Mahjong is Old News
One of my other lives is hunting through old newspapers and documents for information. Every now and then, as I’m flicking through (scrolling now mostly), I spot an old reference to mahjong. Most of it is the same stuff we’re used to “Game of a Hundred/Thousand Intelligences,” “Confucius’ Game” etc. etc. But it’s fun to re-read what was happening all those decades ago and sometimes you find a real gem…
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Most of these all come from the early 1920s when mahjong started getting big in America.
The excitement and enthusiasm at the introduction of this new game! You can see the beginnings of some of the nonsense start… “centuries old” – maybe A century at this point. The accusation that “DENBY BROUGHT IT” is funny.
THANKS DENBY! I could have been a productive member of society if it hadn’t been for YOU a century ago.
The immediate comparison to poker, bridge, whist etc. is apparent in most of the articles…
Apologies for the racial stereotypes in the cartoon. I wish I could laugh and shrug and say “Haha, history”… Let’s be honest, I can’t. That is an offensive cartoon and this kind of cr*p is still present in the modern world.
However, the writer did also use the words “ejaculate” when calling. I think we DO need to bring that back into common use. It does sometimes feel a little obscene when players keep ejaculating [pon] at the table when I’m playing.
Scoring makes the game simpler and more interesting?! I need THAT score pad. Like Excalibur, a lost and potentially mythical treasure.
“Oriental allegory AND modern warfare.” These people must have been going to early EMA tournaments…
Finally a mention of Japan… But the game is banned, with some Western observers arguing that money is not a requirement to enjoy the game (Also never thought I’d be agreeing with the British Daily Mail…)
“You are simply out of it” – I think that’s oldenspeak for “Your parties are not lit.”
So where did it all go wrong? Searching the papers, there is a flurry of excitement in the early 20s and then…
MASSIVE apologies AGAIN for the republication of racist slurs. I did flounder over whether I should include this and the previous article or to redact the offending parts, but to fraudulently present some sort of equal and respectful relationship between cultural groups is a worse crime.
Here we see the Western press seemingly wake up to the fact that this game isn’t played in a fetishized version of “The Orient” but is instead causing significant problems in its homelands.
Even the church is out to stop us playing our game!
Fastforwarding a little into the 50s and we see United Press have picked up on mahjong’s image problem in Japan. Notably mentioning government workers on taxpayer-funded salaries not working because they play too much mahjong and just ditching work entirely.
How fickle the media turns against us. This is all old news in more ways than one; the same narrative is still being trotted out today. Invariably when we hear about mahjong in the mainstream now, it is the same cliched story. Gambling, money laundering, and even murder.
Despite best efforts, the message from Japan of “healthy mahjong” is not getting out there. Do a google search and see what you find.
We all need to work hard to change the old news into new news.