U.S. firm pulls ‘American mahjong’ after getting big nope from Asia

The Botanical Line tile set priced at S$560. Photo: The Mahjong Line
The Botanical Line tile set priced at S$560. Photo: The Mahjong Line

Update: The Mahjong Line revived its website on Jan. 7 with its apology statement replacing the “About Us” page

An American company shame-quit the internet after it got caught trying to beat Asia at its own game today by launching a rebranded Mahjong it considered more “fun” – complete with Las Vegas-style cherries – prompting a global backlash also felt in Singapore.

The website of Dallas, Texas-based The Mahjong Line, which had been selling fashionably designed and overpriced Mahjong sets went offline this afternoon, hours after the company apologized for its bad read of the room. 

“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. Using words like ‘refresh’ were hurtful to many and we are deeply sorry,” it said. 

The website had been selling Mahjong tiles sets such as The Botanical Line, which cost S$560 (US$425). A regular set in Singapore costs about S$30. 

 

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Kate LaGere, a company founder, said she thought traditional Mahjong tiles could be improved upon, as they “did not reflect the fun” she had playing the game. She said nothing on the market “came close to mirroring her style and personality.” 

The company had not responded to emails seeking comment as of publication time.

Mahjong is a strategy game that originated as a card game in China during the 19th century before spreading worldwide. Popular in the West, it was imported to the United States one century ago. It’s played with small tiles marked with Chinese characters and symbols, and is especially popular to play on festive occasions such as Chinese New Year. 

The company said in its apology that it sells “American Mahjong” and not the traditional Chinese game. But that didn’t stop Singaporeans from dropping tiles of shade all over the board. 

The Cheeky Line. Photo: The Mahjong Line
The Cheeky Line. Photo: The Mahjong Line

“Wtf is American mahjong? Mahjong is mahjong. Doesn’t mean [that when] I play Texas hold ‘em poker in Singapore it becomes [S]ingaporean hold em poker and the spades become orchid[s],” a Matthew Ong wrote online.

Koh Jun Hao just wasn’t having it at all with the companies alternative sets:

“Rubbish designed tiles,” he said.

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