What began as criticism has now prompted Asian Americans to share stories and photos of their family and community playing mahjong together.
Three white founders of a Dallas-based company called Mahjong Line make amends to give their ancient Chinese game tiles a « mid-century modern design » and charge upwards of $ 425 for their collections.
according to The company’s website, Which was broken at the time of writing, one of its founders, Kate LaGuire, set out to give the game a « respectable update » because the traditional tiles « don’t reflect the fun » she was having while playing.
The site, which also included curated Spotify playlists and personal quizzes about playing mahjong, made very little mention of the game’s traditions and origins in China and across East Asia.
After people online accused LaGere and the other company founders, Annie O’Grady and Bianca Watson, of cultural appropriation, they released a statement Tuesday saying they were « deeply sorry » for neglecting to honor them and trying to « modernize » Mahjong.
« As we aim to inspire and interact with a new generation of American Mahjong players, we recognize our failure to honor the game’s Chinese heritage, » the founders said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. Then they shared the statement on Instagram page.
LaGere told BuzzFeed News in a follow-up statement that it plans with O’Grady and Watson « to have conversations with experts closely related to the game’s origins to ensure its rich history and cultural significance is properly represented » in their product.
Anger and criticism against the company quickly mounted this week after people discovered Mahjong Line products and the language used to promote them on social media.
She wrote, « Three white women who have no respect for Chinese culture or the traditional mahjong game, they make $ 325 from modern mahjong collections. In 2021. » Embed a Tweet On Twitter. « The traditional icons are not » fun « or » elegant « enough for you. How was this made ??? Look for another game! »
One user said: « I can’t believe I’m seeing improvement in Mahjong » Embed a Tweet.
Mahjong dates back to the Qing Dynasty, as its popularity spread throughout East and Southeast Asia. The differences were different Introduced in Europe Hundreds of years later. The game is played with 144 pieces engraved with unique Chinese symbols and designs that players draw and ignore to create combos.
Redesigning the Dallas Mahjong Tiles Company into what some have called ‘The white girl aestheticAnd being paid hundreds of dollars to them – was especially disheartening to the Asian American community.
Mahjong’s line gave some of the Western redesign groups names like « Minimal Gal » and « Skylight Blue Cheeky Gal ». Her Instagram page, which remains suspended but with comments turned off, described mahjong groups as « incredibly chic » with hashtags like #townandcountry and #southernliving.
LaGere told BuzzFeed News that they have stopped the comments after receiving « threatening messages » amid the backlash. She assured users that comments would be enabled later to « continue this dialogue ».
« We realize that a lot of people are frustrated that we closed our comments, » she wrote in an email, « but that only happened after threatening messages began to be sent to our followers and customers. » « Comments will be returned shortly to continue this dialogue and to ensure that all voices are heard. »
When asked what actionable steps LaGere and other founders are taking after they apologize, she said that in addition to the consultants, the company will introduce « new policies … for further education. » [sic] ourselves. »
« We will continue to have conversations with experts closely related to the origins of the game to ensure that its rich history and cultural significance are properly represented in our promotion and description of the game, » she said in another emailed statement on Wednesday.
Despite the Mahjong streak’s disappointment, Asian Americans on the Internet are now using the opportunity to share the stories and memories of their families as they play mahjong together. It is one of the most popular and popular way other Chinese and Asian friends and families gather.
This viral tweet showing a recent mahjong schedule proves that you can innovate while still respecting and preserving the culture. [Writer’s personal note: My grandmother in China also recently invested in this table, which makes shuffling and arranging tiles easier.]
Jan 06, 2021 at 18:02 pm
correction: The Mahjong Line website was down at the time of writing. A previous version of this post was wrong that the founders had removed it.