Mostly mahjong

There is nothing much at the Eastern Pagoda. It is an (to me) uninteresting Tang dynasty monument, sister or brother (depending on your point of view) to the Western Pagoda visible a few hundred yards away, and surrounded by a small park.

But I guess it provides a pleasant enough place to while away the otherwise endless Monday afternoon playing mahjong and drinking tea.

It is interesting to watch the different styles of play. Just near me, up on the balcony and in the shade of the Pagoda is one table of four sitting on uncomfortable-looking stools around a square table covered in green cloth. The four are joined by two spectators, one hawker and spitter, and one who never seems to say a word. Perhaps they are waiting for a turn.

Down on the grass is a group of four elderly women. The silence of their play is broken only by the regular click of the ivory tiles and the ocassional argument, quickly papered over. They have come dressed for success, in Sunday dresses and with pearls.

The four near them play with the almost total silence of long practice. The game is set up, played, resolved and then reset at a speed that suggests that any particular hand is of no significance. No one seems to be keeping score, crowing about successes or ashamed by failure. It is as if the world of mahjong is their reality, so the gaps between hands must be kept as short as possible. The game become life, or so it seems.

I wonder what all these people do for a crust, if they can spend all Monday afternoon in the park. Perhaps they are economic consultants.

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