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Thread: Mahjong

  1. #16
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    Mahjong set carvers

    How mahjong is changing with the times in Hong Kong
    By Kate Springer, CNN
    Updated 3:59 AM ET, Mon April 10, 2017


    Photos: The world of mahjong in Hong Kong
    Keeping the craft alive: One of just three or four mahjong carvers left in Hong Kong, Ho Sau Mei wants to keep the craft alive.

    Story highlights
    Hong Kong's hand-carved mahjong tile carvers have dwindled in numbers
    Ho Sau Mei is one of Hong Kong's last tile carvers
    Mahjong is seeing renewed interest from younger players thanks to contemporary venues

    CNN Travel's series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries and regions we profile. However, CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reports. Read the policy.

    Hong Kong (CNN)"The setting sun's endlessly endearing, but the light of day is disappearing," says Ho Sau Mei, one of Hong Kong's last mahjong tile carvers.



    The 59-year-old quotes a Chinese saying, to express a mix of sorrow and joy as she watches her industry fade.
    In the 1960s, there were more than 20 mahjong tile carvers -- and even an association dedicated to the industry.
    Now, Ho estimates that she is among the four or five remaining tile-carving shops -- the rest, she says, closed because of low sales.
    The art was named an "intangible cultural heritage" by the Hong Kong government in 2014 -- along with umbrella making, folk songs, kung fu and various street foods.
    While the traditional craft may be winding down, the game itself -- like a more complicated version of gin rummy played with tiles -- seems to be alive and well, with contemporary new mahjong venues springing up throughout the city. (See below for the basic rules.)
    "One good thing about mahjong is that it has a history," says Ho.
    "Mahjong is the national essence."

    Labor of love


    Ho Sau Mei helms Kam Fat Mahjong shop in Hung Hom, Hong Kong.

    Tucked away in Hung Hom -- east of Tsim Sha Tsui on Hong Kong's Kowloon peninsula -- Kam Fat Mahjong shop is hardly larger than a Post-It Note.
    The walls are a clutter of newspaper clippings and family photos -- there's a tiny old TV in the back corner and a glass showcase of mahjong sets.
    "The shop contains my childhood memories -- I grew up here," says Ho, who has been hand-carving mahjong tiles since she was 13 years old.
    "My parent raised me to do this job, so I have a very strong connection with mahjong."
    When her father retired she inherited the family shop, because none of her three siblings was interested in continuing the art.
    "This industry is dying," she says. "Even before manufactured mahjong sets (became more common), not a lot of people were buying these hand carved tiles because they last a long time."
    When you purchase a high-quality mahjong set, she says, you tend to keep it for at least 20 years -- sometimes up to 50 years.
    "If you need to support a family, it is impossible to survive (from this job)," says Ho. "I never did this for money. For me, I can do this for a living because my husband is also working."

    Carved into memory


    It takes Ho roughly four days to complete a set.

    Despite the industry decline, Ho is as busy as ever -- the waitlist for one of her hand-carved sets is at least one month.
    In the past, they were made with wood, ivory and bamboo -- but now they are made of hard plastic, which lay flat and store easily.
    A four-person Hong Kong mahjong set comprises 144 pieces, including the four suits -- bamboo, dots, characters, directional winds -- and special tiles like flowers, seasons and dragons.
    "Every step is carved into my memory, so it isn't difficult for me," says Ho. "But due to my back and eye problems, I am slower than before."
    Ho spends four to five hours a day hunched over a small workspace, where she uses a heat lamp to soften the plastic rectangles so they can be etched.
    "I actually retired for a few months last year, but my customers (and public interest) made me come back," says Ho.
    "I think it is cruel to turn down the students (for interviews) and I want to promote this art to the others. That's why I came back."
    Ho sharpens and mills every tool herself, from an iron ruler to a Macgyver-esque circle shaper.
    Once each design is etched, she uses a brush to paint the grooves red, green or blue, wiping away the excess, so only the pattern remains.
    She uses the heat lamp again, this time to dry the paint. With intense concentration, she then repeats the process with the next tile, and the next, and the next.
    It takes Ho roughly four to five days to complete a traditional mahjong set, which she sells for roughly US$230.

    A family affair


    Ho softens the hard plastic using a heated lamp, before etching the patterns.

    Thought to have originated in the 1800s, China's national game is one of the world's most-played with an estimated 350 million players in Asia alone.
    Walking through the lanes of Hong Kong, the game is ubiquitous. Day or night, you'll hear the click-clack of mahjong tiles echoing from shops and homes.
    "Every Sunday, I play mahjong with my siblings," says Ho. "It encourages communication. When people don't have enough communication with each other, mahjong can lighten the mood.
    "Some people in the older generation will feel ill if they don't play for a week. They're like mahjong addicts!"
    She says youngsters are more likely to play mahjong alone on their phones -- or around an electric mahjong table -- than with traditional tiles.
    "My son is 30 years old and he plays on his electronic devices on the MTR (metro), where you don't need someone to play with," she says.
    Elsewhere, contemporary restaurants offer upscale dim sum and cocktails to modernize the experience.

    Where to play


    Dim Sum Library offers cocktails, dim sum, and mahjong.

    The good news is, you don't need to be part of a Hong Kong family to get in on the action.
    Dim Sum Library -- a new restaurant in the Admiralty District's Pacific Place Mall, near Central -- provides a contemporary atmosphere with cocktails and upscale dim sum.
    At the back end of the restaurant, diners enter into a new-school mahjong parlor that's outfitted with Chinoiserie-style decor and, of course, square tables for groups of four.
    "Every Hong Konger grows up with mahjong tiles stuck to their fingers," says David Yeo, founder of the Aqua Restaurant Group, behind Dim Sum Library.
    "The game has been played in Hong Kong for hundreds of years and passed down from generation to generation, bringing people together over tea and snacks."
    In addition to all-day access to the restaurant's mahjong tables, Yeo says the restaurant will soon introduce mahjong classes aimed at locals, English speakers, as well as young Hongkongers -- anyone who is looking to learn.
    "It's part of the DNA of this city -- it's part of most family traditions," says Yeo. "I really wanted to keep this tradition alive."

    Joy Luck Club 2.0


    Dim Sum Library's contemporary mahjong parlor.

    In some circles, mahjong is not just alive -- but thriving.
    A luxury fashion brand and marketing consultant, Caroline Roberts says she's played with limited-edition mahjong sets from the likes of Louis Vuitton and Shanghai Tang -- the latter retails for over US$5,000.
    "[Playing mahjong] is actually quite a chic habit," says Roberts, who hosts regular mahjong nights at the Dim Sum Library for her "Elite Joy Luck Club" -- mainly for English speakers.
    The game, she says, is popular among professionals who are looking for healthy outlets and fresh ways to exercise their brain.
    Roberts started playing mahjong when she was about five years old -- a favorite family pastime during weekends and holidays.
    "I want to promote mahjong as an important part of the Chinese culture," says Roberts.
    "Most expats may not have time to become fluent in Cantonese, but perhaps they can learn how to play mahjong while they are living in Hong Kong."

    Mahjong basics

    A more complicated version of gin rummy, mahjong sees a group of four players huddled around a table for hours at a time.
    Players pick up and discard tiles to coordinate pairs, trios, and runs of a suit in sequence.
    The rules vary across Asia, but in Hong Kong, each player starts with 13 tiles and the goal is to develop a 14-tile hand using every tile in a combination of pongs, eyes and runs.
    Specialty tiles, such as flowers and dragons, make it more complicated, but beginners can disregard these tiles until they get the hang of the basics.
    When a player has a winning hand, they shout "mahjong!" -- or commonly "sik woo" (meaning "eat pudding") -- to end the round and tally up points.

    Translation by Gigi Yeung.
    I think my family set is hand-carved. I should look at that again. It's an old set my parents got in Hong Kong.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  2. #17
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    Mahjong

    ...because when I think 'zombie shooter games', I think mahjong.

    Infinite Warfare's Newest Easter Eggs Have Nothing To Do With Shooting Zombies
    S.E. Doster
    Yesterday 6:30pm Filed to: CALL OF DUTY


    Screen capture of YouTube video by MrDalekJD.

    Shaolin Shuffle, the latest map for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s Zombies mode, has players performing some rather un-Call of Duty-like tasks in order to access all of its secrets. Tasks like playing an ersatz version of Candy Crush. Or even mahjong.

    Released last week on PlayStation 4 and headed to Xbox One and PC next month, the “Continuum” map pack included, among other things, an epic Zombies mode experience set in a gritty 1970s New York City filled with undead donning giant hair and wide bellbottoms. As with previous Zombies modes, they also feature complex Easter egg quests, a series of hidden steps which are usually so difficult that they are solved by the entire community working together in tandem. The secrets conceal massive boss fights, badass weapon upgrades, and more storyline.


    Screen capture of YouTube video by MrDalekJD.

    Mahjong plays a surprisingly big part in the game. Ceramic mahjong tiles spawn all over the map, which you can pick up and put down anywhere you like. Some of the secrets require you to simply match similar tiles together for special equipment, like a sentry gun or a lava lamp.

    But one big secret requires you to actually have knowledge of the rules of mahjong, finding tiles and assembling a winning hand. I’m not ashamed to say I needed YouTube to help me here.



    If arcade games are more your fashion, all you have to do is die. No, really: Every time you bite it in Infinite Warfare’s Zombie games, you’re teleported to a magical arcade where you can play a number of games to recharge your soul and get back on the battlefield, shooting hoops and playing Skee-Ball for the right to live again.

    There’s also an arcade machine called “Skull-Buster” inside a certain building; it’s broken but you can go through an elaborate series of steps to repair it. Once it’s up and running, you can teleport inside it to play a trippy retro game. Shaolin’s is similar to Candy Crush, matching groups of colors to bust the skulls and score points. This lets you unlock the very powerful Perkaholic, which instantly gives you all the perks currently on the map. It’s actually a fairly easy trick to pull off, at least compared to previous Easter eggs, and also grants you easier access to upgraded weapons. It’s definitely worth pulling off if you can.

    And you thought Call of Duty was just about shooting people!
    I reached out to Pam Grier's agent for a possible interview the Shaolin Shuffle thread because we were both at SVCC 2.0, but I never heard back. Some friends got her autograph and got to chat with her for a while - she was going for $30 or so.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  3. #18
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    What? Noooooooooo!

    Say it isn't so.

    ‘Horse racing and mahjong are for old people’ as Hong Kong’s youth gravitates towards poker
    Players association managing director Stephen Lai says he wants to open dialogue with the government about legalising playing for money
    PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 12:58pm
    UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 10:09pm
    Sam Agars



    Young people are shunning horse racing and mahjong for more inclusive pursuits like poker, says Hong Kong Poker Players Association managing director Stephen Lai.

    Lai has seen the game come on leaps and bounds in the past decade, to the point where he hopes the HKPPA can one day open dialogue with the Hong Kong government about playing for money.

    “The younger generation feel like horse racing is for old people, same with mahjong, so they look for newer games that will include more people,” Lai said.

    “A lot of kids got into board games and iPhone games – phone games have introduced poker to a lot of young people. Poker is seen as a more fashionable thing than mahjong.”

    From as few as 200 players 10 years ago, Lai says there are now more than 5,000 poker players in Hong Kong, with 2,000 of those members of the HKPPA.


    Hong Kong Poker Players Association members (from left to right) Ray Chiu, Alan Lau, Sparrow Cheung and Stephen Lai. Photo: Sam Agars

    While horse racing is as popular as ever in Hong Kong, Lai expects the balance to shift as the population ages at an accelerating rate.

    Poker has taken off in China in recent times and Macau is the gambling mecca of Asia, but Lai is confident Hong Kong would offer something different again if playing poker for money was made legal.

    “We look forward to having some kind of dialogue with the government about poker being a legal thing in Hong Kong,” he said.

    “The biggest case for it is the popularity of the game in mainland China. They call it stationary golf, the game rich people can play without having to move.

    “It’s like a status symbol, Jack Ma of Alibaba is obsessed with the game and plays all the time.

    “If Hong Kong had poker, they would come to Hong Kong. It has so much to offer as a tourist destination.”


    Horse racing is for old people, according to the youth of today. Photo: Kenneth Chan

    In the meantime, Hong Kong is thriving as a training ground for star players and holds its own on the global poker scene, with the HKPPA hosting regular free tournaments and clinics.

    Alan Lau is the reigning Asia Player of the Year and Sparrow Cheung set a Guinness World Record in 2017 for the most “in the money” finishes in a calender year, earning a collect from 67 live tournaments.

    Chinese poker queen Celina Lin overcomes cultural barriers to drive game to new levels of ‘glamour and prestige’

    Having Macau on their doorstep ensures Hong Kong’s best have no shortage of competitions to play in, while they also travel to the Philippines, South Korea, Las Vegas, Australia and Europe.

    “I think our current mode of working is grooming a lot of good players who travel to play for big money. Hong Kong is a good training ground for them to move forward,” Lai said.


    Hongkongers play mahjong in Yau Ma Tei. Photo: Saskia Wesseling

    And while playing poker for money in Hong Kong is some way off, that hasn’t dampened the poker world’s enthusiasm around what the city has to offer.

    “We talk to so many operators around the world who want to do exhibition matches in Hong Kong because the backdrop of Victoria Harbour is so stunning,” Lai said.

    “They want to have a table at the Intercontinental [hotel] or something with the backdrop of Hong Kong. They all have a dream of doing something in Hong Kong.

    “But even though it could be 100 per cent legal as an exhibition match because there is no money changing hands, we still don’t want to ruffle too many feathers because we haven’t engaged the government on this yet.”

    Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Poker seen as ‘more fashionable’
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  4. #19
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    Old Skool trades

    Print publishers are joining this list soon. I've long hoped I wouldn't live to see that day, but it's coming fast and I'm living longer than expected. You can support us by subscribing.

    Fortune tellers, letter writers and the last of Hong Kong's traditional trades
    Published 18th February 2019


    Credit: Gary Jones

    Written by Lindsay Varty
    Lindsay Varty is a Hong Kong-based journalist and professional rugby player. The following is an edited excerpt from her book "Sunset Survivors," accompanied by photos by Gary Jones.

    From fortune tellers to professional letter writers, many of Hong Kong's street-savvy, traditional entrepreneurs have devoted their entire lives to ancient and increasingly forgotten practices.
    These tenacious tradesmen and women -- however clandestine against the city's frantic urban backdrop -- are essential ingredients in Hong Kong's cultural identity.
    But with almost no willing successors, skyrocketing rents and little chance of competing with larger companies, simply surviving has proven almost impossible. Along with photographer Gary Jones, I captured a glimpse of the hardy few who have battled the odds and continue to run their businesses today.

    Mak Ping Lam, traditional seal maker


    Mak Ping Lam learned the art of seal-making from his brother-in-law, and has since passed on his trade to his son, who works with him. Credit: Gary Jones

    Despite having been in the seal-making business for half a century, Mak Ping Lam keeps his tools simple: a few rusty knives, a small wooden vice, one scrap of sandpaper and the bottom half of a soda can, which he uses as an ink tray.
    Chinese seals, or 'chops,' were used as a form of identification for legal papers, bank transfers and documents requiring authorship. In mainland China and Taiwan, they are still used on checks in lieu of a signature, though not in Hong Kong.
    To make a seal, Mak drafts a 2-square-centimeter (0.6-square-inch) design, and draws a mirror image of it onto the base of the seal. Only then can he begin to etch it into stone.
    "Some fortune tellers tell people to come here, make a chop to put on their desk and they will get good luck," he said. "I don't know if it works or not."

    Au-yeung Ping-chi, paper effigy maker


    Au-yeung Ping-chi hand-makes paper effigies, which are burned as offerings to the deceased. Credit: Gary Jones

    Burning paper effigies as offerings to the deceased is a common religious practice in Hong Kong. Artists carefully bend thin strips of bamboo into various shapes, before coating them with joss paper and paint.
    For ten hours every day, effigy maker Au-yeung Ping-chi hand-makes some of the most detailed and often bizarre paper designs found in Hong Kong. From food, clothes and houses, to laptops and even full-sized massage chairs, he produces replicas of items that customers hope will join their loved ones in the afterlife.
    Over the years, Au-yeung has seen people's requests change, from simpler pleasures like shoes to more modern items, like Nintendo Gameboys.
    "People in the past were simpler -- they didn't need much even when they were alive," he said.
    "When I die, I would like some cars, houses and a hi-fi system ... A super deluxe seven-foot-long Mercedes-Benz and Porsche will do."

    Luk Shu Choi and Luk Keung Choi, copperware craftsmen


    The Luk brothers are sons of the late Luk Bing, who established Bing Kee Copperware in the 1940s. The store still produces copper items for restaurants, homes, tea shops and hotels. Credit: Gary Jones

    In the 1950s and 1960s, most Hong Kong families used copperware pots, pans and kettles. But the material was gradually replaced by stainless steel, which is easier to clean and less reactive to acid.
    Chinese herbal tea shops still choose copper over steel -- as do some chefs, because of its ability to heat quickly and evenly. However, very few places in Hong Kong continue to make these products.
    The Luk brothers learned the trade from their father, and they still work in the family's old shop. It takes a full day to finish one pot, which they sell for about 700 Hong Kong dollars ($89). Their shop is brimming with handcrafted kitchenware, urns, door knockers and other trinkets.
    "I cook with copper utensils," older brother Luk Shu Choi said. "But I also like to use an electronic rice cooker as it's really convenient. You can't just stick with the old things; we also have to follow trends and the development of the world."

    Chan Lok Hoi, bamboo birdcage maker


    Chan Lok Choi has been making cages since he was 13 years old. He still operates from a small shop in the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. Credit: Gary Jones

    Chan Lok Choi has been making birdcages since he was just 13 years old. Taught by his uncle and another famous cage-maker, Chan's craft sees him bending bamboo rods into place, carving patterns or scriptures onto them and then painting the cage.
    Taking caged birds to parks in the morning was once a common practice in Hong Kong. You would often see the cages hanging from trees, while owners read newspapers or played mahjong.
    A handful of these bird-lovers can still be found today, either in the city's parks or at the Yuen Po Bird Market, where Chan's shop is located. But criticism from animal rights groups and the arrival of avian flu in 2012 -- which led to caged birds being banned on public transport -- have dampened this tradition.
    "I would love to have an apprentice," Chan said. "But no-one with a school education seems to be interested in learning these handicraft skills any more."
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  5. #20
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    Continued from previous post

    William Kam, fortune teller


    Fortune teller William Kan operates a stall on Temple Street, home to Hong Kong's soothsayers since the 1970s. Credit: Gary Jones

    William Kam is a self-proclaimed, 100%-accurate face and palm reader. Located at the end of the Hong Kong's famous Temple Street night market, Kam's brightly-lit stall proudly displays his accreditation and 25 years of experience.
    Soothsayers first set up shop on Temple Street the 1970s, offering everything from palm and tarot card readings to "bird fortune telling," where a small wing-clipped bird would peck out your future from a deck of cards.
    Kam expresses optimism about the future of his trade -- perhaps he knows something we don't.
    "Twenty-two years ago, most of my customers were locals or people from (mainland) China, but now that this street is famous, I get people from all over the world. Tourists love it here. Hopefully that helps conserve this place."
    "I tell people the whole truth according to what I see, even if it's bad news."

    Cheung Shun King, mahjong tile maker


    Cheung Shun King learned his trade from his father and grandfather in the family shop, where his first job was painting the tiles. Credit: Gary Jones

    Mahjong, a four-player game of skill and strategy, has been popular in Hong Kong for hundreds of years. It involves drawing and discarding tiles, each with a different character on it, to form winning hands.
    Today, most people opt for factory-made tiles, but Cheung Shun King continues to carve and sell them from his family shop. He mostly replaces lost or damaged tiles, though he occasionally engraves and paints entire sets from scratch. These sets cost about 4,000 Hong Kong dollars ($510) and take months to complete.
    Ironically, between work and his personal life, Cheung has never learned the game. "I would rather rest than learn how to play mahjong," he said. "But my children love to play."
    "We can't do anything to help the industry, as mechanic production is replacing us," he added. "I foresee that all mahjong shops in Hong Kong will disappear (within) ten years."

    Kan Hon Wing, tailor


    When qipaos were widely worn in Hong Kong, tailor Kan Hon Wing's family store, Mei Wah Fashion, would sell hundreds of the garments a week. Credit: Gary Jones

    Established in the 1920s, Mei Wah Fashion is the oldest and last remaining tailor of its kind, specializing in traditional qipaos and cheongsams. Master tailor Kan Hon Wing grew up in the store, which was originally opened by his grandfather.
    The qipao, or "Mandarin gown," was once everyday attire in Hong Kong. They were worn by almost all women, regardless of social class, so tailors were in high demand. But nowadays, the garment is reserved for more formal occasions, such as banquets or weddings.
    Every piece must meet Kan's exacting standards, so it takes him more than a week to make one qipao. But with shrinking trade comes exclusivity: While a qipao in the 1920s could cost as little as one Hong Kong Dollar (13 cents), Kan's dresses today sell for up to 20,000 Hong Kong dollars ($2,549).
    "Every qipao is unique," he said. "Tailors need to be very detail-minded. I will give people suggestions if their 'dream qipao' is too ugly."

    Leung Lo Yik (Chen Kau), letter writer


    Originally from Vietnam, Chen Kau has been a letter writer in Hong Kong for nearly 40 years. Credit: Gary Jones

    Letter writing was a profitable business in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 1960s, when the city's literacy rate was as low as 60%. Professional letter writers would help people contact relatives overseas, write legal documents and fill out forms or applications.
    But with the introduction of compulsory education, and the rapid evolution of technology, demand has fallen. There may now be fewer than 10 professional letter writers in the city.
    One of them, Chen Kau, has a handful of regular customers who he helps with tax forms, welfare applications or visas. Most days, he has none at all, so sits reading the newspaper or chatting.
    "The development of technology like smartphones and computers is the biggest enemy of our industry," he said. "But at the same time, it is essential for a city or any society to improve with time. There must be some jobs that are replaced or even eliminated."

    Wu Ding Keung, stencil maker


    Stencil makers like Wu Ding Keung begin by drawing the Chinese characters onto thin iron sheets, before carefully cutting them out with a hammer and chisel. Credit: Gary Jones

    Stencil making is among Hong Kong's oldest trades and was once a thriving industry. The delicate process requires a sharp eye, a steady hand and expert calligraphy skills.
    Craftsmen first draw the Chinese characters onto thin iron sheets, then very carefully cut them out with a hammer and chisel. These hand-cut stencils were used for advertising, wall notices and shop signs, though they've have been largely replaced by digital or laser-cut alternatives.
    Wu Ding Keung is among Hong Kong's last stencil makers. Stooped over a small table with only a hammer and bag of chisels, the 82-year-old can go for days without seeing a single customer, but he continues working to keep himself busy.
    "I've forgotten how long I've been working here, but I know I started before the handover of Hong Kong," Wu said.
    "I once helped a couple make a stencil for their wedding party. I liked that."

    Lo Sai Keung, photofinisher


    Lo Sai Keung's store, Sunrise Professional Photofinishing, is packed with new and second-hand cameras, some of which date as far back as the 1930s. Credit: Gary Jones

    In the 1990s, there were about 1,000 shops developing film around Hong Kong. Now, there are fewer than 50. Most shop owners responded to the demise of film by switching to digital cameras, lenses, photo processing or printing, but a few hardy shops still sell film and analog camera equipment to passionate enthusiasts.
    Lo Sai Keung's shop, Sunrise Professional Photofinishing, is packed with new and second-hand cameras dating as far back as the 1930s.
    Nowadays, he develops about 20 to 30 rolls of film a day; however, in the 1970s and 1980s, he would process about 200 a day. Most of Lo's customers are young, curious photography students looking to try their hand at analog photography.
    "Hong Kong people love selfies," he said. "You can still do them with film cameras although it's harder and you would probably need a mirror."
    "Sunset Survivors," published by Blacksmith Books, is available now.
    THREADS
    Fortune Telling
    Mahjong
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  6. #21
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    political games


    Mahjong parlours and ‘Fujian gangsters’: how the peaceful New Territories town of Tsuen Wan became a flashpoint in Hong Kong’s protests

    The former industrial suburb was rocked by clashes between anti-government protesters and suspected triads on successive weekends
    Outbreaks of violence and subsequent clashes with police have shocked locals, who believed town to be safe
    Mandy Zheng
    Published: 10:00am, 31 Aug, 2019


    Located near the coastal line with sufficient water resources, Tsuen Wan gained popularity among mainland business owners in the mid-20th century, who established cotton mills and enamel factories in the region. Photo: Martin Chan

    “Compared with Central, the only thing Tsuen Wan doesn’t have is luxury stores,” Eva Chan Yee-wah jokes.
    For the 26-year-old Tsuen Wan resident, her neighbourhood is time-worn yet vibrant and well-established.
    “My friends and I seldom leave here to hang out, because we’ve got everything – tons of shopping malls, great food, a museum and a library, even bars for those who crave nightlife.”
    But things have somehow changed since a month ago.
    “Now I don’t go out alone at night any more,” says Chan, a young mother.
    It all started when locals witnessed a violent incident at 11pm on August 5, during which protesters got into fights with a group of men dressed in white and wielding knives. At least four people on either side were injured, some with deep lacerations and bloody wounds.
    Earlier that day, a strike against the now-shelved extradition bill took place at eight locations around Hong Kong, including Tsuen Wan. It was the first time that the western New Territories town had seen protesters besieging a local police station, and eventually confronting suspected “Fujian gangsters” based in the area.
    Another brawl took place a week later in the small hours of August 12, when men dressed in white T-shirts attacked black-clad protesters, an incident that soon escalated into a bloody conflict where each camp used weapons such as knives, glass bottles, bricks and bamboo sticks.
    The scene broke out at Yi Pei Square, home to the Fujianese community which is widely regarded as pro-government. Some from the area are rumoured to be members of local gangs who took part in the former clash between protesters and residents.
    When protesters took to the streets in Tsuen Wan again last Sunday, some raided Mahjong parlours and gaming centres at Yi Pei Square, as they believed these were owned by triads.


    One of the textiles factories that thrived in Tsuen Wan in the late 20th century. Photo: Handout

    When police soon came to stop them from vandalising businesses, an officer fired a shot into the air amid chaos at nearly 9pm, marking the first time live ammunition had been used in the 12 weekends of anti-government protests.
    “I was astonished when I learned the police actually fired. I never thought Tsuen Wan would become this unsafe,” says local resident Lee Sheung-man, 26.
    So why is Tsuen Wan known as a notorious hub of mahjong and gambling parlours controlled by Fujian gangs, which other districts are their strongholds, and how has this one has turned into a recent protest battlefield?

    A triad hub?

    Hong Kong saw a flood of mainland Chinese immigrants in 1949 after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Located near the coast with sufficient water resources, Tsuen Wan soon gained popularity among mainland Chinese business owners, who established cotton mills and enamel factories in the region. By 1971, it had become the largest industrial area in Hong Kong, accounting for about 20 per cent of the city’s total output value.


    A view of Tsuen Wan in the early 1960s. Photo: Handout

    As job opportunities increased, workers from Shanghai and Fujian swarmed into these factories and gradually formed clannish communities. Since then, the Yi Pei Square area has turned into one of the neighbourhoods with a distinguished population of Fujianese immigrants.
    “Yi” literally means “the second” in Cantonese, and Pei Square is a unique example of residential design in Tsuen Wan. Typically in such a neighbourhood, four lines of tenement buildings laid out in the shape of a square create an encompassed area, at the centre of which residents can gather and hang out, free from disturbance from the outside world. There are restaurants and leisure facilities on the ground floors of the buildings.


    Tsuen Wan Town Hall. Photo: Edmond So

    This design is likely to have been inspired by the walled city in ancient times, which could be traced back to the Tang dynasty, according to an advisory report commissioned by Tsuen Wan District Council in 2010. There are four closely located Pei Squares in the area, the first one being home to a South Asian community, and the other two famed for their dai pai dongs and noodle shops.

    The Mills, located in the former Nam Fung cotton factory in Tsuen Wan. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

    Though it has hidden gems for gourmets, the Pei Square area is also notorious for being “jumbled”, says Eva Chan. “It has long been rumoured that Yi Pei Square is a triad camp. When I was a kid, my mum would warn me that I shouldn’t go there alone.”


    Tsuen Wan West MTR station, one of two which serves the town. Photo: Handout

    “They own a couple of mahjong parlours and restaurants, and it’s said that they also earn money from protection rackets and illicit brothels,” Chan says.
    Local news reports show that in the past few years, police have raided illegal prostitution and mahjong gambling venues at Yi Pei Square.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  7. #22
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    Continued from previous post

    From “Shallow Bay” to Tsuen Wan

    Although the New Territories is no stranger to deeply rooted local triads, Tsuen Wan is largely perceived as a peaceful and liveable neighbourhood for middle-class households, according to Chan.
    Her pride in the town’s abundant public facilities and leisure venues is well-founded. Back in 1961, Tsuen Wan was the first to
    be developed under the British colonial government's New Town project, aiming at dispersing the city’s booming population in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island to the New Territories.


    Anti-government protesters march from Kwai Chung Sports Ground to Tsuen Wan Park on August 25. Photo: Dickson Lee

    Infrastructure such as two MTR lines, motorways, ports and public housing was established in the following decades. With notably long pedestrian overpasses connecting the MTR stations and shopping malls, Tsuen Wan has earned the name “the overpass town”.
    Land reclamation was also a major element in urban development. To date, a total of 140 hectares of land has been reclaimed from the sea in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung.
    These efforts have greatly changed Tsuen Wan’s image from earlier times, when the town was seen as a land of scarcity by authorities and Hongkongers. The first historical record of residents in the area dates from 1649, which was then called “Tsin Wan”, i.e. “Shallow Bay” in Cantonese.


    Demonstrators smash a mahjong shop during protests in Tsuen Wan on August 25. Photo: AP

    In the 20th century, a local scholar changed “Tsin” into “Tsuen”, meaning herb or fishing gear in ancient Chinese. Despite having a more elegant name, the town still repelled outsiders due to the prevalence of pirates and malaria.
    There was even a popular saying among merchants: “Want to get rich? Go to San Francisco; Want to get killed? Go to Tsuen Wan” .
    When the British took over the New Territories in 1898, the town had about 3,000 residents. Now its population has grown to more than 300,000, 93 per cent of those ethnic Chinese, according to government statistics from 2016.

    What are the local charms?

    With most factories having moved to mainland China, Tsuen Wan is now left with empty industrial buildings that residents seldom visit. The Urban Renewal Authority began to rejuvenate the town in the late 2000s, an initiative that has been largely successful.
    One of the iconic projects is The Mills, a previously disused cluster of cotton mills that was transformed into a complex of art and exhibition centres, along with fashionable cafes and shops. It was reopened last December after four years of refurbishment.


    Police clash with extradition bill protesters in Tsuen Wan on August 25. Photo: Reuters

    “It’s like the second PMQ,” Chan says. “People from other areas used to come to Tsuen Wan for food, but now more youngsters are visiting here to check out places like The Mills.”
    For another resident Lee, some of her best memories in the neighbourhood are associated with Tsuen Wan Town Hall, a government-managed venue built in 1980 that hosts plays and exhibitions. “It’s our own Romerberg, where locals meet up and just chill,” she says.
    “The kai fong [townspeople] here like to talk about things related to livelihood, such as which schools are better. We don’t care that much about politics,” Lee adds.
    “I used to think we lived in our own bubble. But now the protests are changing everything.”
    THREADS
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  8. #23
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    If you've played, you know...

    My aunts and uncles would be just like this.

    BMW smashes into house, old people inside keep on playing mahjong
    The game must go on
    by Alex Linder October 8, 2019 in News



    Demonstrating that no force on Earth can disturb a group of elderly Chinese people from their mahjong game, a BMW crashed into a house in Sichuan province last week and the people inside just kept on playing.

    The vehicle ended up smashing a big hole in the side of the house in Gangpu village. But were those inside concerned about the building’s structural integrity?

    Evidently not as they are seen gathered around tables, calmly chatting and playing mahjong. In video from the scene, one man is heard saying that they didn’t really pay attention to what happened.

    While much attention has paid to internet addiction among youngsters in China, far less coverage has been devoted to the country’s mahjong addicts. Back in 2010, mahjong players in Chengdu played on while one old man fainted, was attended to by paramedics, declared dead, and wheeled away.
    Gene Ching
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  9. #24
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    dark and evil forces

    Mahjong houses fall silent as China purifies its social environment
    Two more local governments ban game widely regarded as a national pastime but which others view as encouraging gambling
    Mandy Zuo
    Published: 7:44pm, 21 Oct, 2019


    Mahjong houses in several Chinese jurisdictions are closing down as authorities deem them noisy places where people gamble. Photo: Shutterstock.

    China’s “national pastime” of mahjong is facing a clampdown in a number of jurisdictions as part of a nationwide campaign against “dark and evil forces”.
    Two local governments have ordered mahjong houses and poker rooms to be closed by Tuesday in a bid to “purify the social environment” and “improve the image of citizens”. Failure to comply carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.
    According to separate police announcements issued on Sunday, the affected jurisdictions include Yushan county and Xinzhou, a district of Shangrao city, both in the eastern province of Jiangxi. The mahjong houses are noisy and often involve gambling, they said.
    The closure was related to the campaign launched in January last year by Chinese President Xi Jinping to “eliminate the dark and evil forces” of organised crime, the announcements said.
    At least two cities in Hubei province, central China, and one in the southeastern province of Anhui issued similar announcements last month, accusing the entertainment establishments of providing a venue for crime, affecting people’s lives and corrupting social morals.
    The orders have triggered controversy in China, where the four-person tile-based game is an important pastime to many, especially retirees. As life goes increasingly digital, mahjong houses are also considered an important opportunity to meet and engage with people socially.
    The reaction of 70-year-old He Shengli from Cixi, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, was typical: “How am I supposed to kill my time if there are no mahjong houses any more?” he said. “Gambling? 100 yuan (US$14) would be the most I’d lose even if I played for an entire day and my luck remained bad. Why don’t they go close down casinos in Macau?”
    Some internet users also questioned the legitimacy of the orders. “They [mahjong houses] are operating legally and have acquired licences from the government itself. They pay taxes. And now they shall be closed? This shows exactly how our business environment is – businesses take a huge risk of going bankrupt,” one commenter said on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
    “This is typical, lazy governance, a one-size-fits-all approach,” another said.
    Mahjong originated in China during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911) and is regarded by many as part of the country’s national heritage, although others complain that it is noisy and leads to addiction.
    A woman in Chongqing was so engrossed in a game of mahjong at a banquet earlier this month that she failed to notice her toddler son had gone missing. The boy slept alone on stairs in a car park for at least an hour before a police officer took him to the police station, online news portal Thepaper.cn reported.
    Gambling is illegal in China, but there is no fixed definition on how big a bet constitutes the activity. Small amounts – typical in the mahjong houses – are not usually defined as gambling.
    Under Chinese law those who gamble or provide a venue for gambling for profit may be detained for up to 15 days or fined up to 3,000 yuan. There is also a criminal penalty up to 10 years in jail for those who make a living by gathering people to gamble.
    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Mahjong parlours told to shut to foil ‘dark, evil forces’
    Didn't see this one coming. It's moves like this that can spark revolutions.
    Gene Ching
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  10. #25
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    Mahjong in Teslas from Alibaba?

    DECEMBER 20, 2019 / 12:41 AM / 7 DAYS AGO
    Mahjong, cartoons coming to Tesla car screens in China next year
    2 MIN READ


    FILE PHOTO: The company logo is pictured on a Tesla Model X electric car in Berlin, Germany, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

    BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said on Friday it will offer its Chinese customers more video and gaming content next year, marking the first time the automaker will offer internet-connected games in its vehicles.

    Two video-streaming channels from cartoon-focused Bilibili (BILI.O) and Alibaba-backed (BABA.N) Youku will be added for a total of four. Owners will also be able to entertain themselves with three online games - mahjong and two versions of poker from Chinese tech-giant Tencent (0700.HK).

    The games and videos will only start after the cars are properly parked, Tesla said, adding that new offerings will come sometime in first quarter. Owners often use the entertainment offerings while re-charging their cars or indulge after arriving back home from work.

    The Silicon Valley automaker, widely seen as a leader in in-car infotainment, offers a range of games in its vehicles for the U.S. market but they are not internet-connected.

    Keeping Chinese customers happy is a priority for Tesla which has built a $2 billion factory in the world’s biggest auto market and set itself a target of building 1,000 cars a week by the end of 2019.

    Unlike the United States, it has also held racing events and showroom parties in China.

    Tesla has started transporting China-built cars out of its Shanghai factory, according to its Weibo posts. It sold around 38,700 vehicles in China in the year to end-November, according to consultancy LMC Automotive.

    Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs
    THREADS
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    Gene Ching
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  11. #26
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    The Mahjong Line

    I didn't cut&paste all of the IG posts.
    Mahjong Set for the ‘Stylish Masses’ Accused of Cultural Appropriation
    BY ISA PERALTA
    JANUARY 5, 2021
    4 MINUTE READ



    Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a statement posted by the Mahjong Line on the company’s Instagram and Facebook on Tuesday. O&H Brand Design, which helped design the tiles, also released a separate statement saying they have since cut ties with The Mahjong Line.

    The Mahjong Line, a company created by three women from Dallas, Texas, has stirred online controversy for its products that give Mahjong “a modern makeover as playable works of art.”

    Background of the company: According to Paper City, Kate LaGere first learned how to play Mahjong in Dallas in 2018. LeGere wanted to own a unique set of tiles but could not find anything beyond those with traditional designs. She eventually teamed up with friends and fellow Mahjong players Annie O’Grady and Bianca Watson to create The Mahjong Line.

    According to the company’s About Us page, LaGere decided Mahjong “needed a respectful refresh.” LeGere, O’Grady and Watson “hatched a plan to bring Mahjong to the stylish masses.”

    The company’s website currently offers five different collections ranging from $325 to $425.
    The Mahjong Line also offers accessories, such as a playing mat priced at $50.



    Facing backlash: Several Facebook users expressed outrage over the products by commenting on The Mahjong Line’s Facebook posts. Users accused the company of not having any employees of Asian descent and profiting off the whitewashing of a game with Chinese origins.

    Several Twitter users also shared their opinions on The Mahjong Line:




    Response to outrage: The Mahjong Line has yet to release a statement addressing the allegations of cultural appropriation, and the company has disabled comments on their Instagram posts. Their Facebook page is still currently active.

    NextShark has reached out to The Mahjong Line for comment via email, their Facebook page, and their Instagram account. Below is a statement posted to the company’s social media accounts on Tuesday evening:

    “We launched this company in November of 2020 with pure intentions and a shared love for the game of American Mahjong, which carries a rich history here in the United States. Our mission is to combine our passion for art and color alongside the fun of the game while seeking to appeal to novices and experienced players alike. American Mahjong tiles have evolved for many decades and we’d like to be part of this evolution in the most respectful and authentic way possible.

    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’s imperative our followers know we never set out to ignore or misrepresent the origins of this game and know there are more conversations to be had and steps to take as we learn and grow. We are always open to constructive criticism and are continuing to conduct conversations with those who can provide further insight to the game’s traditions and roots in both Chinese and American cultures.”

    O&H Brand Design, a full-service branding, advertising and graphic design agency based in Dallas, also released a recent statement for their part in creating The Mahjong Line tiles. They have since cut ties with The Mahjong Line.

    “We are deeply and sincerely sorry for the role we played in the creation of The Mahjong Line tiles and brand. There was a clear lack of awareness, cultural appreciation and respect on our part during our design process. We own that and apologize for it.

    We must do better, and we are taking steps to educate ourselves so that we do not make these types of mistakes again. We have also begun the process of researching ways to learn from the Asian-American community in our city and region so that we can better understand, respect and honor it moving forward.

    We have also terminated our relationship with The Mahjong Line.

    While our apology can not change the work we did, we humbly ask for the opportunity to improve both as a company and as individuals moving forward.

    – The O&H Team”

    Featured Image via themahjongline.com
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