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Mahjong: An Introduction into the Western World


An American anthropologist named Stewart Culin in 1895, mentioned Mahjong in one of his papers. This is the very first written account of this game in any other language other than Chinese. By 1910, there were various written accounts in numerous languages, including Japanese and French. In the 1920s Mahjong as a game was imported to the United States.
In 1920 Abercrombie and Fitch started selling the first mahjong sets in U.S. It became a huge sensation in New York, and the owner of the company named Ezra Fitch, sent ambassadors to Chinese villages to buy and bring home every set of mahjong they could find there. Abercrombie and Fitch made total sales of 12,000 Mahjong sets.

Joseph Park Babcock in 1920 published his book Rules of Mah-Jongg, also known as the "red book" was the initial edition of mahjong known to America. Babcock had educated himself about the game mahjong while staying in China.
Babcock's rules made the game simpler and make it easier for Americans to adapt, and his version was the most famous throughout the mahjong fad of the 1920s. Later, in the 1920s craze faded out, many of Babcock's simplifications were discarded.

The game has took brought to itself a number of established names, such as "Game of Thousand Intelligences" and "Pung Chow". During those times in America Mahjong nights often saw dressing of the people and decorating rooms in Chinese fashion.
Quite a few hit songs numbers were also written during the mahjong craze, among them being "Since Ma is Playing Mah Jong" by Eddie Cantor.

A lot of alternatives of the game mahjong were developed during this incredible period. By 1930s, many versions of the rules of mahjong were developed which were significantly different from Babcock's original version (including some important fundamentals such as the conception of a standard hand).
The most widespread form, which ultimately became "American mahjong", was most admired among Jewish women. 1937 saw the standardization of the game came into being with the development of the National Mah Jongg League (NMJL), alongside the very first American mahjong rulebook, Maajh: The American Version of the Ancient Chinese Game.

During the Babcock era when the game mahjong was acknowledged by U.S. players of all ethnicity, many believed it as the modern American adaptation of a Jewish game, as several American mahjong players are of Jewish descent. Jewish players foundered the NMJL and are known as a Jewish organization. Moreover, the game became as a family-friendly social activity, not as gambling.
Lately, a second association was formed, named as the American Mah Jongg Association. AMJA at present holds tournaments in various places in North America, with their most famous event being held at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in the Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In 1977 a British author named Alan D. Millington invigorated the Chinese traditional game of the 1920s in his book The Complete Book of Mah-jongg This book mentions the formal rules put for the game. A lot of players in Western countries consider Millington's work trustworthy.
Mahjong as a game is not the first introduction to the English. It was also pioneered by W. H. Wilkinson, with the name of Khanhoo, before 1895. The later revised form by various writers brought in the significance of the game and made it famous.



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