Black Bamboo

april 30, 2012 my collection 004 (1)

This is a lovely example of hand-carved black bamboo tiles. Bamboo was one of the most used materials in the early days of Mahjong, because it was available and very inexpensive. Some think it was the first material ever used for the game of Mahjong in the late 1800s, in the first days when money-based suits were carved onto tiles. The real challenge of bamboo lies with its hard nature; it is very difficult to carve. The bamboo seen here was dyed black and then carved by skilled craftsmen. The black background added real "pop" to the designs. The soaring bird One Bam is charming, and the other Bams are based on the "string of cash" and have pointed tips. The Dots go from the flower One Dot to rings of circles on the other tiles, and the Craks are the simple wan.

The order and appearance of the Flowers is interesting if I am interpreting it correctly. The flowers are plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum, the Four Gentlemen, but the plum blossom seems to be missing an outside petal. Also, Chinese seasons tend to begin in spring, which here is tile #2 (orchid).