“I don’t think there’s any question that there is ignorance and erasure of Chinese American history here"

A company in Texas has apologized after being called out for cultural appropriation.

Based in Dallas, The Mahjong Line sells neon-coloured mahjong tile sets with prices between $325 and $425. The company was founded by three white women.

Instead of traditional tiles, the game pieces feature images of bubbles, bags of flour and and the word ‘BAM!’. Other images include palm trees and bars of soaps.

Social media users called out the company for whitewashing Chinese culture.

“What makes this CULTURALLY insensitive is that they felt the need to ‘refresh’ aka whitewash the game in order to make it *worthy* of playing,” one Twitter user wrote.

“There’s a Dallas-based ‘What if mahjong, but for white people?’ company… The color palettes are jarring and ugly. Also calling a line ‘minimal’ but stamping it with both symbols and numbers defeats the point.”

“So a bunch of white ladies decided to redesign mahjong for wHiTe GiRL aEsThEtiC (because traditional Chinese tiles were too boring and didn’t match their star signs), and had the caucasity to charge $425 for horribly design sets that make the game HARDER to play,” another wrote.

The Mahjong Line has since released a statement saying the company had “pure intentions and a shared love for the game of American mahjong.”

“While our intent is to inspire and engage with a new generation of American mahjong players, we recognize our failure to pay proper homage to the game’s Chinese heritage,” the company said. “Using words like ‘refresh’ were hurtful to many and we are deeply sorry. ”

“We are always open to constructive criticism and are continuing to conduct conversations with those who can provide further insight to the game’s traditions and roots in both Chinese and American cultures.”

Mahjong historian and assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon Annelise Heinz slammed the company for its ignorance.

“I don’t think there’s any question that there is ignorance and erasure of Chinese American history here,” she said. “The history of mahjong is global — it is a dynamic story of play and exchange as much of a story of appropriation and erasure.”

 

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