A Dallas-based company is facing criticism over its failed attempt to “refresh” the centuries-old Chinese game of mahjong.
As pointed out by NBC News, The Mahjong Line was created by three women who took it upon themselves to redesign the tile-based game “to better reflect the fun that was had when playing with her friends.” The line, which included mahjong sets ranging between $325 to $425, did away with the traditional tile look and offered pieces with “mid-century modern” and “art nouveau” elements.
The company’s original “About Us” page explained how three woman, none of whom are of Chinese descent, came up with The Mahjong Line concept and their efforts to make the game more appealing to American women.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously. But we do our Mahjong. We honor the heritage but like a bit of edge. The Mahjong Line is for jaunt gals playing a civilized game with a wink,” the company initially wrote. “… The struggle is real when reading the old-school tiles, especially for new players,” the site read. “We enlarged the face of the tile just a smidge to give our artwork room to breathe and to improve legibility.”
Twitter users immediately slammed the company owners—identified as Kate LaGere, Annie O’Grady, and Bianca Watson—for “gentrifying” the traditional game and neglecting to acknowledge its cultural origins.
On Tuesday night, owners of The Mahjong Line issued a public apology, insisting they had nothing but “pure intentions.”
“While our intent is to inspire and engage with a new generation of American mahjong players, we recognize our failure to pay proper homage to the game’s Chinese heritage,” the company wrote. “Using words like ‘refresh’ were hurtful to many and we are deeply sorry … 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.”