Mah Jong Tiles – What Do the Pictures on the Tiles Mean?

Mah Jong tiles, also known as cards, have interesting pictures on them depicting a Chinese symbol. Discovering what the Mah Jong pictures represent is important in learning how to successfully play this skillful, exciting and mind boggling game.

There are 136 or 144 picture tiles that are grouped into Suits, Honor, and Bonus Tiles.


The Suit Tiles consist of Circle or Dot, Bamboo, and Character. A typical Mah Jong Game will contain 36 Circle or Dot Cards, 36 Bamboo Cards, and 36 Character Cards.

The amount of circles or dots on the tile depicts the number on the tile. Three circles equals 3 and etc.

The Bamboo Tiles contain pictures of bamboos. Each bamboo depicts the number of the tile. Three bamboos equals 3 and so on.

The Character tiles are actually not of a character but represent a number 1-9. It is usually in the color of blue in the upper part of the tile. The red picture toward the bottom of the tile is a Chinese representation of ten-thousand.

The Suit Tiles make up 108 of the total 144 tiles in the Mah Jong Game.


The Honor Tiles contain 16 Dragon and 12 Wind.

The Dragon Tiles are colored red, green or are frames with Chinese symbols on them. It is thought the red color represents benevolence, the green color represents sincerity, and the framed tile represents filial piety

The Wind Tiles represent the wind direction of North, South, East, and West. The game goes in the direction of the Wind Tiles but in reverse clockwise order; East, South, West, North.

The Honor Tiles make up 28 of the 144 game tiles.


The Bonus Tiles are made up of four Flower Cards and four Season Cards.

The Flowers are plum, chrysanthemum, orchid or lily. The Flower Tiles are not used in all versions. The Flower Tiles provide an easier way to win and collect bonus points so many people elect not to use these tiles.
The Seasonal Tiles represent the four seasons; summer, fall, spring, winter.

The Bonus Tiles make up 16 of the 144 game tiles.

Mah Jong has different rules depending on the version you are playing. Be sure to read the rules carefully before you begin playing this ancient but unique game.


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