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The perfect place for mah jongg

by: REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Members of the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club find themselves objects of fascination to tourists at Lan Su Chines Gardens. From the left are Selina Lo, Lilly Logan, Laura Campbell, Nicole Rhoads, and Rebekah Claeys.When you ask Lilly Logan if she likes playing mah jongg in Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, she clasps her hands, blissfully closes her eyes and her face takes on a beatific glow.

She gives all appearances of giving a prayer of thanks, because “I never thought I would play mah jongg in a Chinese garden.”

Lan Su Chinese Garden is an exotic place full of beauty, art, culture, mystery and history. It’s also the perfect setting for the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club’s weekly meetings, because the game of tiles originated in China.

“It’s as close as you get to being in China without actually going there,” said Logan, the club’s founder and president. “It is so exciting to have our club play here. It’s magical.”

Lan Su Chinese Garden was built in Portland 14 years ago with extraordinary care and craftsmanship. Its Courtyard of Tranquility features a mixture of architecture, plants, poetry, rocks and flowing water; the Hall of Brocade Clouds resembles a traditional Chinese family room; the Scholar’s Courtyard offers a place for quiet reflection and inspiration; and beautiful red and gold fish swim through the fish pavilion. Even the ground visitors walk on is made of special rounded stones that rejuvenate tired feet.

This gift from the mah jongg gods came to the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club because of an article about the club that appeared in The Lake Oswego Review. The club received a rave review for providing rollicking good spirits for members and guests alike. It was called “the happiest club in town.”

The article impressed Jane DeMarco, Lan Su’s executive director, who was eager to add to the 50 other groups that promote various aspects of Chinese culture at the garden. DeMarco telephoned Logan.

“They asked, ‘Would you like to play mah jongg here on a weekly basis?’” Logan said. “I thought, ‘Pinch me!’”

For the Lake Oswego players, who are used to matching tiles on the lower level of the Oswego Lake Country Club, the atmosphere at Lan Su is certainly different. Gales of laughter and waiters bringing in food and wine has been replaced with the highest decorum, and players are served only hot tea.

But the setting is magical, and now Logan and the Lake Oswego Mah Jongg Club want to share the experience with other players in the Portland area. The club is sponsoring a tournament at the garden the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, called “Mah Jongg Under the Stars at Lan Su Chinese Garden.” Deadline for registration is July 28; the registration fee is $65.

For information or to register, visit www.lansugarden.org/mahjonggtournament.

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