Mah Jong

The important bit!

May 2021. The Mah Jong Group has not been meeting while the Covid emergency has been affecting everyday life. The Convenor writes:

I have had a very positive response to my latest email to members of the Mah Jong Group.  So far 8 people (plus myself) have said they are very keen to play Mah Jong again, just as soon as restrictions are lifted.  We all know however that things remain uncertain, with a possible threat from the Indian variant.  

We also wait to see what arrangements Townsend House makes, whether numbers would be restricted, and how much cleaning would be expected.  The Harbour Room suits us best, which is bright, and the tables are just right for setting up the game, and there is storage space for the Mah Jong sets.  Also will room charges remain as before?

All being well everyone is keen to restart with a session on Friday 25th June, so fingers crossed that remains possible.



The Mah Jong Group normally meets twice monthly on the second and fourth Fridays of each month at 2 30 pm.    Please remember to check the Calendar in case of any late changes to schedule or venue.

Our group is led by Pam Pettit, and she may be contacted at 01643 818956, or by email at


image shows examples of mah jong tiles on a table

Mah Jong at the U3A Open day. Photo by Cherrie Temple

image shows a selection of Mah jong tilesMah jong tiles. Photo by Cherrie Temple

About the Group

We welcome players of all abilities, from complete beginners to experienced players.  Meetings take place twice-monthly in the Harbour Room at Townsend House, on the 2nd and 4th Friday afternoons, and last about 2 hours.  There is a small charge at each session, normally between £2 and £3, purely to cover the cost of room hire.  The Group has 3 Mah Jong sets, but some members also own their own sets, and may bring them along  if the size of the group increases.  Anyone interested in joining us should contact the Convenor, and arrange to come along to a trial session.

About the game

A Mah Jong set comprises 144 tiles, decorated with Chinese symbols: Bamboo, Characters, Circles, Dragons, Winds, Flowers and Seasons.  These symbols first appeared in ancient China on discs or counters some 2000 years ago, and the game evolved over the centuries to become the game of Mah Jong as we know it.  The basic game bears similarities with the card game Rummy, in that players must try to complete a winning ‘hand’ of sets of 3 or 4 tiles that are identical, or form a numbered sequence, and thus declare Mah Jong.  Once the basic game has been mastered, players may advance to a wide variety of ‘Special Hands’, with exotic names such as Wriggling Snake, Triple Knitting and Greta’s Garden.  Skill is then introduced into the game as players decide which Hand to tackle according to the tiles they pick up.

Learning tools

We teach new players the game following the rules laid out in Max Robertson’s book “The Game of Mah Jong”, supplemented by Susan Fifer’s book “Mah Jong: Game of the Four Winds: materials for U3A Groups”.  A PDF file of the latter is available to download  from the national U3A website.  Because we play for fun however, we follow the practice of many Mah Jong Groups in tinkering with the rules a little, in order to make more of the Special Hands achievable, thus adding to our enjoyment.

Latest news

Please note that there is also a Mah Jong beginners group starting in 2020 in Washford

March 2020

After a very successful Open Morning in January 2020, we were delighted to recruit 6 new members to the Group, all complete beginners.  All have settled in well, and it has been lovely to refresh the group with new faces.


Examples of online versions/ apps are:

These are chargeable after a short free trial period.



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