Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 5 years 11 months ago

Information from Local Contacts (date, person, and other details)

Mrs. Yang (toy store): She gave me helpful information about younger children's games on Tuesday  March 20th. She told me boys liked to play guns and war games, and girls play dolls, decorating, and do art. This helped me get an idea of what the different generations do with their spare time.

Mr. Yang (retired military official): I asked him basic questions about Mahjong. He was first taught when he was in the hospital from a military incident. This is pretty much the only game the old folks in the community play. Occasionally, they play Qiangxi or cards, but Mahjong is the common game played. All three of his kids can play Mahjong. Date~March 20th

Mr. Zhang (antique dealer): Today I found 4 new sources that were knowledgeable about Mahjong. He learned when he was 20 years old. The reason he plays it is like many others in Xizhou, to kill time, have fun, and be social. Mr.Zhang also said he plays it when his family and friends come to be hospitable. Gambling is also another reason of why he plays it. He believes that Mahjong was invented around the Qing Dynasty, but people only really started to play it after the Communist Revolution because it is a traditional game, so it was banned during that time. All of his children know how to play the game. Date~March 26th

Mrs. Yang (community center): She learned right before she was married, around 20 years old. Like Mr.Zhang, she said that it came to Xizhou after the communist revolution. The game was made before this, around 1800's, but it was revived in the 70's-80's. Only her father knew how to play as well as her children. Date~March 26th

Unnamed (played near the square): I did not receive the man's name. He was in his 60's and learned how to play when he was about 7 years old. I asked him who the best player is, but Amy, my chaperone, told me their really is no best player because some days you win more or all the money, and some days you lose most or all the money. Like Mr.Zhang and Mrs.Yang, he said it was invented around the 17-1800's, but was revived after the communist revolution due to the ban of traditional board games. Date~March 26th

Mr. Yang (coffee maker): He learned to play Mahjong when he was only 10 years old as his parents also knew how to play as well. He has played for basically his whole life and even throughout the Cultural Revolution when it was banned. "My friends and I hid it from the police when they came by, this is why we played in secret location," he stated. He said he only played with his closest friends, the ones he trusted, or else they might tell on him. The punishment during the revolution for playing Mahjong or any traditional games was jail time. This is why he continues to play everyday 1-5pm. Everyday, he plays with the same group because like many people they feel they will lose money. When you play witht he same group, you gamble, so one day you win, the other you lose. It all balances out. Also, I learned that the people of Yunnan have adopted the Sichuan style of Mahjong. According to Mr.Yang and many others, it came to Xizhou after the communist revolution (80's). They adopted it because people stopped producing the Yunnan pieces due to it being a much more complicated game than the Sichuan version. Date~March 27th

Mrs. Yang-Ou (Mahjong player on street): She started playing at the young age of 7-8 years old. The other woman around her who were playing were also taught at 7-8 years old. She taught her son at age 4-5 years old. I have found this to be common. To be at a very young age or in their 20's. She plays for the same reason everyone else plays, to kill time and be social. I found that even though people gamble for almost every game, they don't play for the money. It is a way of making it more competitive and exciting. "If you don't play Mahjong, it's hard to make friends," she stated. This shows me that Mahjong is live and well in all generations.

Mr. Yang (retired lawyer): He has played almost his whole life, 10-80 years old, but he can not play Mahjong anymore because his eye sight is poor. I talked to him because he is the oldest man on our street (94 years old). According to Mr.Yang,  Mahjong was invented in the Qing Dynasty (late 1800's) and was played a bit, but was revived during the reformation, after the cultural revolution in 1981. 

Amy (Linden Centre staff): She has beent he most help because she has walked around with me almost everyday to translate and explain to me the rules/principles of Mahjong. Coming from the province of Sichuan, she explained to me the rules from her hometown, from Sichuan, and how it compares to the rules here, in Xizhou. One after.oon, she taught me how to play Mahjong at the community center. This helped me better understand the game in general and interact more with the locals. 

Information from 3-5's:

Andrew, the man I interviewed at the Linden Centre, told me I should talk to a woman named Yang Su Mei. She works at the Linden Centre and knows a lot about the locals and their daily life. Mu Xue Jiao, who also works at the Linden centre, told me to visit the elderly community centers, although they are usually closed. She also recommended that I go and visit the local elementary school to talk to the kids about what they play and their past-time activities. The Yang Zhou Ran coordinator, Xiao Tang, told me to go out into town and talk to anyone I see playing a game, especially the elders who play Mahjong and Chinese Chess out on the street. I can find them on the main road that lead to the town square where they sell all the clothes. I interviewed all of my sources on March 14th, 2013 at the Linden Centre and Yang Zhou Ran.

My Background Information:

Traditional Chinese games


~usually played by older women, sometimes men

~invented around Confucian time (although believed to have been invented in early 1800's)

~played by royals, no working class

~early 1900s-1920's Mahjong craze around the world, especially America

~commonly played with 4 people

~Game involves skill, strategy, calculation, and chance

Name comes form má que "sparrow", now called mah jong

Banned in China after communist revolution, during cultural revolution (1950-1979)

Mao Declared "capitalist game" because people were betting money and it was a traditional game

Spread to other countries--

~America by Joseph Babock who worked in China (early 1900's)

~Europe by men's clubs who played in Shanghai (early 1900's)

~Korea and Japan

Varying Rules around the world--

American: similar to Gin Rummy

Chinese: merged rules of disapearing games into one official one (255th game), varies in each province

Hong Kong (Cantonese): similar to to American 

Taiwanese: includes 16th tile than usual 13th tile

European: based on classical Chinese version, includes "wind" element

Xiangqi (Chinese Chess):

~played by older men, one of the most common past time activities in China

~strategy game as military, need to capture general

~originated from India (related to chess game family)

~started being played around 600 BCE by emperors

~also known as "astronomical game" due to the board's river=milky way

Psychology of Play in China

Play is vital for one's childhood, it develops individuality, creativity, and uses imagination

Schools are spending too much time focusing on testing math and reading levels.

Why are we becoming more over achieving?

No child Left Behind act 2001, schools have focused don cutting back on creative and play-like activities to focus on mathematics and literacy.

Chinese kids=8.6 hours/day at school, 2.5-4 hourse/day after school

many kids enrolled in after school tutors and classes such as learning instrument like piano, English practice, and Mathematics.

CYRC Survey~~ 4-10 children had someone to play with


1) for Xiangqi--"History of Chess", "Facts on the Origin of Chinese Chess"

2) for Mahjong-- ,,

3) for Psychology of Play in China--,, "China's Children too Busy to Play" China Daily,

4) How is this relevant to my question?

The information I have gathered so far has answered some of my major questions I have about this topic. I need to get out more to find all the answers to my questions. It has also brought about new questions that are either add ons to my old questions or completely new.

What is the common game played among the elders?

I have found that Mahjong is the most common game and this is why I have decided to focus in on that.

Why do they play this game? 

Mr.Yang told me they play it as a stress-free activity. The men usually gamble when they play, so they do it when they have some extra cash to use.

What parts of this information move me toward an answer?

This helps me answer my questions because not only have my sources given me information and other sources to go to to find more answers. For instance, the couple I met that owned the sweets store told me to visit the elderly community center. This will help me by getting more deeper answers from people that have really played and experienced Mahjong. The information I learned that has directly answered some of my questions has made me want to check multiple sources to see if it is accurate, so I know for sure if it is true.

How does this new information agree to what I already know/believe?

My research on the internet has so far shown to match what I have learned, although I am learning things out here that I did not read about on the internet. I need to talk and interact with more people to have multiple sources to see if what one person is saying is true. Overall, the information I have found here in Xizhou has agreed to what I have read on the internet.

What parts of this new information disagree with what I already know/believe?

Nothing I have found here in Xizhou has disagreed to what I have researched previously on the internet.

8) What new questions does this new information raise? 

There are so many new questions that have and are being raised from the new information I hear everyday. 

When was Mahjong invented? It was said to have been made around the Confucian time but their has been no record of that. 

Why is it so popular among the elders of Xizhou? Why do people enjoy playing Mahjong?

Will it continue to be taught and played, now that technology is taking over and board games are being played less and less?

When was Mahjong first introduced to this area?

Look back at your 10 questions from Phase 1. Do you see any that have already been answered? Have these answers led to new questions?

Every time I talk to a new person and learn more about my specified topic, Mahjong, I raise a new question. The more information I have, the more information I want to learn. In question 8, I listed some of the new questions I have thought of as I have been exploring and interacting more with people about Mahjong. 

What is the popular game among elders in Xizhou?

Mahjong! Although, there are some other games like cards and Xiangqi (Chinese chess)

Does the community value playtime?

Yes, almost everyday, when I walk to the town square for lunch, I see at least 3-4 tables of people gathering around playing Mahjong (usually adults). I have also seen kids playing guns and girls running around. When I talked to the lady at the toy store, I learned a great deal about the games children play. This tells me that the kids and parents value playtime.

Why do the people enjoy play time? Why do people enjoy Mahjong?

Games like Mahjong are stress free activities. Mahjong is a game usually played to talk to each other and make friends by gossiping, telling secrets, and talking about things happening. People get to relax and have fun when they play games, so this is why they enjoy them.

How much time is devoted to games? When do people play games?

Games are an outlet to having fun and being social. People usually play them when they have their breaks which is either at lunch or after their long day of work. I also learned that people gamble when they play Mahjong. Some play when they only have some extra cash to gamble with. They play everwhere everyday. For Mahjong, people play everyday during their break, either during lunch or after diner, with their friends and colleagues. Some people play the whole afternoon for about 4 hours during the weekend. 

How have games influenced everyday life?

People of all ages play games and they do it everyday. It influences their lives in a positive way by providing a time and place to have fun and be social. 

What is the common age to learn Mahjong?

It depends on the family and the class you are in. Most people learn when they are about 10 years old, which they learn from their parents, if they play. People who were in the labor class did not learn Mahjong when they were young because they had to do school work and work for money. Many of the elders have said their children and grand-children know how to play and play Mahjong. 

When was Mahjong first invented/made? Where?

No one knows when and who created Mahjong. From the information I have gathered, it seems to be around the Qing Dynasty, late 1800's. Mahjong was created in China, but their is no record of any exact province.

Will Mahjong continue to be played and taught to younger generations?

Yes, I have talked to the older and younger people of Xizhou and feel it will be alive and strong for quite some time. Kids as young as 6 years old know how to play. Their parents and their parents' parents were taught and are continuing to teach the game. They feel it is important to learn because you get to have fun, be social, and so many people play it that it is hard to make friends if you don't know how to play it. Mahjong is alive now in Xizhou and will most likely continue to be for a few decades

Please update your Phase 1 question to reflect your current set of questions being investigated. Make note of "old questions" that have been answered as well with a note to "See Phase 3 for details"

Read the instructions for Phase 4. When will you know you are ready to move to that phase of the process?

Now that I have gathered lots of information from multiple sources, I know I am ready. I have talked to almost everyone I have seen playing Mahjong. Also, I have talked to Mr.Tafel about my final project/hanger. I have decided to base my final project of of 4-5 pillars. One being a timeline of Mahjong in Xizhou and the Yunnan province. Second, I want to write stories or narratives about the people who have experiences the story of Mahjong. Finally, the general role it plays in the lives of the people of Xizhou. Once I had thought through my final project, I knew I was ready to move on from researching and into the final steps. I didn't know anything about Mahjong 3 weeks ago, but now I know how to play, what style is from where, who plays, why they play, and all the little details there are to know about Mahjong.

Hey guys, I'm Alex! I lived in Washington D.C, US for 11 years and have lived in Shanghai for almost 3 years now. I love to travel, eat, and learn about new things! I am here at Xizhou and loving it. The highlights are the kind people, the blue skies and starry nights, delicious food, and the outdoors. So far, thumbs up! It feels like it is going by too fast