This US company tried to give mahjong a 'makeover'. It didn't go well


The company is facing backlash for its brightly hued, "modern makeover" of Mahjong, the centuries-old Chinese tile game.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or restyle it. It's a sentiment Dallas-based company The Mahjong Line maybe should have kept in mind.

The company is facing backlash for its brightly hued,"modern makeover" of Mahjong, the centuries-old Chinese tile game.

Quickly enough, the company was called out online, with criticism picking up earlier this week. Many accused the founders of appropriating the traditional game.

Kate LaGere launched Mahjong Line with friends Annie O'Grady and Bianca Watson in late 2020, finding "traditional tiles... did not reflect the fun that was had when playing with her friends," and that available sets didn't come "close to mirroring her style and personality." Current tile sets range from US$325 to US$425 (RM1,310 to RM1,713).

The company issued an apology on Instagram last Tuesday in light of the backlash.

"It's imperative our followers know we never set out to ignore or misrepresent the origins of the game and know there are more conversations to be had and steps to take as we learn and grow," the company wrote. "We are always open to constructive criticism and continuing to conduct conversations with those who can provide further insight into the game's traditions and roots in both Chinese and American culture."

The company's "about us" page also hosts the apology statement.

Upon the launch of The Mahjong Line's "respectful refresh" back in November, LaGere told Paper City's Caitlin Clark that she's seen a recent boom in Mahjong.

"It's constantly being picked up and passed down by generations of women. But there is absolutely a growth spurt going on in the younger crowd, across different demographics and in different cities. It's just attracting really cool, fun people with a ton of style," LaGere told Clark in November.

"It's played in homes or by the pool — sometimes with drinks, sometimes without. For some women, instead of picking up bridge, they're picking up Mahjong. We've had so much fun creating a brand around it." – Abigail Rosenthal/Houston Chronicle/Tribune News Service

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Mahjong , games


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