(RNS) — A century ago, marginalized Americans seeking to be assimilated into the country’s “melting pot” gravitated to an Asian game of chance that one Chinese critic considered to be as morally dangerous as footbinding and opium.
Today, a new book on mahjong and its cultural journey in the U.S. suggests that there is much to learn from the game’s history, particularly how to put the rising anti-Asian and anti-Jewish hatred of our time in context.
Mahjong was born in mid- to late-19th-century Chinese gambling houses, where men clacked its game tiles, bearing stones, flowers, dragons and other images, while attended by courtesans. In the 1920s, Indiana native Joseph Park Babcock, a Standard Oil representative in China, brought it back to the American West Coast, tacking 2,500 years onto its history to paint it as a wholesome pastime with ancient Confucian origins.
Source: Game changer: How mahjong helped Jewish and Asian Americans overcome racism - Religion News Service