18: Mahjong Rulers

All the tiles are represented on the rulers.  The flower and season tiles are bonuses, and can look radically different between sets

All the tiles are represented on the rulers. The flower and season tiles are bonuses, and can look radically different between sets

After 3 years of owning the laser, I’ve finally been shamed into making myself mahjong rulers – one day too late.  I am the proud aunt to a lovely, heavy, mahjong set.  It lives at my house, but belongs to two friends who bought it jointly.

For those who don’t know mahjong, or think they know it from playing the solitaire tile matching game on the computer, check out the Wikipedia post.

My friend Lorraine, of the crowd that taught me how to play and is half owner of the mahjong set I babysit, just got back from a two year stint in South Korea teaching English.  So, just as we sent her off, we had a welcome back mahjong and grilling party last Saturday!  I’ve been talking for YEARS about making mahjong rulers, so all the appropriate ribbing took place.  So, of course, I made them Sunday.

This is us, 2 years ago, at Lo's going away party!

We are playing 2 years ago at Lo’s going away party!  We are mid wall building, sans rulers – the rulers would have been a great help to get all the walls moved to the center to make a box! Thank to Mark for the photo.

Before play starts, even before dealing, 144 tiles need to be built into walls.  Each of those walls need to be touching to make a box, so the dice don’t go flying all over the place.  Smooth plastic tiles + trying to move them right next to each other (+ a drink or two) can lead to a lot of blow outs.  And giggling.  And rebuilding.  There are reasons we’ve never finished a whole game of 16 rounds.  Mahjong rulers (sometimes called pushers) are the perfect trick – 18 inches long, and it applies even pressure to your wall when moving it  into place.

A wall is 18 tiles long, two high.  American mahjong is a bit different, with jokers in the mix.  I have heard their walls are 19 tiles long.

A wall is 18 tiles long, two high. American mahjong is a bit different, with jokers in the mix. I have heard their walls are 19 tiles long.

Calling them a ruler is pretty fancy – the commercially available versions are simply long, 3mm thick plastic rectangles, with no markings.  Each player gets their own ruler, and the dealer is usually designated with a different color. (In my set, the dealer has the blue ruler).  I decided to step up ruler game by engraving them with a guide to the tiles.  Some mahjong sets are totally in Chinese, without any English number translation.  This can be a detriment to to new players, who have to ask for identification.

The Charecters are represented with Chinese numbers.  My set is a nice "beginner" set as there are the Arabic numbers we use in English in the upper left corner.  Not all sets have this.

The characters are represented with Chinese numbers and stand for tens of thousands.  So the 2 is actually Twenty Thousand. My set is a nice “beginner” set as there are the Arabic numbers we use in English in the upper left corner. Not all sets have this.

Even with the English equivalent on the tile, the times can be confusing.  For example, the "C" on red stands from the Wade-Giles Romanization of the word "chun"

Even with the English equivalent on the tile, the times can be confusing. For example, the “C” on red stands from the Wade-Giles Romanization of the word “chun” which is how you pronounce the red character on the tile.

I LOVE how they turned out!  I would clean up the images a bit for production purposes, but they are more than adequate for my personal mahjong set.   Anyone up for a game?

8 thoughts on “18: Mahjong Rulers

  1. Lydia says:

    Love these mahjong rulers. The etching is pretty and provides useful information (for new non-Chinese players). What is the material? Do you sell them?

    • Ryan says:

      Thanks, Lydia! They are made from acrylic, but we don’t have them listed on our shop. If you drop me a line via the contact form here though I’ll find out how much it would cost for us to make you a set! Just let me know.

  2. Lydia says:

    Thanks Ryan. I already own a set – no laser etchings of course. I would love to have a couple sets of these cool laser rulers for my kids. Acrylic is great. Mine has a thickness of about 6 mm which I think is good. As for the length I’d like them to fit some of the larger tiles. I found a commercial site which lists them as 47cm x 2.2cm x 0.55cm which is probably a good size to go with. (I’d try to convert them to inches but I think you can do that better…:-). If you can price that out for me I would certainly appreciate it. Thanks Ryan!

    • Ryan says:

      Lisa, we have a revised set of these rulers available for $38 for a set of four. I’ve written you an email to follow up if you’re interested in having a set made!

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