Tag Archives: bone and bamboo tiles

One Bamboo Peacock and One Dot Parrot (Note curled Dragon and pearl inside the Dot)


Many of us are drawn to the game of Mahjong because of the beautiful tiles, racks, and boxes, and the wonderful mental exercise.  And how we treasure the friendships formed around the table! Finally, here is a set that has it all: different birds on each kind of suit tile, all beautifully carved. When people play with this set, they can combine two of the world's most beloved activities: Mahjong, the most popular game in the world, and bird-watching! The set was a bit of difficult to play with, but isn't that supposed to be part of the game, mental challenges? And we got used to it very quickly. (I actually think it is good, if you possibly can, to play with different sets. It really is great fun.)

Here follow the tiles in the three suits, and a listing of all the birds.


The Bams

Notice how the Bams themselves are made of longevity symbols (those symbols slip into so much of Chinese design, and, if you are lucky, on Mahjong tiles.)


The Dots, perhaps based on Chrysanthemums, one the flowers loved by the Chinese)

The bold colors of the Dots make them easy to identify quickly.


The Craks

Don't you love that #4 Crak? I thought it was a mistake, but I guess not, because here follows the listing of the birds:

Related bird (2 Dot?)


Hang upside down bird (Definitely the 4 Crak)

Lovestruck bird (?)

bird in bamboo forest (2 Bam 5 Bam?)

GeGong bird

QiJiLiao Brid

pearl bird

slender eyes bird

Peacock (I have that one: 1 Bam!)

Mynah (?)

ZiGui Bird

cock (4 Bam)

swallow (5 Bam)

mandarin duck (6 Bam)



red-crowned crane (8 Bam)

parrot (One Dot)

wren (9 Crak?)

BaiZiLian Bird




pearly head bird

BaiYu Brid

fortune-telling bird (!)

Fun, and pretty, right?!

Announcing my latest project: Mahjong is For the Birds, an ebook (the book can be ordered in a color copy version" identifying vintage plastic sets and rating them on a desirability scale. Go to mahjongmahjong.com



Rev MJCover 5.10.16


Note the stylized lions on the front of this beautiful wood box with brass trimming
Note the stylized lions on the front of this beautiful antique wood box with brass trimming.

Lions are loved by the Chinese, but of course are not native to that country. According to Wolfram Eberhard, the first lions were probably brought there by emissaries from foreign countries, and these animals were kept in Imperial zoos. They feature prominently in Chinese folklore. When they are depicted in art, they rarely resemble real lions, perhaps because the artist had never seen a real one.

In art, when a pair of lions is seen, usually one is male and the other female; the male lion has an ornamental ball under his paw, and the female a lion cub. Here on this Mahjong box we may be seeing two male lions, with one ornamental ball between them. Lion-Guardians have appeared in art since the 3rd Century. In some representations of a lion with a ball, a lion cub is said to be in the embroidered ball, but others say the ball is actually a large pearl being played with by the lion. Here, because there is one ball and two creatures, the viewer can be reminded of the two dragons who often have a pearl between them, frequently seen in Chinese art.

This front panel lifts up to reveal the drawers behind. The brass is especially well detailed; other boxes have brass trim but usually it is plain or with few embellishments. This box was meant to have a prominent place in the home.

The side of this beautiful box has what resembles a flower pot (an image often seen on Mah Jong tiles and boxes)
The side of this beautiful box has what resembles a flower pot but is actually three halberds in a vase, symbolizing a hope for luck in life or on important exams.

This beautiful set was sold at auction in the summer of 2013.

To see more images from this set, click here.


This set was recently sold at auction. It is deeply carved, and the ratio of bone to bamboo is very high. In Bone and Bamboo sets, the more bone, the more expensive the set. Notice how beautifully carved all the tiles are, and how the carver included creatures in the tile designs. The Bams are leaves, the Dots are mostly peaches, and the Craks are framed with what looks like stylized peaches and bats (symbols of longevity). Elongated peacocks frame the Green Dragon, and phoenixes frame the Red. Interestingly, as in many old sets, the White Dragon is a plain white tile. The East Winds are framed with what is perhaps a fox, and three other birds surround the other Winds. The Flowers appear to show scenes connected with a wedding.

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