Mah Jong Home | Building the "Wall" | Dealing the Starting Hands | Play of the Hands | Scoring and Payoffs | Play Online Game | Mah Jong Tiles | Mahjong Spelling

Building the Wall

Before play begins for each hand, the Mahjong tiles must be shuffled and arranged into the "great wall".

Shuffling the Tiles

To shuffle the tiles, place them all face-down on the table. Gently "stir" the tiles by pushing them around the tabletop until they are well mixed together.

The Wall

Each player builds up a "wall" in front of them, consisting of 18 stacks of two tiles each (still face-down). This task is easier with the use of flat "rulers", which are just as long as 18 Mahjong tiles.

Using their racks or rulers, each player pushes their wall toward the middle until they meet, forming a square "Great Wall of China" in the middle of the table:

Opening the Wall

The dealer rolls three dice and counts off, beginning with himself and continuing counter-clockwise. The player he stops counting on will be considered the "East House" ( dongjia) for the duration of this round. The person to East's right is the "South House" ( nánjia). The person across from East is the "West House" ( xijia), and the person to East's left is the "North House" ( beijia). (See diagram to right.)

For example, if the player in the East chair (on the left in the top diagram) is dealer, and he rolls 7 on the dice, then he begins with himself and counts counterclockwise (E, S, W, N, E, S, W). The west side of the wall (across from the dealer) is where the opening will be made, and the player on that side will now be the "East House", as you can see in the lower diagram. The dealer is now "West House", and so on.

These "house" directions also correspond to winds and numbered flower tiles for purposes of scoring.

If you wish to use markers to remind players of which house they are playing, deal them out now.

These compass directions will figure in for scoring purposes during this hand. They have nothing whatsoever to do with which chair each player is sitting in. (In fact, nothing really has to do with what chair the players are sitting in.)

For the rest of these instructions, when we refer to the "East" player we mean the one who is "East House" during the current hand. Likewise for the other three players.

The side of the wall in front of the East player is where the wall will be opened. The dealer rolls three dice again, and counts that many stacks of tiles starting with the rightmost tile of the East wall (from East's point of view), and counts to East's left a number of tile stacks equal to the total of the dice thrown.

The dealer then takes four tiles (two stacks) beginning with the next stack of tiles.

For example, if the dealer rolled 5 on the dice, he would start at the right end of East's wall and count in 5 stacks to the left. He would then "open the East Gate" by removing stacks 6 and 7 and placing them in front of him.

To mark the place where the wall was opened, it is sometimes customary for the dealer to take the last stack (#5 in our example) and place its tiles on top of the two previous (3rd and 4th) stacks. This is called the "end of the dragon's tail" or the "end of the wall", and is the end you do not draw new tiles from, except under certain circumstances.

The East player uses her rack or ruler to push that wall, angling it towards the centre. This makes it easier for all players to draw tiles from the wall. When that wall is exhausted, the player in front of the next section of the wall (North) will push their section inward.

Dead Tiles

The last 16 tiles at the end of the wall are considered to be "dead" tiles and are not used. The game will end if the wall is completely consumed except for those dead tiles. To make it easier to distinguish these tiles, the dealer makes a slight break in the wall to show where they are. Under no circumstances will there be less than 16 dead tiles; if tiles are drawn from the dead zone to replace flower tiles or to compensate for gàng, the same number of tiles are moved from the end of the wall to the dead zone, keeping its number always at 16.


Mah Jongg Article

ALL Mah Jong - Please send other userful links and problem reports to support (at)

Copyright © All Mah Jong