Mahjong History

Mahjong origins

Mahjong is a game with a long history, going back to the 19th century Qing dynasty in China. Mahjong originated in China, more specifically near Shanghai. It became popular in Shanghai and Beijing.

According to games scholar David Parlett, Mahjong has a common origin with card games Conquian and Rummy. Mahjong is played with a set of 144 tiles instead of cards.

Mahjong age

It is difficult to say how old mahjong is exactly, but game experts mostly agree it was developed in the mid- or late-1800s. This means it might be more than 170 years old already!

History of Mahjong in America

Playing the Mah Jongg game became known outside China in the early 20th century. The first mahjong sets in the United States were sold by Abercrombie & Fitch starting in 1920. At the same time, Joseph Park Babcock published a book with the rules of mahjong (or mah-jongg as he spelled it) to promote the game. Joseph P. Babcock, together with Parker Brothers, is believed to have popularized Mahjong in the US.

Mahjong was played a lot in the Chinese communities, and played a role in the community building for suburban Jewish women.

Mahjong Solitaire history

The mahjong games on our website are Mahjong Solitaire games (also known as Shanghai Solitaire).

1981: Mahjong solitaire on PLATO

The first computerized version of mahjong solitaire was developed by Brodie Lockard in 1981 for the PLATO computer. He named it Mah-Jongg because it used the same tiles as the Chinese game. According to Lockard, his game was based on an old Chinese game called 'The Turtle'.

1986: Shanghai by Activision

In 1986, Activision released Shanghai, a mahjong solitaire game for the IBM PC, Amiga Computer, Macintosh, Atari ST and Apple IIgs. It became really popular selling 10 million copies. It was created by Brodie Lockard and Brad Fregger.

Shanghai is a registered trademark, so many later versions of the game used the name Mahjong because of the used tiles. Other names for mahjong solitaire games are Solitaire MahJongg, The Turtle, Shanghai Solitaire, or tile-matching games.

1990: Mahjong solitaire on Windows

In 1990, Windows included a mahjong solitaire game with the name Taipei in their Microsoft Entertainmant Pack for Windows 3.x, while Windows Vista and Windows 7 included a mahjong solitaire game with the name Mahjong Titans.

More info


Watch the video below for more info on the history of Mahjong.