How to Set Up a Mahjong Game

Before a Mahjong Game can start, each of the players must set up a starting wall of tiles, which together make up a rectangle known as "the Great Wall." Each player is given a direction by the dealer: East, South, West, North. Since there are four players in mahjong, each player should simultaneously build his or her own wall. 

To start, all 144 mahjong tiles are placed face down in the middle of the table (known as the Well), and the players gently shuffle (wash) the tiles until they are thoroughly mixed. Then each player selects the proper number of tiles from the middle of the board, creating their side of the wall in a specific series of steps. 

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Beginning to Build a Mahjong Tile Wall

Mahjong: Start the Wall Building
Players begin to build walls of tiles by placing six tiles in a row.

Lauren Mack 

First, each player selects six tiles from the "well" and without looking at their faces, lines up a single row of six tiles vertically side by side.

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Step 2 for Building a Mahjong Tile Wall

Mahjong: Wall Building Step 2
Six more tiles are placed on top of the first six tiles to create a bi-level tile wall.

Lauren Mack 

Next, each player makes a second level for the wall by selecting six more tiles and stacking them on top of the previous six tiles. The wall should now have twelve tiles: six tiles on the bottom and six tiles on top.

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Step 3 for Building a Mahjong Tile Wall

Mahjong: Wall Building Step 3
The third step of wall building includes adding three tiles to each side of the wall.

Lauren Mack 

Next, each player selects six more tiles, placing three tiles to the right and three tiles to the left of the base level. Now there should be 12 tiles on the bottom row and six on top.

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Step 4 for Building a Mahjong Tile Wall

Mahjong: Wall Building Step 4
The fourth step of building the wall is adding a second layer of tiles.

Lauren Mack 

The fourth step makes the second level even with the first level by selecting six more tiles and placing three tiles on both the right and left sides. Now there should be 12 tiles on the bottom and 12 tiles on the top.

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Final Step for Building a Mahjong Tile Wall

Mahjong: Wall Building Step 5
The last step of wall building includes adding the remaining five tiles on the first and second levels of the tile wall. A total of four walls are built before game play starts.

Lauren Mack 

To finish the wall, each player selects an additional five tiles from the Well and places three tiles on the right side of the wall and two tiles on the left. Fiver more tiles are selected, and the second level is completed by adding three tiles on the right and two on the left.

At this point, there will be 17 tiles on the top and 17 tiles on the bottom with all the tiles in one row. There should be a total of four walls. If the mahjong game set includes tile racks, these can be used to straighten the walls; and the separate walls may be joined together to make a rectangle. 

The game can now begin.