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Subject: Player Order rss

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David "Davy" Ashleydale
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I'm still learning mahjong (focusing on Zung Jung for now) and I have a question about player order. Why is the player to the right of East, South? If I look at the playing area as a map, I would have guessed that the player to the right of East would be North.
 
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Mikko Saari
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If you look at the playing area as a map, then yes, the directions are wrong. But if you look at it as a map of the sky? Then the directions are correct.
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Petyr E
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Exactly - it's the sky "upside down", so to say. And it is true for all mahjong variants.
 
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David "Davy" Ashleydale
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Still having trouble wrapping my head around that, but at least I know it's not a mistake as I thought at first. Thanks!
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Mikko Saari
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Draw a compass rose on a paper with a strong enough marker so that you can see it from both sides of the paper. Look at it from above, so you see the face up side. North is up, east is right, south is down and west is left.

Now keep the paper in the same orientation, but move it above you, so that you look at the face down side. If you position yourself so that north is still up, you'll find that west is on the right side and east is on the left side.

The directions haven't changed, but your point of view has.
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Yao-ban Chan
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This is something that has always made me curious as well. And I wonder if the "sky" explanation is a retcon? It seems more likely to me that it was originally the "correct" way round (East left of North) and the order of play was clockwise, then at some point in history the order of play reversed but the terminology never caught up. Does anyone know if this is the case, or if it was always this way?
 
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Mikko Saari
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You'd probably have to go to Chinese sources for this. The sky explanation is, as far as I can tell, just a way to visualize why it might be so.

But my understanding for the actual reason here is – and here's a discussion from 1998 where Alan Kwan says so – a combination of two separate things: the Chinese habit of ordering the cardinal directions east, south, west, north and another Chinese habit of playing games in counter-clockwise direction. That way you end up with a player order with the winds reversed.

Were Mahjong an European or American game, the dealer would be called north, since in our culture, north is the first direction, and the game would be played clockwise (well, excluding those European cultures, where playing counter-clockwise is the norm, for example many Swiss card games and many Tarock games).
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Chris Schumann
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AAUI, the custom is for player order to pass to the right in many Asian games, or it was for a long time. That's why the play order goes as it does.

Now, as to why the seats are ordered that way, think of the seasons: The new year starts in spring, and the spring wind is from the east. Summer wind is from the south. Autumn wind is from the west, and winter wind is from the north.

If play passed to the left, that order would also align with the compass.
 
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