Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mah Jong and memories...

A conversation on Facebook prompted me to hunt out my Grandfather's old Mah Jong set.  I remember playing Mah Jong as a child and being entranced by the tiles - bamboos, circles, winds, flowers... and by the terminology - 'twittering the sparrows' is one term that comes to mind. I am not much of a games person, lacking the necessary sharpness of mind and  killer instinct, but I love the look of games.  Mah Jong and poker are associated for me with warmth (the card table in front of the fire) and security (family together).

Writing this triggers two related thoughts. For me the childhood build-up to Guy Fawkes day was almost as exciting as the day itself because I loved to arrange - and rearrange - and rearrange - my little cache of fireworks. The pleasure was in possession and anticipation - but also in the visual appeal of the brightly coloured cylinders (similar to the visual appeal of the Mah Jong tiles). The importance of the visual was there very early on.

Mah Jong also reminds me of visiting the old Chinese shop in Madras Street, with my mother. We both loved to go there. It was dark inside and exotic. My  Mum would buy little beaded slippers, paper parasols and delicate celadon green rice bowls so fine you could see the light through them. (Both Mum and Auntie Nora wore Chinese slippers and used the parasols which I regarded as the height of elegance. Mum also kept two pairs of slippers at the front door for visitors wearing stiletto heels - we had cork floors). Together we bought paper lanterns for the Christmas tree and pretty Chinese fans. Much later the shop moved to larger premises in Welles Street (between Colombo and Manchester Streets) where it remains as Hop Yick Trading.


  1. There are places on the east coast of Italy where Mah Jong is played in the bars instead of the traditional Italian card games - it's the darndest thing, in some ways seeing old Italians hunched over those tiles is quite dissonant. But in a good way.

    That's a lovely set.

  2. Ah, it would be interesting to find out just how Mah Jong infiltrated NZ society. Whether it came with the first Chinese sojourners to the gold fields or whether it was picked up in the early 20th century as a 'fashionable' import...

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