on. Mah-Jongg players must be good sports, else be shunned by other players. Don't let that happen to you!

    In the past couple of years, I've gone back and forth numerous times on how to describe this process (especially regarding application of the exclusionary rule). The more I have learned (the more different translations and interpretations of the original Chinese rules I've heard or seen, and the more instances I experience at tournaments), the more I came to see that the wording of the rule ought to be changed to clarify the way the rule is used in practice:

    This (above) wording was, in my opinion, confirmed by the analysis done by Per Starbäck in May of 2008 (see Then a conversation I had with Chinese mahjong authority "ithinc" in 2009 led me to refine it further (much to ithinc's disagreement; he interprets the rule more broadly (he disagreed with my interpretation that the rule applies only to two- or three-set patterns and also disagreed with the below wording as well) and would like to see the rule abolished altogether):

    I had previously thought the rule could, in effect, only be applied to chows, but ithinc's arguments showed me that "shifted pung" patterns could also be subject to the rule, as it is applied in common practice.

    Many thanks to: (1) Ryan Morris (photo above) for his help in understanding the combine-just-once principle before any translations existed,
    and (2) to Cofa Tsui for his translation of section 10.1.5 of the CMCR. Go to and click General Introduction > Archives > Topic #208. In his article, Cofa refutes wording that used to exist in this FAQ originally. Changes that have been made since then were made thanks to...
    (3) Larsen Chung, who also translated section 10.1.5, on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board,
    and thanks also to (4) "ithinc" who also contributed, and to Mr. Wang Yingfu of the World Mah-Jong Championship technical committee.

    © 2005-2015 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.

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