The History of Mahjong, by Rhona Kirsner

Part of the appeal of the Chinese game of mahjong involves the mystery of its creation. Although the oldest known mahjong tile dates back to the 1880s, some argue that the pastime was born more than 2,500 years ago. However, the Chinese people showed an interest in tile-based activities such as dominoes in the 12th century, and mahjong might have its origins in ancient card games.

During the early 20th century, mahjong spread beyond China. It picked up significant attention when British nationals in the Asian nation brought mahjong sets to expatriate cafes in Shanghai. Japan started forming mahjong clubs around 1907, and the United States and Britain began importing sets during the 1920s. Many credit Standard Oil Company’s Joseph P. Babcock for being the primary force behind mahjong’s popularity in America; in 1923, it was deemed the nation’s favorite game.

Rhona Kirsner has been a Certified Public Accountant and Realtor throughout her career. Currently a real estate agent with Lang Realty in Boca Raton, Florida, Kirsner is the mother of two daughters and plays mahjong at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.