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A rundown of The Mahjong Line debacle: An American company faces allegations of cultural appropriation, racism, and more

A rundown of The Mahjong Line debacle: An American company faces allegations of cultural appropriation, racism, and more

Losing streak

Text: Emily Heng


Listen, we get it: the new year is an apt time as any to be thinking of reinvention. Still, it seems there are overachievers in our midst who aren't content with new-and-improved fitness plans or updated skincare regimes. Instead, they decided to remake and "modernise" hundreds of years of Chinese history. Lofty goals, indeed.

For those blissfully unaware, we're talking about The Mahjong Line; a Dallas-based company set up in 2020 hawking "American mahjong sets." As stated on their website —which has since been taken down — their aim is to provide aesthetically appealing mahjong sets to the "stylish masses". This somehow translates to redesigned tiles covered in images of palm trees and bags of flour. Traditional flowers, birds, and Chinese characters were deemed "confusing", and "did not reflect the fun that was had" when playing with friends.

Condescending and tone-deaf copy aside, The Mahjong Line also further butchers this century-old game by making each tile absurdly thin with "minimalistic" renderings of symbols, transforming them into something entirely unrecognisable. And if that wasn't bad enough, each set is priced from USD$325 to USD$425. The Internet has since cried foul, claiming that the founders are exploiting Chinese culture; cherry-picking aspects that they like while dismissing factors deemed unworthy.

An apology has been issued via Instagram, with the founders claiming that they are open to constructive criticism. Chinese-Canadian actor, Simu Liu, has since weighed in on the situation.

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