History of Mahjong is a much debated topic among the game enthusiasts. Some people claim that the game's history dates back 2,500 years when others oppose this and claim the game invented in 18th or 19th century because there are no historical records available about the game before 19th century.
The story behind the inception and distribution of Mahjong backed by mythologies rather than scientific evidences say that Confucius developed the game.
According to this story, during the rule of King of Wu a beautiful woman lived in his court in isolation. When boredom started killing her, she started carving domino shaped figures from ivory and bamboo.
Once she finished with the figures, she invited her maids to play the game. Later Confucius developed this game with more shapes and new rules.
Mahjong roughly translates to Chattering Sparrow and people who back the story claim the game got this name because Confucius liked birds. The story goes on saying that the game was exclusively reserved for royal class and it was against the law for ordinary citizens to play the game.
Researchers say that Mahjong might have got inspired from Dominoes and some ancient card games played in China. There are evidences that show these games were played in China during 10th and 11th century.
However researchers have a clearer picture about the place Mahjong probably originated. Researchers suggest that the places of origin are more likely Shanghai, Kiangsu and Anhwei because no records of the game were found from any other part of China till 1900s.
Chances are high that the merchants in West propagated the story of Confucius to exploit their customers once the game was introduced to America and other places.
The written history of the game starts from 1880's when Chinese exclusively enjoyed this game. This game was introduced to America and other nations in 1920 and it became so popular to an extent that there was a worldwide scarcity for ivory.
Interestingly, this Chinese game became popular to their neighbor Japan hardly 10 years before its popularity in America. Every country altered this game and invented their own rules to shape the game according to their taste.
In America, it became difficult to follow the game because several rules and playing methods were invented.
This situation came to an end when J.P Babock published a book titled "Rules for Mah-Jong". He was a bulk exporter of Mahjong playing equipments and he wanted to simplify the rules so that more people will start playing the game.
His commercial interest saw tremendous success in popularizing Mahjong. American version of the game constantly got modified and is very different from the original game.
The first thing a player will notice with American Mahjong is the remarkable number of hands which can be legally formed. A "hand" is the combination of card to be formed in order to win the game.
This was not the case only with America. Other countries like Britain and Japan where Mahjong became so popular made alterations in the game to match perfectly with their culture.
The most used form of the game is Hong Kong or Cantonese Mahjong. With the invention of video games, video arcades in Japan introduced Mahjong to their arcades and these arcades allowed users to play with players from different part of the world. This brought added popularity and again several updated versions of Mahjong got released.
Interestingly, the original Chinese version of the game is not played in China but has some faithful followers in the west.
In China, a modified version of the game as well as Hong Kong Mahjong is widely popular. Other changes after 1930's is that Mahjong became very popular as a gambling game. Distinct from other gambling games, a person can't win Mahjong just because he is lucky.
It commands strategy, speed and contemplation of players to facilitate success. This award Mahjong a better and more intellectual status from other games.