Mahjong has many possible origin stories, including its creation by Confucius, a court lady, a sea explorer, a soldier, as a way of honoring a hero or just evolving from a card game called ma diao. This tile game is at least several hundred, if not thousands, of years old.
Mahjong is a popular, fast-paced game that requires up to four players. The goal of the tile game is for one player to reach a hand containing four sets of three matched dominoes and one pair. This game is a long-standing element of traditional Chinese culture, but its origins are murky.
Chinese philosopher Confucius is said to have created Mahjong in 500 B.C. This is probably a legend influenced by Westerners, but there are a few connections between the philosopher and the game. Mahjong first appeared along the same route the Confucius traveled during his journeys. The game also contains dragon tiles that some say represent the three virtues created by Confucius.
Another story says that the game's creator was actually a lady living in the Court of King Wu, around the same time period as the Confucius origin story. Yet another story says that during the Late Yuan to Early Ming dynasty, a man named Wan Bingtiao created Mahjong to honor the hero Liang shan. The creation of Mahjong has even been attributed to the desire of a commanding officer to keep soldiers' minds active when off-duty during the Taiping Rebellion, and to the Sea Explorer Zheng He.
It is also thought that the game simply evolved from another game called ma diao. This card game existed during the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644. Ma diao used the same kind of suits, numbers and flowers.