At 8 p.m. every Monday in Peirce Pub, students converse and strategize around tables covered in green and white tiles. The game they’re playing is called mahjong, and these meetings take place on so-called Mahjong Mondays, hosted by the student organization Kenyon Asian Identities (KAI).
KAI Secretary Colin Shin ’24 said that he and KAI member Micah Kim ’23 had the idea to host Mahjong Monday this past summer: “Over the summer we were both on campus and [Kim] learned mahjong. He introduced it to me and some of my friends, and we just kind of wanted a space to show other people how to play mahjong and also relax.” Shin explained that he views Mahjong Mondays as a welcoming entrance to KAI in which students can also learn something new. “I think that was kind of the main goal of Mahjong Monday from the start,” Shin said, “and it just kind of grew from there.”
Mahjong originated in China during the 1800s and has since become known as the country’s “national pastime.” The rules are fairly simple: Using a pair of dice and 144 tiles with characters or symbols on them, four participants attempt to form four suits (specific sets of tile combinations) and a pair (two tiles with matching icons) — similar to gin rummy. Each player begins with 13 total tiles. Then, going counterclockwise around the table, tiles are drawn and discarded by players attempting to form suits. When a player assembles a winning set, they shout, “Mahjong!”
Treasurer Rachel Chen ’24 hopes that Mahjong Mondays can help more students learn about Asian activities and traditions. “We’ve just really noticed a disconnect between affinity organizations in general and the wider campus, so we wanted to come up with something casual and fun where everyone could feel welcome,” Chen said. This includes all students, no matter their ethnic or racial identities. “We know that sometimes it can be daunting to join or attend affinity group organizations for people who feel like perhaps they don’t belong [in them],” Chen explained. She said that this is what motivates KAI to promote Mahjong Monday as a welcoming space.
Beginning in the fall semester, KAI members hit the ground running on making Mahjong Monday accessible to all students. “We made packets on how to teach people mahjong,” Shin said, “and we also got BFC [funds] and bought sets with that, so we were able to provide more games for more people on [Mondays].”
Students also don’t need experience or knowledge about the game to attend Mahjong Monday. “When we first started, a lot of people were beginners,” Shin said, but now, both regulars and newcomers stop in each Monday to either expand their skills or learn the ropes.
No matter the student’s skill level, Shin emphasized that Mahjong Monday is about kicking back and relaxing while creating new bonds and acquaintances. “We usually play to a certain level where everyone can enjoy the game,” Shin said. He and Chen believe that it has been a success, and they hope to see even more students attend in the future.