Old Version

Mahjong: Chinese Roots, Global Game

Gregg Swain on the history of mahjong in the U.S. and the art of the game

By Xie Yi Updated Dec.19

In the early 1920s, the Chinese game of mahjong crossed the Pacific to become popular in the US, especially among Jewish women.  At the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the National Mahjong League, founded by five Jewish women, raised money through mahjong tournaments to help Chinese victims of the fighting, especially children. 
Mahjong's popularity has had its ups and downs since then. While the fad faded nationally in America, it stayed popular with Jewish women.  
Today, mahjong is on the rise again in the US, American mahjong is becoming increasingly diverse. For those enthusiasts, Mahjong is not only an enjoyable intellectual challenge, but also a great way to connect with others and build friendships. 
 Gregg Swain, an art historian and veteran mahjong player, shares her thoughts on the role of mahjong in the U.S. and the beauty of the game.