The sound of mahjong tiles clacking in open-air teahouses and outside grocery stores heralds the arrival of summer in Chengdu. Mahjong, which has filled many an afternoon since the mid-19th century, holds special significance for the Sichuanese and forms an integral part of local culture.
Unlike larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai, Chengdu prides itself on its slower pace of life. This suits a game like mahjong perfectly – sessions can last hours, if not days. While most homes in Chengdu own a mahjong set, people have taken to enjoying the game outdoors, and locals can be found playing throughout the city at street corners, parks and open-air teahouses.
The Sichuan brand of mahjong is easy to learn. There are only three suits, each containing four identical tiles from one to nine. Players take turns drawing and discarding tiles until someone wins. The objective is simple: collect four sets of three tiles, as well as an additional pair of identical tiles.
While it’s exciting to win, especially if friendly wagers are at stake, mahjong in Chengdu is really just an excuse to catch up with old friends in the sunshine. And what could be more perfect than that?
Heming Teahouse, siutated in the bustling People’s Park, is a popular outdoor mahjong spot.
9 Citang St
EZMahjong offers both online tutorials and face-to-face lessons at various Chengdu teahouses.
Visit the Chengdu Mahjong and Tea Museum for exhibits like mahjong tiles made from jade.
1 Baiyunsi Rd
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This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine