“PONG!” Aunt Chen-Ling said as she took the tile I threw out, a tile that had the direction, “East” or “Bei/ Bak” carved blue into the white tile. She sat across me at the mahjong table as she took the tile and placed two other identical tiles next to the one I thrown. Happy with increasing her points, she threw out her tile, a Six in Bamboo (Liu Shuo/ Luk Sok).
Mum was next and she took a tile from the stack that was lined perpendicular to the direction she was facing. Like the previous rounds, she took her time to think before throwing out the ideal tile.
It was the second day of Chinese New Year and mahjong was always a traditional game we played. No money involved, since the younger players were nowhere near a job.
Mum threw out her tile, a bird. Most people made the mistake of looking at it as a bonus point tile when in fact, it represents the value of One in Bamboo (Yi Shuo/ Yat Sok). I waited a while and looked at my tiles.
I was the last player on East Wind (Bei Feng/ Bak Fung), the last stage of a single mahjong round.
Throughout the entire game, I managed to strategise and plan but luck was not really on my side. I was losing by single cards that were either stuck in deadlock with the other players or too far off to either leech off, or take from the stack. And as the game progressed, the intensity added on with each stage.
With that last throw from mum, I smirked and took that bird from the table.
“13 Wonders,” I smiled.
Note to people who don’t know what 13 Wonders/ Shi San Yao/ Sap Sam Yiu: It’s the highest form of combination you could have in Hong Kong mahjong. And no, I never got it ever.