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Chinese mahjong finds new fans in Denmark

01-05-2012 08:32 BJT

COPENHAGEN, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- The rattle of plastic tiles and relaxed conversation fills the air in a community center hall in eastern Copenhagen, where a group of Danes are playing mahjong, a traditional Chinese board game.

In Denmark, whose population is crazy about football, handball and cycling, mahjong's intellectual challenge and exoticism have raised its profile in recent years.

"The beauty of the tiles inspired me to start playing. They are quite exotic to a European person," said Tina Christensen, chairman of Mahjong Denmark (MD), a national association for Danish mahjong players.

"Later, I became fascinated by the many variants in the game. When you get a new hand of tiles, you have a new mystery to solve, and that is very fascinating," she told Xinhua before the New Year's Day.

Christensen, a researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, the country's weather forecasting bureau, founded the mahjong association in 2000 so as to "play the game in an organized and regular way," she said.

The association started out with a handful of members meeting to play at a local cafe, and today, has around 50 full members, who meet every Thursday evening in the community center.

It holds monthly introductory courses for novices, and has successfully nurtured a new generation of mahjong fans in this country, many of whom play outside of the association.

Traditionally, mahjong is thought of as a game played only by Chinese people, who sit around mahjong tables set up in quiet side-corners.

So it is something of a shock to find blue-eyed, blonde-haired players of the game who have Danish language names for the various mahjong tiles.

In fact, Mahjong Denmark's members include ethnic Danes, Chinese, East Asian residents and other expatriates living in Denmark. All of them share a fascination for the game's intellectual and social character.

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