Bats on Boxes

In addition to their presence on tiles, bats can be found on Mahjong boxes. Sometimes bats are very easy to recognize, but often it is a bit harder because they are very stylized.

They can add ornamentation to the outside of the boxes.

photo-4 bat

This bat is fairly easy to recognize. It's on the front of a red lacquer box.

From the same red box, here is another one


Yes, it does look like a butterfly, but it seems that butterflies and bats often resemble each other in Chinese art. The lack of antennae make it more likely that it is a bat.

And bats like these are found around the top of the box:


wrapping around the edge from the top to the sides.


photo-2 bat

This bat is the drawer pull for a front panel; pulling the panel upward ( by holding the bat's body)  reveals the drawers inside the box.

DSC_0728 bat

This ornate brass bat is on the side of a very special box.

Boxes like this are used for holding counters and dice. Here are some photos pulled from ebay:


You can see the four bats around the edge of the box



and along the sides. The bats on this box are completely endearing.


If a player was using this beautiful mother-of-pearl as a counter, she was very lucky indeed! Look up to the top and bottom middle of the counter. You will see a bat with outspread wings and striped body.

As always, if you have some photos you would like to add, please email me at

Here is a story that is a must read; it is not about boxes, but it is about bats and a Chinese vase. It just had to be included somewhere on the site, so it is here.

One thought on “Bats on Boxes

  1. meshowujong

    A few years ago when I discovered the game of mah jongg, I became fascinated by the art of the hand-carved tiles and began collecting good sets like crazy until I was relatively satisfied with what I have. This blog is the most scholarly and enriching discovery. I am so impressed with Kuan Yin and others who are contributing to it. I am an art history person at VMFA. Thank you so much!

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