People’s Daily on mahjong

This is now the kind of thing one tweets, not blogs about, but I have to share it here anyway. The People’s Daily has published a piece on China’s “mahjong culture” that made me laugh out loud. It makes the argument that it deserves to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, while it also makes the argument later on that mahjong can incite illegal gambling.

Take a look at the snippets below. Was it written by an intern? Is it a case of bad translation? What is this?

Together with Beijing opera, traditional Chinese painting and medicine, Mahjong is known as the quintessence of Chinese culture, and its application for the world heritage again caused high attention of outside world.

In the eyes of many people, playing mahjong means idle and doing no decent work. In fact, it is somewhat biased to view and understand mahjong in this way. Mahjong has a long history in China and is loved by numerous Chinese people. Now, it has been transmitted to other countries, with many blond foreigners participating in the mahjong competition….

[I]f the relationship between Mahjong and the “gambling” habit cannot be clearly cut off, the application cannot be justified. Therefore, the application is reasonable provided the public should be advocated to return to healthy, scientific, and friendly Mahjong culture by getting rid of gambling.

Blond foreigners? You may want to read it all because it just gets funnier and funnier. (What is “scientific mahjong culture?”)

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

Wow. That is awesome!

November 2, 2012 @ 3:39 pm | Comment

What is this?

It’s a CCP pamphlet which needs to avoid tons of real issues but needs to fill its pages anyway.

November 2, 2012 @ 7:38 pm | Comment

Steadfastly apply Scientific Mahjong Culture. Strongly support!

November 2, 2012 @ 8:36 pm | Comment

Scientific mahjong culture is one of the fruits of the Scientific Theory of Development.

Thank you for this post, which first made me smile, but then made me reflect on the elusive nature of soft power.

November 2, 2012 @ 9:34 pm | Comment

the elusive nature of soft power

The more you want it, the less you’ll get it.

November 2, 2012 @ 10:16 pm | Comment

I look forward to hearing about the pleasures and universal appeal of public expectoration, karaoke prostitution and cheap baijiu.

November 3, 2012 @ 1:59 am | Comment

All are excellent candidates for the world heritage list.

November 3, 2012 @ 2:54 am | Comment

“Mahjong culture” is not too bad. I mean, it’s a compact phrase, and it doesn’t seem so wrong to say that there is a sort of culture centered around mahjong. But “culture” can indeed be a horribly abused word in Chinese. I recently had to translate something for an event in Taiwan that included such groaners as “beef noodle culture” and “soy sauce simmered meat over rice culture,” among about a half-dozen others. Redundancy just doesn’t seem to be considered to be quite such bad form in Chinese as it is in English.

November 3, 2012 @ 2:54 am | Comment

No arguments that there is a mahjong culture. It’s the way they describe it (“scientific,” etc.) that’s funny, as is their reference to “blond foreigners.”

November 3, 2012 @ 2:56 am | Comment

I think you’re being kind of hard on them about “blond foreigners.” It’s definitely a gaffe of the type that needs to be avoided if they actually expect to have a foreign readership, but compared to a lot of habitual Chinese speech it is at least not overtly offensive. Can’t expect too much.

November 3, 2012 @ 3:44 am | Comment

… playing mahjong is of great benefit to people’s physical and mental health and can improve interpersonal relationship.

Having been to an all-womens mahjong parlour a few times, I say bs.
Physical health – the girls lit up.
Interpersonal relations – players made last minute arrangements to have their children picked up, so they could keep playing.

Nappy black haired reporter.

November 3, 2012 @ 3:44 am | Comment

Ah, I’m being too serious, it is funny.

November 3, 2012 @ 3:45 am | Comment

Mac, I don’t think it was offensive, just funny. Where was the copy editor?

November 3, 2012 @ 3:48 am | Comment

As just recently notes, expect much more filler in the days ahead!

November 3, 2012 @ 4:52 am | Comment

I’d really like to see the author charging around the mahjong dens of Putuo, instructing the denizens on the dangers of gambling and the benefits of healthy, scientific, and friendly Mahjong culture. I suspect he wouldn’t receive a super warm welcome.

November 3, 2012 @ 5:23 am | Comment

Aobao Feel Schnapps is an absolute must. Larger quantities than pictured here are recommended during the CCP’s 18th National Congress. Will blind you if you’re lucky.

It’s not the five-star wine which should qualify for world heritage though. It’s the design which deserves eternal glory.

November 3, 2012 @ 5:40 am | Comment

I am a blond foreigner and I have happy memories of the first time I played Mahjong… I won 3000 RMB from my colleagues and was never allowed to play with them again. :)

November 3, 2012 @ 9:07 am | Comment

If the author of this wonderful People’s Daily article can find 4 people who play majong without money changing hands, then he would have discovered a unique and previously unknown subculture that may well be worthy of heritage labels and international preservation.

November 3, 2012 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

While I am sure that just as many semantic and grammatical mistakes are made by non-native Chinese speakers in their attempts to write articles in Chinese, the number of Chinese publications with nonsensical attempts at English journalism never cease to amaze me. I have many Chinese friends whose grasp of English is excellent, often exceeding the writing and conversational skills of my native English speaking friends. How is it that so few Chinese with those skills ever make it into world of the People’s Daily?

November 8, 2012 @ 6:36 am | Comment

“How is it that so few Chinese with those skills ever make it into world of the People‚Äôs Daily?”

They decided to work for other news media is my guess. Probably Australian, NZ, Canadian, UK, US, etc papers :-)

November 8, 2012 @ 8:34 am | Comment

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