Colonizing Mahjong? Dallas company apologizes after appropriation complaints about redesigned game

Brett Molina


A Dallas company issued an apology after its redesigned version of the classic game mahjong was criticized for appropriating Chinese culture.

The Mahjong Line features a variety of sets of the tile-based game, which originated in China. Sets start at $325 and go up to as high as $425, according to listings on the company’s Facebook page. Some of the tiles feature images like palm trees or bags of flour.

Several users on social media criticized the creators of the game for cultural appropriation. CBS News reports the company was founded by three white women.

“I can’t believe i’m watching the gentrification of MAHJONG,” wrote Twitter user @SPRINGBAE.

“So I guess colonizing Mahjong is a thing now,” wrote Twitter user @rfb1090.

“It’s 2021 and these women just whitewashed mahjong because they didn’t like the look of traditional Chinese tiles,” wrote another Twitter user, @sarahclyne.

In a statement posted to the Instagram account for The Mahjong Line, the company said its intent in creating the redesigned versions was to “inspire and engage with a new generation of American mahjong players.”

The statement continued, “It’s imperative our followers know we never set out to ignore or misrepresent the origins of this game and know there are more conversations to be had and steps to take as we learn and grow. 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.”

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As of Wednesday morning, the website for The Mahjong Line is down.

The game is believed to date back centuries in China, but didn’t find popularity in the U.S. until the start of the 20th century, according to The National Mah Jongg League. It’s similar to the card game rummy, but uses tiles instead of playing cards.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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