Books Magazine

Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain

By Bellezza @bellezzamjs

When my husband teases me about retiring in a few years, he says, "Will you play Mah Jongg with the ladies all afternoon?" I haven't attended a Mah Jongg club as of yet, but when I retire it would be fun to look for one nearby.

So far, the only things I know about the game are that it's Chinese, from the middle of the 19th century, and has pieces so lovely I'd like to put them in my mouth. (This was part of the allure of dominoes, too, which I played endlessly with my grandmother. All those ivory pieces made such a satisfying click when they came together after leaving our hands...)

Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain

This beautiful book, Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game, came to me from Tuttle Press with a note tucked inside from the author herself. And when I opened it, and read more about the game which already intrigued me, I knew I wanted a set of my very own.

There are twelve chapters, beginning with "A Brief History of Mah Jongg" and continuing on through different kinds of materials from which this game is made: paper, bamboo, wood, Bakelite, French ivory, metals, rubber, bone bamboo and precious materials. It also has a chapter on "The Art of The Box", and the effect Mah Jongg still has on people today.

Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain

Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain
Mah Jongg: The Art of The Game by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain

You can see from the beautiful photographs alone how fascinating this game can be, and how even a few lost pieces can make an engaging display of their own. Especially if one still needs to acquire the finer points of the game and can be content to simply turn the pages of its history.


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