Mah Jongg. M.J. Mahj. Whatever the name or style of play, the game of Mah Jongg brings people together.
My grandma used to play Mahj with “the girls.” As a child I remember playing in her hallway closet, stacking and clacking the ornate tiles, creating my own made-up games. I inherited her Mahj set. Amazingly, it still has all of its 152 tiles, the back of each painted red with nail polish. Touching the tiles, I remember my grandma, the smell of her perfume, how her hands felt: her nails were always painted, and her hands were always soft. And I have finally learned how to play.
Mah Jongg is an ancient Chinese game made popular in America by Jewish women in the early twentieth century. This May, in conjunction with the Shalom Chicago exhibition, the Museum is celebrating the game. Together with the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago (CAMOC), a longtime community partner, we explore the cross-cultural love of Mahj and the memories the game can evoke.
Mah Jongg set from the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago
All photographs courtesy of Ram and Soo Lon Moy
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