Mahjong – the game that everyone in the East know

China is known to be having great influences in many different aspects around the world. When one tries to search on the Chinese invention history, he would not be surprised for how long as the list goes. Chinese innovation is evolving in diverse ways over different centuries. The diversities of China innovates are undeniable.

Despite the fact of Chinese success in innovation, some people may argue that China did have very little influenced over the field of Games and Recreations, as compared to its famous innovations in other aspects. However, it is now time to announce Chinese success in this area. One of the brilliant Chinese innovations is the games that we are playing in the daily life and cannot actually live without it – the poker card.

The Card game would not be unfamiliar in the west. Countless card games exist, using the playing cards which are identical in size and shape. However, many of us may not know that the first playing card is said to be appeared in the ninth century during the Tang dynasty (June 618 – June 907) in China.

The origin of playing card is hard to be determined, but it’s generally considered as originated in the 9th century from the “leaf game” in China.

The “leaf game” is divided into four categories according to the four seasons, while playing card that we have nowadays also have a similar saying. “leaf game” is not existed in the east anymore in these centuries, but it had generated into one of the favourite games among Chinese and Asian nowadays — Mahjong.

Mahjong means Sparrow in Chinese. Its name is said to be originated from an ancient royal granary. With an existing granary, bird suffering would be born. To encourage soldiers catching these unwelcomed birds, official position gave out bamboo chips as an award for counting rewards of caught sparrows. Soldiers use these chips as tools of the leaf game and later it has been developed as the official way of playing. The evolution of this stereotype is then named Mahjong, which is the meaning of sparrow.

The game is commonly played by four players on a specific table. Similar to the Western card game, mahjong is a game of skill, strategy and calculation and involves a certain degree of chance. Among Asia, mahjong is popularly played as a gambling game, though it may just as easily be played recreationally.



It is played with a set of 136 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols, although some regional variations use a different number of tiles. In most variations, each player begins by receiving thirteen tiles. In turn players draw and discard tiles until they complete a legal hand using the fourteenth drawn tile to form four groups of legal tiles and a pair. There are fairly standard rules about how a piece is drawn, the kinds of melds, and the order of dealing and play. However there are many regional variations in the rules; in addition, the scoring system, the minimum hand necessary to win varies significantly based on the local rules being used.

When we talk about Mahjong in Asia, most of them would regard this as a beneficial activity regardless of the age of the players. There are four namely advantages of playing mahjong:

1)    It is proved to be beneficial to good health. When one is playing mahjong, both hands is working on different tasks and his mind kept thinking about how to win the game in the same time. Overtime, hand and Brain Corporation can be trained up, and can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

2)    It can train up children’s early art education. When the adults are playing mahjong at home, kids can also learned the strategic way to play. The sound of mahjong crashing can also increase the sense of rhythm of children.

3)    For the goodness of mental health. The victory of mahjong changes in every round and it requires calm and understanding throughout all process. This can definitely train up the state of mind of one to join the highly competitive society, to prepare to join the life difficulties with a peaceful mind.

4)    It can also strengthening the time management. Mahjong in some ways emphasizes the importance of time. When the other players are waiting for you, this is the time to hurry up. Also, the fleeting opportunity to grasp the chance of winning the game would be a good and lively way to learn about the time management.



Above all, mahjong has been the major traditional game for recreations and there must be its own attractions for the huge numbers of active players. It would be recommendable to try learning this lovely battle and taste the feeling of this exciting game. There are many online mahjong systems in the internet now and it would be a good try to learn playing this complicated yet exciting game.

A Chinese Distinction

It all began with an illusion.  A cylindrical device with narrow slits cut along the sides provided the first glimpse of a moving motion picture, the humble beginnings of modern day animation.  The invention was given the title “Zoetrope”.  The life turner.  A contraption in which a series of little characters could be viewed, as it’s spinning motion tricked the eyes from behind the slits into believing the characters themselves were moving, leaping, running, living.  It was a moving story, alive and birthed through the hands of Chinese inventor Ting Huan in the long ago days around 180 A. D.

Despite this birth however, it was not until hundreds of years later in the early 1920s that a group of four men, known as The Wan Brothers produced the first filmed animations.  In 1922 an advertisement for the Shuzhendong Chinese Typwriter saw Wan Laiming reveal the first documented animation piece.  This film clip was closely chased by subsequent cartoon shorts produced by The Wan Brothers, who had successfully grabbed the position of China’s animation pioneers.

 

From the beginning The Wan Brothers sought to ensure that their animations were not just entertaining.  They wanted their films to instruct and provide lessons for the young minds of China and they also wanted to produce an animation quality that was specifically Chinese.  China’s animations were not yet to be a thing of the future but were merely a new medium to promote ancient tales and traditional Chinese style.  The old culture and art was simply being showcased in a new way and for many years China drew much of its inspiration from ancient folklores.

Whilst the western world’s kids gobbled up the images of “Popeye” the sailor man and “Betty Boop” the children of China were feasting their eyes on animations such as “Princess Iron Fan” and “Uproar in Heaven”, both of which were adapted from the Chinese folklore “Journey to the West”.    China’s aim to make sure it’s culture and traditions were translated into film is overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who would wish to compare say “Popeye” with “Uproar in Heaven” and it is here that some clear distinctions can be seen.

 

Whilst “Popeye the Sailor Man” is an arguably simple character both in terms of stylisation and personality,  “Sun Wukong “or the “Monkey King”, the main character seen in “Uproar in Heaven”, reeks of Chinese culture.  “Uproar in Heaven” contains not only a much more complex storyline but also the colourful and flamboyant character style and traditional Chinese musical accompaniments, inspired by the Beijing Opera traditions, set it apart from any other countries animations.

 

China’s animation industry steadily grew throughout the mid 1900’s with the first Chinese coloured animation “Why is the Crow Black Coated” appearing, courtesy of The Wan Brothers, in 1956.   At this point in the animation story China was still pretty much on a par with other countries film pieces, at least technologically speaking, however, China’s desire to keep animations so close to home in terms of style and message was still blatantly transparent.

“Why is the Crow Black Coated”, although the first Chinese animation to be noted internationally, was again driving home an instructional message to its audiences.   This was not just for entertainments sake.  Take heed, it said.  All life is not a “happily ever after” story, especially if you are a pompous and somewhat arrogant bird (the main character seen in “Why is the Crow Black Coated”) who is lazy and neglects to prepare for the winter.  “There are consequences” China’s animation said.  The bird, though beautiful, did not prepare for the winter like the other animals and thus, found himself cold and without a home.  A forest fire seems like an unlikely friend to our poor freezing bird, however, life teaches a quick lesson and the bird burns his tail feathers black.  No longer a beautiful bird but a black crow.  The western world sold “happily ever after” and China continued to instruct.

 

Distinctions in Chinese animation further grew as China’s style took on new techniques, mainly folk art cut-paper animation and origami animation, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Again these animations were based in Chinese Folk tales and there style was China all the way.  Clear examples of these types of animations can be seen in films such as “Pigsy Eats Watermelon” and “A Clever Duckling”.

 

Although in times closer to ours China has tried to adapt it’s animation industry to compete with the likes of America and its neighbour Japan, they seem to be struggling to keep up the currant pace, and one might argue that there would still be some clear distinctions undermining China’s present animation status when films like “Kung Fu Panda” were created by the Americans and not the Chinese.

 

China in Interior and Architectural design

Feng Shui pronounced‘ fung shway’ and meaning ‘wind and water’ combines Chinese ancient belief with architecture, landscaping and Interior design.  Feng Shui is a visual art, practice and pursuit.  It is said that Feng Shui is best understood for its impact on the Chinese landscape and architecture in the past and for the present on the Eastern and Western architecture and design.  When I think of an interior living or working space with applied Feng Shui I imagine a comfortable, tranquil and harmonious place.

It seems Feng Shui resides in the layout of cities, towns, villages, dwellings, temples and buildings. Even before the inhabitants of ancient China were looking for suitable land on which to live, farm and survive they had already obtained the knowledge and principles of Feng Shui. These have been adjusted and refined over thousands of years by subsequent generations resulting in Feng Shui becoming a geographic and geometric art form.

 Acknowledging the evolving ideas of Feng Shui and correlating this with the knowledge and history available at this point in time we create environments most suitable for living and working in. Although it has fixed important principles that make it never changing, it also has designs and methods that with the passing of time are continually updated due to the accumulation of knowledge which makes it ever changing.

The ‘I Ching’ also known as the book of changes is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. According to this text the Chinese universe consists of heaven (yang) and earth (yin). Heaven itself consists of the sun (yang) and the moon (yin). In turn, earth consists of rivers and streams (yang) and mountains and plains (yin). On those mountains and plains, there are people (yang) and buildings (yin). In people themselves, males (yang) and females (yin) possess an exterior (yang) and interior (yin).

These principles imply that yin and yang should be considered when studying Feng Shui. This Installation was created by Clodagh for the fabric company, Trevira, for a Brussels trade fair. It considers Feng Shui principles, such as the use of water, light, colour, movement, sound and scent, to offer an oasis away from the stress and strain of a long day at the fair.

 

Modern Architecture in Feng Shui seems to influence the landscape more than natural features and forces. Although nature is still important, it becomes less of a consideration in urban Feng Shui, appearing more as ambience and decoration.

Below the Leo House located in Kelapa Gading, Jakarta, Indonesia is designed by Edy Hartono from Edha Architects. The 240 sqm project is based on Feng Shui art by demand of the owner. The architect combined modern architecture with Feng Shui in a pleasant dialogue. Glass and wood lattice were used for the massive planes of the façade which basically consist of geometric plane. Lighting and air circulation are optimized to the maximum in the interior through glass floors.

Feng Shui Art in Leo House by Edha Architects.

Many people like to Feng Shui their homes after all a home is not an empty box made of plaster, wood or brick where we move our furniture, appliances, personal belongings and selves. The rooms in our home have a major influence on our moods, and how we live. A home is for protection, shelter and security. A Feng Shui expert working on your home would examine the interior space making sure the circulation of ch’i is healthy and balanced. I have read that the way in which the layout out and decoration of your home is designed can improve the atmosphere within it whether it be conflict over the living situation or more personal problems. With its many considerations, a Feng Shui analysis of a home starts at the entrance and proceeds throughout the interior.

‘A room of one’s own’ this living room design blends traditional elements with the modern. The mirror above the fireplace balances the opening below, drawing residents ch’i upward, and plants and flowers flanking the fireplace enhance the energy. Gentle curves are positive attributes, and an area of the room used for another purpose is elegantly screened off.

I study Interior Design and I have found reading about Feng Shui very interesting its so apparent in everything and very influential to Interior and Architectural Design in the past, currently and will continue to be in the future.

 

 

 

 

Chinese Making Processes

Cloisonné (Jingtailan)

Cloisonné is the name used to describe the process of enamelling or decorating metalwork. The name derives from the French for ‘compartments’ – ‘cloisons’, as Cloisonné is created by soldering wire onto a metal surface in a pattern, and filling the ‘compartments’ made by the wire with vitreous enamel. Cloisonné first developed in Ancient Egyptian Jewellery and body adornment, where they would use a mix of cut gemstones, glass and enamel.  This technique was very popular and through trading it gradually moved around europe, the Anglo-saxon, Roman and Byzantium empires, Russia, and eventually, in the 14th Century it arrived in China.

Cloisonné Making Process

The Chinese name for Cloisonné, ‘Jingtailan’ refers to the Jingtai Emperor during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The most valued pieces of Chinese Cloisonné are thought to have come from this era, although the earliest pieces date back to the reign of the Xuande Emperor (1425-1435). By the reign of Jingtai, the Chinese had developed very advanced skills in Cloisonné, and therefore created some extremely detailed and beautiful pieces.

Chinese Cloisonné Ornamentation

The Chinese have developed a very distinct style of Cloisonné, and although they did not invent the technique, they appear to be the most famous for it. They often use this technique for pots, vases and ornaments, but it is also used to make pendants and beads for Jewellery. Chinese Cloisonné designs, like many other pieces of Chinese art, are often religious or images of good luck and prosperity. Their designs commonly feature images of winged birds, the Dragon and the Phoenix, which were all thought to be symbols of good virtue. Cloisonné in China is full of bright colours and beautiful patterns and motifs. It is often further decorated with gold and brass sculpture, which gives an extremely rich and majestic look to each piece. (As seen below)

Champion Vase from 18th Century (GW Vincent Smith Gallery, Massachusetts)
Cloisonné and Chinoiserie
In the 18th Century, Chinoiserie became a very popular fashion in Western countries. Through trading and ‘The Silk Road’, many pieces of Chinese furniture, art, fabrics and ornaments found themselves in the West. The rich, and mysterious appearance of these Eastern treasures quickly became very popular, and was in high demand not only from the higher class, but also the middle classes of the Western countries of Europe. Hense, Chinoiserie was developed. The Europeans picked up several techniques which would mirror that of the Chinese. An example of this is ‘Japanning’. A somewhat ignorant name used to describe the process of Chinese style laquerwork. And of course, another example is Cloisonné. This was a very popular technique in the Chinoiserie era, as it looked archetypally Chinese. Its appearance looked expensive and exotic, which is what people wanted.

Jade Carving (Yu)

Soft, smooth and glossy. It appeared to them like benevolence; fine, compact and strong – like intelligence”

Attributed to Confucius (551-479 BC)

The process of Jade carving is originally done by drawing a bow string back and forth to propel a drill, while adding water and abrasive to the stone. Jade is extremely difficult to carve and is sculpted by repetitively cutting, grinding and polishing the stone. It also a very expensive material to work with, and jade carvers must be careful not to waste it. They have to think of ways to make a beautiful design while keeping the carving to a minimum. The way Jade is carved is often symbolic. When carved into a pig, it represents prosperity, when it is in the shape of a disk, it represented Heaven, and when a piece of Jade is enclosed in a square, it represents the Earth.

Chinese Jade Sculptures

Carved Jade is thought to have become popular in China over 7000 years ago, when it was used for weaponry and ornaments. According to the Chinese ‘creation’ story, after man was created, he wandered the Earth with nothing to protect him from wild animals. A storm took pity on him and forged a rainbow into two Jade axes, which it tossed to the Earth for man to find and protect himself with. Since the beginning of Chinese history, Jade has been a prominent symbol of wealth, power, security, good health and strength.

An ancient Chinese proverb states, “You can out a price on Gold, but Jade is priceless”.

According to legend, only Emperors were allowed to posess carved Jade, and it is often referred to by the Chinese as ‘the Stone of Heaven’. A piece of Jade was sometimes placed on the tongue of a dead person to represent ressurection. To the Chinese, Jade is a majestic and divine stone.

Jade was commonly used to adorn the body.  During the Han Dynasty, royal members were buried in suits made of Jade. The suit was made up of several square Jade plates, which were woven together with wire, ribbon or silk.

Jade Burial Suit – Han Dynasty

Nowadays, a common trinket sold to tourists in Chinese markets is a faux-jade Buddha Pendant. Although the Chinese still treasure Jade, it is becoming less fashionable and more commercialised.

“But jade carving is very slow, and it takes a long time to sell, because the market for jade carving is narrow: just a few collectors here and in Japan and America.” 

Quote from a Jade Craftsman in an interview with the Smithsonian.

Buddha Pendant

China in Interaction and Web

China has had a great deal of influence in many disciplines around the world, from textiles to architecture and pottery to animation. Sadly though, China has had very little influence in the field of Interactive Design and is only just beginning to work into the world of influential web design. Because of the many political issues involving access to information on the world wide web in China, the country was very late to get in the game. As such, China’s influence in the web based and interactive media is severely limited.

Due to the fact that little to no digital interaction of note is being produced in China or has been in the past by Chinese designers, there are sadly no ways for China to have innovated under this discipline. And as such, Chinese culture and the Chinese style isn’t at all a part of digital interaction design or web based design around the world. The more the world (and so China) develops and grows, the more of an industry for Chinese made and influenced web based design grows. It’s a small but growing industry due to the legal issues surrounding the access to world wide information. Also, now that Hong Kong is officially a part of China once again, the country has gained a fairly sizeable foothold as many great web designers and design companies reside in the great city

That being said, there are several very influential web designers based around the rest of China. Since they have moved towards the web, more and more fantastic web designers have been springing up such as this one: doopaa.cn, (Upon Interaction and Design) who are part of the East Pai Interactive Technology Company Ltd. a high-end web design and interaction company based in Tianjin, the company also has a branch in Beijing.

The company have designed many web pages, ranging from traditional to modern, Cartoon-y to more serious. Upon Interactive and Design is a very diverse company when it comes to the style of page and the design, but typically tend to focus around traditional Chinese style and culture, using recognizable Chinese imagery such as the warriors on horse-back and the ferocious looking dragon, even taking inspiration from classic Chinese cobalt work pottery. This site, made by Upon, is the first part in a series of three animation based websites made for their own company to promote themselves. Each of the three in the East Pai Series have received high praise from Chinese design consultancies about the quality of their work. Not only do each of these sites entertain you from the aesthetic perspective, but Upon make sure to fully immerse the viewer in the sights and sounds of their pieces.

As a commonality between many Chinese made websites, a large number of designers use Flash in many aspects of the site. Flashps.com is another one of them, along with the three Doopaa.cn sites for the East Pai Series. Adobe flash may be common place amongst Chinese web developers, and often times, flash can be a hassle for anyone without the correct and updated version. Despite this, designers around the world, not only in China are using the tool to their advantage.

EightBridge.com are a world wide known web design company who have done work for hundreds of world wide big name companies while having their main office in Beijing, China. EightBridge are one of the few big Chinese design companies for work for English speaking countries and companies, and as such, bring in a lot of business. Another company working for English speaking companies is Pixology Studios, also based in Beijing. Pixology might be a small company, but with the growth of China’s stake in web based and interactive design, they are bound to take off into the world of web.

Even the Chinese versions of English speaking companies, like the Nokia.cn site uses flash animation to create a fully immersive and interactive section of the site.

China might be late getting into the game, but the level of determination and grit these companies, and freelance Chinese web designers are showing quite clearly show us that they will do their upmost to catch up with the rest of the world. Through the coming years I fully expect to see many more web based and interaction designers coming from China, and I look forward to seeing what they will produce and how.