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Mahjong flower tiles

The Mahjong flower tiles are one of two sets of special bars in the game and understanding the part they play in the game is vital. While they will of course not come into play as commonly as other types of tile, they still represent a vital aspect of overall strategy. Our complete guide covers everything you need to know about these special tiles.

Author: Jianyu Wang Li
Checked by: Felix Martins

Mahjong Flower Tiles

History and origin of flower tiles

Firstly, let’s consider where these tiles originally come from and how they were included in the set.

Historical context

Flower tiles did not enter the standard Mahjong set until relatively late. The earliest sets date to the 1870s, but it was not until the 1920s that flower tiles were universally adopted into the sets. Some early sets contained what were called “outer flowers” and “inner flowers”.

These kind of Mahjong tiles, then, were a much later addition than most of the common tiles.

Cultural significance

Mahjong flower tiles, nonetheless, are steeped in cultural significance to Chinese people. The tiles meaning is important to the game itself. Different flowers in Mahjong are used for different sets but the most common are:

  1. Plum blossom
  2. Orchid
  3. Chrysanthemum
  4. Bamboo

FlowerCultural significance

Plum blossom

Symbol of the ending of winter and coming of spring


Natural beauty and elegance


Vitality, good health, happiness


Restraint and integrity as well as simple naturalistic symbol

Usage in gameplay

The Mahjong flower and season tiles are part of the same group of bonus tiles. Let’s look at how Mahjong flower tiles are used in the actual game.

How flower tiles are used

The Flower tiles form what are called the bonus tiles. These are used differently to the other types of tiles in the set. They effectively give you the chance to score more highly should you win the hand with flower tiles having been drawn. Thus, they can be great tiles to draw.

Rules surrounding Mahjong flower tiles

Typically, when drawing tiles in Mahjong, you must always have a hand of 13 tiles. So, you would always draw and discard. When you draw flower tiles, though, this tile is not actually added to your 13 tiles but is placed separately. There is also only one of each Mahjong flower tile, unlike the multiple copies of the other types of tile.


Scoring flower tiles also naturally works differently from the other groups of tiles in the game.

Bonus points

There are many ways you can score bonus points with tiles. The most advantageous kind of bonus points you can score with the flowers is to have the full set in a winning hand. In this case, this will double your score in some rules. Importantly, though, these rules do change depending on the variant.


Given that, depending on the rules, you may not be able to discard a flower tile, strategy is difficult to apply. They are a great bonus to your overall score and if you are playing a variation which allows for discarding bonus tiles, only do so if it is to gain a better winning hand. Strategically, they are very useful for doubling your score.

How many flower tiles in Mahjong?

A standard Mahjong set includes only four flower tiles as part of the set. This is an important distinction from other tiles in the set. There is one set of four Mahjong flower tiles in a set, and no more.


Flower tiles play a uniquely important role in the game, then, and you should be aware of their importance to your strategy.

Culture and art of Mahjong flower tiles

A true, full understanding of these tiles is really important to a complete appreciation of the game. These flowers play a huge symbolic role in Chinese culture and Asian culture in general.

Their deeper meaning

Mahjong flower tiles, then, are very important to the game on a deeper level. They are extremely lucky tiles to draw in the right circumstances, and this is reflected by their deeper meaning to people in China.

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