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There is still some debate about who created the game. One theory is that Chinese army officers serving during the Taiping Rebellion created the game to pass the time. Another theory is that a nobleman living in the Shanghai area created the game between 1870 and 1875. Others believe that two brothers from Níngpō created mahjong around 1850, from the earlier game of Mǎdiào.
This game was banned by the government of People's Republic of China when it took power in 1949. The new Communist government forbade any gambling activities, which were regarded as symbols of capitalist corruption. After the Cultural Revolution, the game was revived, without gambling elements, and the prohibition was revoked in 1985. Today, it is a favorite pastime in China and other Chinese-speaking communities.

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