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edelweis

Mahjong taboos

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edelweis

I remember that several years ago during a mahjong game, a player was upset because all 4 players had discarded the same tile in one turn of the table.

I think it was 西 but I'm not sure.

Apparently it was bad luck or something.

 

Does anyone know more about this?

Are there other taboos in mahjong or other games?

What search keywords should I use to find information in Chinese about this?

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889

I've got an old book, 中国禁忌百科 (1996), that has thousands of Chinese taboos spread over 500 pages. Nothing I saw covered mahjong, but I could have missed it.

 

This book is no doubt out of print, but a quick search shows there are similar books on Chinese taboos still on the market. Fun reading!

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Shelley

Mahjong has lots of "special" hands based on the numbers and suits. A hand of all 1s or all 9s scores a double because these are major numbers, A hand of all green "a Jade hand" is worth a double. All winds or dragons scores a double. All pungs and a finishing pair get a double, and so on, there is a comprehensive list usually included in any instruction booklet included in a standard set.

There are also more in depth books about the whole game and including special hands. These might throw light upon others that are bad luck.

As you can probably tell I am an avid player and whenever I can gather 3 other people who play in the same room I get the tiles out.

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dwq

That is called 四人歸西 and is a taboo for some superstitious people. 歸西 (going/returning west) is a euphemism for death based on the Buddhist idea of heaven in the west.

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DavyJonesLocker

I daresay a lot of superstitions will fizzle out over time in China as the country develops, much the same as when I was a kid in the 70s. Vast majority long gone it seems. However some are pretty well ingrained so it will take a generation or two. 

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edelweis
19 hours ago, 889 said:

中国禁忌百科 (1996), that has thousands of Chinese taboos spread over 500 pages

thanks, sounds like fun reading

 

18 hours ago, Shelley said:

if all 4 players discard West its not so much taboo as bad luck.

Well, the 4th player at my game was copiously criticized for not having chosen to discard another tile, so it looked like intentionally bringing bad luck (or intentionally upsetting the one player who was superstitious) was a pretty rotten/taboo thing to do...

 

12 hours ago, dwq said:

That is called 四人歸西

thanks, googling this right now

 

10 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I daresay a lot of superstitions will fizzle out over time

I guess it's a globally good thing (less witch hunting these days) but some superstitions are still cute/interesting to know about.

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Shelley
1 hour ago, edelweis said:

Well, the 4th player at my game was copiously criticized for not having chosen to discard another tile

 

Yes, but if you have just seen the other 3 get discarded you might as well dump it and get on with a new tile. It must have happened in games I have played but not being aware or caring we just discarded what was good for your hand, makes for better game play.  A single wind or dragon isn't much use, you can't make a chow with it.

 

On a slightly different note does anyone know the correct Chinese terms for these things ie pung, chow, kong ? I am guessing they are corrupt versions passed down by people and possibly are of Cantonese origin?

 

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Alex_Hart
11 hours ago, Shelley said:

On a slightly different note does anyone know the correct Chinese terms for these things ie pung, chow, kong ? I am guessing they are corrupt versions passed down by people and possibly are of Cantonese origin?

 

These are Cantonese, yes. I don't speak Cantonese so I'm not exactly sure which one translates to which, but Mandarin majiang players will say:

吃 chi - (3 in a row, so 1, 2, 3) when you have two of three successive tiles (e.g. 1 and 3) in your hand and the person in front of you plays the one you don't have (2), you can 吃 that tile 

碰 peng - (3 identical, so 1, 1, 1) when you have two of the same tile and someone plays that same tile, you can 碰 regardless of where they are sitting

杠 gang - (4 identical, so 2, 2, 2, 2) when you have three of the same tile and someone plays that same tile, you can 杠 regardless of where they are sitting (there are actually different kinds of 杠 which will affect your points if you are playing some kinds of majiang)

和 here pronounced as hu - the last tile (ends the game). In some of the easier types of majiang, this means you win. In others, you still need to count up the points.

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Publius

I followed Google and found this: https://hk.ulifestyle.com.hk/topic/detail/200098/香港麻雀小禁忌-下-甚麼糊不能亂食

It seems 四人歸西 is a well-known taboo in HK. It's been used as the title of an episode in the 1985 TVB horror series 《夜驚魂》 which many people seem to remember.

 

Cantonese is very particular about 好意頭 or good fortune. For example, 傘 sounds the same as 散 'to fall apart', so umbrella is called 遮 in Cantonese. 舌 is pronounced the same as 蝕 (as in 蝕本 'to lose one's capital') in Cantonese, so tongue is 脷 (<利 'profit'). 肝 is homophonous with 乾 'dry' which is bad for business, so liver is called 膶 instead (<潤 'moist', also 利潤 'profit'). 絲 sounds like 輸 'to lose' in some dialects, so 絲瓜 luffa is renamed 勝瓜. 乾杯 is also to be avoided because of 乾, if you're in HK, say 飲勝 instead. And don't bring a book/書 to a Mahjong table...

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agewisdom
On 1/13/2019 at 3:19 PM, Publius said:

I followed Google and found this: https://hk.ulifestyle.com.hk/topic/detail/200098/香港麻雀小禁忌-下-甚麼糊不能亂食

It seems 四人歸西 is a well-known taboo in HK. It's been used as the title of an episode in the 1985 TVB horror series 《夜驚魂》 which many people seem to remember.

 

That episode was pretty funny. Thanks for sharing. But seems somewhat short for an episode? Was it interspersed with other stories?

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agewisdom
4 hours ago, Publius said:

Here's the episode in its entirety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp9prdU5w6c (in Cantonese with no subtitles, so basically unintelligible to most people, Chinese and foreigners alike)

I can understand some Cantonese after years of watching TVB shows, so many thanks for the link. I wonder how you found out about it. :P

Drats! It's region locked, possibly to Hong Kong, I can't watch it.

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Publius
49 minutes ago, agewisdom said:

Drats! It's region locked, possibly to Hong Kong, I can't watch it.

Weird. I tried Tokyo, Los Angeles, London IPs with no problem.

EDIT: I see. You are in HK.

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agewisdom
21 hours ago, Publius said:

Weird. I tried Tokyo, Los Angeles, London IPs with no problem. 

EDIT: I see. You are in HK.

No, I'm not in HK. But I'll try a proxy to watch instead. No worries.

Thanks for taking the trouble to help. :)

 

I manage to watch the entire episode. It seems it's a half hour show with about 2 stories. The actual story was a little longer than the one posted with subtitles. For those curious:

 

1. It starts with quite an interesting explanation on the Mahjong taboo by a famous HK actor. He explains the taboo succinctly and cogently.

2. Then the show starts proper with the four women playing Mahjong.

3. When the lady played the fourth West tile, nothing actually happens.

4. The other 3 ladies left after the last game.

5. In the evening, on the news, it appears the 3 ladies got into a car accident and none of them survived. 😬

6. The last lady (very distressed) attended their funeral, possibly a few days later and was comforted by another 3 ladies, which also invited them for Mahjong, later.

7. The ever understanding husband encouraged her to join the new group to take her mind off the said incident.

8. That very afternoon, after she slept, she had a dream where her former mates said they would fetch her at 12 midnight, apparently to the Underworld.

9. She freaked out and insisted her husband accompany for the night till 12 midnight. At the same time, one of the members of the new group invited her for Mahjong and she was hesitant but agreed after encouragement by her husband. But only after midnight.

10. Near midnight, she insisted her husband be close by and didn't even let him go to the loo.

 

Well, what happens next is per the video. The story ends exactly at the same place.

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