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Daily Drip

This $425 “Gentrified” Mahjong Set is Kicking Off a Social Media Storm

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The internet is rightfully outraged over The Mahjong Line, a brand whose cringey aim is to “bring Mahjong to the stylish masses.” They accomplish this through an unnecessary fusion: traditional Chinese cultural heritage, blended with all that stuff by the counter at Urban Outfitter’s.

Somehow though, it’s not the 400USD+ price tag that has people upset. Rather, it’s the “self-important op-ed” that catalyzed the blowback.

“On a quest to purchase her first Mahjong set,” reads the advertising copy, “Kate discovered that the artwork of the traditional tiles, while beautiful, was all the same — and did not reflect the fun that was had when playing with her friends. And nothing came close to mirroring her style and personality.”

After a moment of reflection on Kate’s style and personality, the text continues to explain that “the venerable game needed a respectful refresh” — the kind that could only be done with the help of her “partners in crime,” Annie and Bianca.

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Understandably, Twitter was not thrilled. Taking a “flawed” piece of respected Asian culture, “fixing” it, and repackaging it without any Asian identity to bank a quick 400USD… is not how we’re starting 2021.

The Mahjong Line somehow managed to become the Lucky Lee’s of mahjong — potentially a new frontier in unnecessary acts of cultural appropriation. They also referred to the game at certain points as “mahj,” which feels utterly unforgivable. After they went viral, the brand turned off comments on Instagram.

So if you’re going to make your own custom mahjong set, maybe don’t charge 425USD for it, and definitely don’t approach it with a white savior complex.

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a US-based writer, producer, multimedia artist, and former associate editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school to train at the Shaolin Temple but now uses it to interview rappers. He blogs about China and Asia on Instagram: @this.is.adan