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“Cultural erasure”: US company apologizes for “refreshed” Mahjong sets

“Cultural erasure”: US company apologizes for “refreshed” Mahjong sets

Image: The Mahjong Line

Cultural relics don’t always need to be “refreshed” just make them more marketable.

That’s what the founders of the US-based company, The Mahjong Line, realized after getting hit with a flurry of backlash for their controversial modification of the Chinese game, mah-jong.

The whole hubbub started in late November of last year when social media users pointed out the company’s “mission,” which was to give the game “a respectable refresh” as the artwork of the traditional tiles weren’t up to the owner’s liking, or in their words, “ nothing came close to mirroring her style and personality.”

Mahjong Line's new design

Twitter and Facebook users weren’t exactly thrilled to read this off of the company’s profile online, but they weren’t surprised either. Almost all of those who caught wind of the news cried “cultural appropriation,” where, as usual, Caucasian people took a revered piece of Asian culture, repackaged it to please their Western tastes, and pocketed more than $400 in the process too. 

Was it offensive? With a winced face, we might still be able to pardon it if the goal was to create “custom” pieces. Was it necessary? Not by a mile. 

We might have thought twice if they didn’t un-ironically refer to the game as “mahj” – shortened and diminished, which is totally right up their alley.

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To be fair, the company got to read the room and has since issued an apology. Some, though, were still unimpressed with their expression of regret. To them, the company cannot claim to respect the evolution of Mah-jong in the US and disregard its Chinese heritage in the same breath.

The company also claims to have cut ties with the women in question. However, the products – in particular, the Minimal Line, the Botanical Line, and the Cheeky Line – all remain available on their website.

Banner image from Ellicia of Unsplash

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