img_9536-1Many of you are familiar with the delightful Crisloid set, with its peacock wearing a crown. Just looking at the color of the tiles, and the cheery images can cheer up a dreary day. No wonder this set is a fan favorite.

One of the most talented designers and craftswomen in the Mahjong business today, Dee Gallo of Red Coin, worked with Crisloid to create a new set for them, putting her touches on some of Crisloid's beloved images, and adding new wonderful designs for the Dragon Set, released in 2015. What a great result.

I thought I would show you some of the original tiles, and the ones that Dee tweaked to fit in with her vision for the new set. The plastic used for each kind of set is very different which probably leads to some design choices as well.


The lighter tiles will always be the original Crisloid set. Here are some of the suit tiles. The new One dot has the R representing Red Coin and the C representing Crisloid. The 7 Bam on the new set looks inspired by the designs of the 7 Dots we often see. The One Bam peacock is a bit more detailed, with the coins on his wings really resembling the Red Coin/Crisloid One Dots.




The original Crisloid Flowers look sunny, with what looks like a Swedish design influence in their simplicity and bold colors.There are two groups of Flowers on the new set : actual flowers (the eight ones on the left), and those that can be used in the Singapore Capture style of play (on the right.) The rooster gets the centipede, the rich man the pot of gold, the fisherman the fish, and the cat the rat.



The Crisloid Big Joker has a wonderful bold and simple look to it. The new sets give the buyer a choice of Jokers. This one is the Ma-Ma Hu-Hu, half horse and half Tiger.



I must admit, I never thought I would have Winds as my favorite part of the set, but on this set they are. A Winds hand, seen below, is just beautiful. But when you see how Dee has directed the fans to the four compass directions, you will understand why the tiles are so beautiful.




But what would be a Crisloid set without their darling dragons? See how Dee has finessed them to fit in with the new set.


What wonderful inspirations, and great teamwork!

Given that the holidays are just around the corner....   🙂




Friend and blog reader Cari took this lovely photo the other day of  the National Mah Jongg League's 2015 hand. It calls for 2 Flowers, followed by the year repeated three times in the three suits. In all hands calling for a zero, the White Dragon is used. What is wonderful about this hand is that many of the most special tiles, the Ones, and the Flowers are used, and often the White Dragon is quite lovely too.

So, I thought it would be fun to celebrate 2016 showing the great variety of styles and images on Mahjong sets.  A big thanks to the readers who took photos and sent them in, including Barney, Tracy, Geraldine, Debra, Gail and Cari, as well as the others. We have a delightful array of sets, showing the great variety of ways designers and craftsmen have added beauty to this fabulous game, ranging from paper cards, to wood, to bakelite, Chinese Bakelite, bone and bamboo, and mother-of-pearl. All of these sets are treasured by their owners, and all have brought great happiness to the players around the table. What better way to celebrate the new year than by looking at art that has made people happy?


A mass-produced and highly collectible Chinese Bakelite set with unusual Flowers and Bams
A mass-produced and highly collectible Chinese Bakelite set with unusual Flowers and Bams


a recent set, made in Asia
a recent set, made in Asia


A Lung Chan set, with two tone (blue) backs. Lung Chan features a suite of bird Flowers.
A Lung Chan set, with two tone (blue) backs. Lung Chan features a suite of bird Flowers.


The tiles in the middle feature mother-of-pearl faces set in wood
The tiles in the middle feature mother-of-pearl faces set in wood


Rust colored Ashton & Rietz
Rust colored Ashton & Rietz


Black Bamboo
Black Bamboo


Delightful Bone and Bamboo set with animal Flowers
Delightful Bone and Bamboo set with animal Flowers


from back to front: Waterbury Button Company, Marke Pehafra, rare Chinese Bakelite two-tone pillow-top set
from back to front: Waterbury Button Company, Marke Pehafra, rare Chinese Bakelite two-tone pillow-top set

The following eight contributions belong to one collector:

Contemporary plastic set
Contemporary plastic set
 wood set
wood set
Contemporary plastic
Contemporary plastic
contemporary plastic
contemporary plastic
miniature plastic traveling set
miniature plastic traveling set
children's Royal Depth Control traveling set
children's Royal Depth Control traveling set
TYL two-tone Bakelite set from the 1940s (backs are chocolate-brown)
TYL two-tone Bakelite set from the 1940s (backs are chocolate-brown)
Contemporary set with Day-Glo colors
Contemporary set with Day-Glo colors


Mother of pearl faces on ebony
Mother of pearl faces on ebony
Beautiful Thick Bone and Bamboo tiles, Peach (longevity) Dots with One Dot encircling a coiled Dragon, different longevity symbols on Craks with Bank-style Chinese numbers, Bamboo shoot Bams with hovering hawk symbolizing China's strength
Beautiful Thick Bone and Bamboo tiles, Peach (longevity) Dots with One Dot encircling a coiled Dragon, different longevity symbols on Craks with Bank-style Chinese numbers, Bamboo shoot Bams with hovering hawk symbolizing China's strength


Chinese Game Company with special Dragons
Chinese Game Company with special Dragons


The wonderful variety of mahjong sets, including paper cards, wood, and Portland Billiard Company (the first set behind the front cards)
The wonderful variety of mahjong sets, including paper cards, wood, and Portland Billiard Company (the first set behind the front cards)


beautiful sloping circles, label unknown
beautiful sloping circles, label unknown


Red MJ
highly carved set featuring crane (longevity) Dots, peacock Bams, and Craks with bats (longevity and prosperity) on the sides


Magnificent Bone and Bamboo set with lacquer box
Magnificent Bone and Bamboo set with lacquer box
Shanghai Luck Bone and Bamboo
Shanghai Luck Bone and Bamboo


close up of Craks 2016
close up of Craks 2016

Here's a close-up of the Craks suit from this hand. If you look carefully, you can see peaches on the top and bottom. Peaches are symbols of longevity in China. And on the left and right there are bats, also symbols of longevity, but because of the way the Chinese word for bat  is pronounced, the bat also symbolizes prosperity. Dragonflies, seen on the White Dragon, represent pureness of character according to Confucian ideals.

So let us hope that 2016 is a year of longevity, prosperity, and pureness of character.








A very lucky reader sent me photos of her newest Mahjong set. She confessed she had taken a big risk at auction, not having been able to see photos of any tiles close up. She was delighted when the box arrived and she knew this time her instinct was correct, and her excitement about this purchase got her to send me photos to post on this blog . According to her, the colors of the tiles are true in these photos. It seems all the colors in the tiles were painted. And the sharp crisp corners of the tiles indicate perhaps a German or Austrian manufacturer.

This is one of those great times when a set is rare, the colors are fabulous, and the designs terrific. Purple tiles allow for many different color effects on the tiles themselves. Here on the Bamboos we see yellow instead of our usual green. The flying crane of longevity is simple in the white outline with his red legs and bill. The 8 Bams have a real Art Deco look to me.




The One Dots look like targets, don't they? What's interesting here is that you can see that all the tiles are not the same size, despite being machine made.



The Winds, Dragons and Flowers certainly don't disappoint with their unique and spirited Character renditions, all very angular in keeping with the squared off quality of the tiles themselves. The Flowers have a neon sign look to them, don't they? The top ones are the Four Arts of the Scholar and the lower ones flowers, although not the traditional ones we usually see.



Who would have thought the Craks would be a favorite suit? Everything about the spirited Chinese numbers and Characters delights the eye, including the colors.



The Wind Indicators and the counters are the same beautiful material and color. All beautiful, don't you think?

Maybe she will have to learn how to play the Hong Kong version, Wright-Patterson or another form of the game so that she can play with the set!

I am undertaking a new project involving the social history of the game. You can read about by clicking History Project at the top of the Page. Perhaps you would like to participate.

For those of you who don't yet know, there is a wonderful magazine, The Mahjong Collector. You can find out more by emailing them at this address:


To see when I am doing author appearances, click here

You can now follow me on Twitter!


To learn more about Mah Jongg, you might want to take a look at this book that I wrote with Ann Israel, published by Tuttle.


To order it click here:

or here from Amazon


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DSC_0112 crop

This is a delightful Mahjong set made by the German Company Schildkrote, and I thought it a very appropriate way to celebrate Valentine's Day. The set itself can bring joy to our hearts. And you will see why this is especially good for this day, but you will have to keep reading!

Notice the charming folk art-like sparrow, and the seed Bams which echo those early forms from old Mahjong sets (see Michael Stanwick's site:  Gallery 1.1 The Wilkinson set). You can also see there is a bit of liberty taken with the arrangement of the 7 Bams, as well as the 7 Dots. The Wans are all a bit different one from the other, indicating parts of the set were  hand-carved. (Reader Tony feels they may have just used different stamps for the Wans, thus explaining the variations.)



Although a few people have thought it to be ivory, the top is actually a thin plastic laminate on a wood back.


DSC_0112 news

The Winds and the Dragons are quite similar to those we often see. The White Dragon here is just the plain White plastic laminate top, not in the photo.


And now for the Big Reveal:


The Flowers!! There are four hearts, and Ray Heaton has translated the characters to mean a pull on the heart. I'd like to think this means "love." When you note that there are directions on the tiles, and East, South, West and North are all present, although not photographed, I'd like to think this means that love is everywhere, for dear friends and relatives, and for the game of mahjong itself.


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mm coronet dragons

Yesterday we touched upon reasons Mahjong sets become objects of desire. For many collectors, these dragons made by the Coronet Company, are the selling points. Who can resist these smoke blowing creatures?

mm lucite dragons 2

These Dragons above, from an unknown manufacturer, have many of the features we have seen before, including horns and whiskers. Interestingly, the White Dragon is not a Dragon at all but  a snake, one of the five poisonous creatures, often embroidered on children's clothing to ward off venomous dangers! The White Dragon appears a bit like some of the very elongated dragons we have seen before. The two Dragons have four toes, so these dragons were allowed to be used by low ranking officials. (Welch)

MM lucite dragons 1

This Cardinal Company pair above has a red elongated Dragon as the Red, and the more squat Green one, very similar to that of the Royal Depth Control Dragon, seen below.

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 6.10.09 PM

But look at these last two Green Dragons, they aren't like any dragons we have seen before! Why? We have yet to see a dragon with wings!! This must have been an attempt to appeal to the Western market, and was a real departure from Chinese dragons.

lucas col dirasianart ints of austra

To refresh what Chinese dragons look like, we have a porcelain from the Lucas Collection ( as far as I can gather Lucas was the Director of the Asian Art Institute in Australia. ) Note the absence of wings on the dragon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 4.23.48 PM

To end this post, look carefully at this screenshot of a photograph of a Dragon in China. More information and leads will be forthcoming, in a few days.

Mahjong tiles courtesy of Mahjongmahjong.


The use of the single color on the tiles continues to the Dragons and Winds.

DSC_0731 again The Dragons are like those normally seen in some of the old bone and bamboo sets, as well as some bakelite ones. The presence of the P for Po (blank) is there to differentiate the front from the back of the tile. When White Dragons were made of bone and bamboo, it was easy to tell the front from the back of the tile, but when made of plastic, people could not tell the front of the blank White Dragon from the back. (When sets were first made of plastic, manufacturers did not think that they needed to mark the White Dragon. You can see how people would have a problem knowing front from back as you can see between the White Dragon and the blank back  of a tile to the right of it. The companies soon demarcated  the White Dragons, probably after receiving many complaints!)

DSC_0731 winds


The Winds have a bit of style in the carving.


The top of the box it came in.

Flowers will be shown March 16th.


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DSC_0720 dragons

This post features the hand carved Dragons and Flowers for the laminate mahjong set discussed on March 9 and 10.

The unusual writing style we noted on the Winds continues here on the Green Dragon which is deeply carved. The color palette continues with the gray Green Dragon and the pink Red Dragon.

DSC_0716 flowers

You can easily see the varied depth of the carving, most apparent on the tiles on the top row with gold paint, especially on tile 2. These images are also highly stylized. The top row features the Arts of the Scholar, and the bottom flowers.

Ray Heaton has once again provided the translations. The characters on these tiles are stylized as well, making for a translation challenge.

"We need to use a bit of knowledge of the likely characters helped by two or three which are reasonably straight forward.

DSC_0716 sholar

The top row are the arts of the scholar, and are versions of the simplified characters, 棋琴书画.
Qi Qin Shu Hua; chess, qin (the zither), calligraphy and painting.

The last two characters are the give away for me and are close enough to 书画 to allow all four characters to reveal themselves.

Although first two are "educated guesses", you can just about see the first character as 棋, (especially the second element of this character, 其, excluding the radical).

DSC_0716 flowers 2

Bottom row are 梅兰竹菊, Mei Lan Zhu Ju; plum, orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum.  The second tile uses a character close to the simplified character for orchid, 兰.  I don't see what else tile three could be other than 竹, and tile four is reasonably close to the expected look of the character."

For those of you who have an ipad, ipod, iphone or android device there is an app which can be helpful with the straightforward translations of Chinese characters. It is Pleco, and it allows you to write on the screen the symbol you see, and it will translate it for you. It often seems easier, though, to guess at the word on the tile and get the Chinese character for it, and see if that character bears any resemblance to what appears on the tile.

DSC_0713 dots

The One Dot in this Mahjong set has the bright blue we saw on the One Bam peacock's tail. The center, with its four small ovals, is similar to some we have seen before.  The colors in this set, with the use of gold and other brilliant colors, are reminiscent of those seen in some of the Viennese Secessionist art, such as paintings by Klimt. To see works by Klimt in Wikipedia, click here.

The other Dots are deeply carved, with circles within circles. The innermost circle just has a dot of gold paint. We saw that here.


You can quickly see how different this hand carved set of Winds are than what we are used to seeing, with the South and East very different indeed. Compare the above with the hand carved bone and bamboo set seen below.

DSC_0857 news

The Flowers and Dragons will appear on March 11.


DSC_0705 purple

This delightful hand carved Mahjong set is very different from those we are used to seeing.

The white plastic laminate is on top of a purple plastic back which is three times its depth. The two pieces clearly were made separately and then glued together.

The Mahjong One Bam peacock is outstanding. Who can resist that bright blue tail and the two feathers atop its head? As is the case with many of these unusual laminate sets, many of the details have carvings of different depths.


On the One Bam the tail circles are quite deep, and then painted with gold paint.



Note the number of dots in each tail is different, and the outline of the bird is either blue or gray.

The other Bams have a peppermint stick look to them with their coloring, with not even a glimpse of the greens we are used to seeing.


The Craks are quite wonderful too. The Arabic numbers were carved with a bit of flair, as were the Chinese numbers. The Wans are the simple form.

It bears some resemblance to another set we examined earlier.

More of the set will be posted March 10.




We often see ladies on Flower tiles. The ladies in the top row are performing a Chinese long sleeve dance. They are goddesses, as seen by the round stylized clouds at their feet. The Chinese have a long tradition of long sleeve dance. Here are a couple of paragraphs from Wikipedia:

"Qin-Han period

Historical texts mentioned many dances in this period, for example a sword dance is mentioned in a story where the dance was performed during an attempt to assassinate Liu Bang (who later founded the Han Dynasty) at the Hongmen Banquet.[18] The event at the banquet was also said to form the basis of the "Gong Mo" Dance (公莫舞) - "Gong Mo" literally means "Sir, Don't!" and describes the blocking action by Xiang Bo during the sword dance to prevent the assassination.[19] "Gong Mo" Dance was later known as Scarf Dance (巾舞), where a long scarf is held in both hands similar to today's Long Silk Dance. Liu Bang was also said to be fond the war dance of the Ba people called Bayu dance (巴渝, given various names such as Zhaowu, 昭武 in later dynasty), and large scale performances of the dance involved the brandishing of various weapons to the accompaniment of drums and songs in the Ba language.[20]

During the Qin and Han period, the imperial court established the yuefu (literally, Music Bureau), which was responsible for collecting folk music and dances for performances at the court. A popular dance of the Han Dynasty was the Long Sleeve Dance and there are many images and sculptures of the period depicting dances with long sleeves. This is a dance tradition that dates back to the earlier period and one still performed today.[21] The sleeve may be long and narrow, or long and wide, or similar to the "water sleeves" (水袖, long flowing detachable silk sleeves extended at the wrist) used in today's Chinese opera. Historical texts also recorded dances where the dancers danced bending at the waist while moving their sleeves. Other dances included the Drum Dance (鞞舞), Bell Dance (鐸舞), Sabre Dance, and mixed couple dance.[22]"

For more information about Chinese dance, click here

And to see a quick video, click here

The goddesses on the bottom row are playing musical instruments, perhaps playing the music the long sleeve goddesses are dancing to! We can see the



perhaps a pipa

and ruan


The Winds are what we normally see, as are the Dragons below.