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.

Chinese Animation

Chinese animation began in 1918 when a piece from the United States names “Out of the Inkwell” came to Shanghai. The cartoon clips were used in advertisements for domestic products, however, the animation industry did not begin until the introduction of the WanSi Brothers in 1926. Until the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Chinese animation was relatively on pace with the rest of the world, a sort of golden age of Chinese animation. I was during this time that films such as “The Camel’s Dance”,the first Chinese film with sound, and the first film of notable length, “Princess Iron Fan” were created. During the Cultural Revolution, many animators were forced to quit either because of the harsh economic conditions or because of the general mistreatment given by the Red Guards. Any surviving animators started to lean closer to propaganda and by the 1980’s, China had been left behind and Japan had emerged as the dominating force in animation in the far east. However, two major changes took place in the 1990’s that brought about some of the biggest changes since the exploration period. The first of these was a political change, the application of a socialist market. This pushed out the traditional planned economy systems meaning that it would no longer be a single entity that was in control of the industries output and income. The second change was a technological change brought about by the arrival of the internet, this bringing new opportunities in the form of Flash animations. Today China is drastically reinventing itself within the animation industry with its influences coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Still from "Princess Iron Fan"

In the 1920’s, the WanSi brothers believed that their animations should focus on a style that was distinctly Chinese. This feeling stayed with the company for decades, as such the animations were an extension on other aspects of Chinese art and culture and as such drew most of its content from ancient folklore and manhua. A good example of traditional Chinese animation would be the character Monkey King who was derived from classic Chinese literature “Journey to the West.”.

The first Flash animation community in China was FlashEmpire. It made it’s first appearance in September of 1999. Although it’s content was generally quite amateurish, it was one of the first to offer any form of user created content in mainland China. By 2000 it averaged around 10,000 views daily and with more that 5000 individual pieces of work published, today it has over one million members. Sometime in 2001 Xiao Xiao was created. This is a series of animations about kung fu stick figures. These animations became popular gaining more that fifty million hits, most of these gained in mainland China.

The concept of Chinese animation has begun to loosen up in more recent years, however, it does not lock onto any particular style. The largest change was in 1995 with the release of “Cyber Weapon Z.” Whilst the style is barely indistinguishable from any other anime it has still be categorized as Chinese animation.

In 2001, Time Magazine Asian Edition rated Taiwanese webtoon character A-Kuei as one of the top 100 new figures in Asia. The characters appearance with it’s large head seems to lean more towards a children’s cartoon. These changes signify a welcoming change in Chinese character design as the traditional characters of the folklore like characters have had a hard time gaining international appeal.

A-Kuei

It was published in the first weekly Chinese animation magazine, GoGo Top Magazine, that only one out of twenty favourite characters among children was actually created in China. The Chinese Mainland Marketing Research Company asked 540 kids in four of the mainland cities what their favourite cartoons were, six were Japanese, two were Us made and two were produced in China. It is reported that only around eleven percent of Chinese young people claim to prefer Chinese made cartoons.

Why China has failed to make a big influential impact on western animation

Affirmation of creative interest in rendering the figure in motion date way back to the still drawings of palaeolithic cave paintings. More examples can be found in such art of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Because they had not yet acquired the means to bring these artistic depictions to real movement, they represented them in still images.

However, the first invention to bring these figurative drawings to life with motion was the zoetrope. the earliest zoetrope was created in China by inventor Ting Huan. the zoetrope is a spinning cylinder with still images on the inner wall and open slits around the circumference, that when looked through, show the images inside which appear to be moving if spun at the right speed. The zoetrope was one of the first significant developments in animation history.

However, since the invention of the zoetrope which spun off the fascination with animated film, China’s influence in the industry has rapidly dropped. Textiles, jewellery and other areas of chinese design have become very successful worldwide due to the synthetic traditional cultural style. However, animation seems to be the one subject where the chinese style has failed to innovate foreign tastes.

In the year 2000, the government brought into play a policy to further establish the animation industry. By 2010, the minutes of animation produced in China had increased from 4000 in 2003, to 220,000. Although China is showing a clear development in the animation industry, it does not match up to the animation boom occurring world wide. China has a long way to go before it becomes an influential role model in animation.

 

Another reason for China’s seemingly unpopular animation industry is due to lack of support from the Chinese government. restraint on animation content for example could be due to strict government censorship. in order to promote the chinese animation industry, the state administration of radio, film and television banned any foreign cartoons from being broadcast between 5 and 8 p.m in 2006. The government spends lots of money on animation festivals which attract a great deal of attention but fail to successfully promote the animation film industry. This seems rather pointless therefore, when you consider the fact that the money put into these extravagant events, could be spent on centres and materials to improve animation quality.

images taken from the China Internation Cartoon and Animation festival

 

Another reason for the lack of recognition in the Chinese animation industry is perhaps the fact that their neighbouring country Japan is one of the most successful creators of animation in the world. according to John Lent, author of Animation in Asia and the Pacific, one of China’s weak attributes in animation is the story telling. any good story’s they have are summarily turned into big blockbuster motion pictures.

Li Wuwei, elected vice chairman of the 11th national committee of Chinese people’s political consultative conference explains the lack of interest in Chinese animation. ”we are a big country with a rich culture, but not yet a strong cultural influence. one important reason for this is the lack of innovation on culture. Therefore, our cultural industry is weak in its radiation power and attraction.”

One of the cardinal problems with Chinese animation is the industries ambiguous direction of development. Many animation producers have a very distinct lack of knowledge on chinese culture and in order to attract a foreign audience, they unthinkingly abide by rules and models of other animations about the globe. In doing so, they lose that certain sentimental aspect and become less valuable in the animation world. Their productions hold no special influential quality for foreign viewers and alienate any cultural value to those from China.

On the other hand there are certain animators in china who trap themselves within tradition cliche’s, ignoring the integration of other cultures. mainly the story lines are too embedded in Chinese culture to make them playable to audiences abroad. There is a balance to be made before Chinese animation will become popular worldwide.

Princess Iron Fan (1941) China’s first animated feature film

 

 

 

Silk

China were the innovators in the production of silk many centuries ago and  managed to withhold the secrets of  how the material was made. Silk  therefore only traveled to the western world through the many trade posts stretching from China  all the way to Europe, known as “The silk road”(although not actually just one road).  Silk was grown, harvested and weaved in China and in the early years were only to be worn by Royalty as it was an extremely rare material, but as China developed their techniques it soon become available to people of “social status” /”aristocrats” then to the masses. Asia is still to this day the largest producers of silk, China being the largest then followed by India and imports  travel worldwide to reach popular demands. When Europe finally  did find out how to make silk  the production increased in Italy for a long time, but as mentioned, today Asia are the largest producers, this could possibly be due to the combination of skilled a workforce and cheaper labour in the countries compared to other countries.

Silk is a natural(protein) fibre that is obtained from the cocoon of the  silkworm which is native to China (hence their innovation in this material).  The silkworm’s main food source comes from Mulberry leaves , but it is possible for different species to feed on different types of leaves and therefore produce different variations of silk raging from fine to coarser silks. Non-mulberry silks, as they are known, include Tasar, Eri and Muga silks and they have distinctive colours and properties.

Once silkworms eat the mulberry leaves and reach their full growth they then begin to spin a cocoon around themselves. After they hatch into moths the cocoons that are left behind are collected to produce silk.  The cocoons are boiled in water then spun into threads and/or weaved into silk. Silkworms have been completely domesticated and do not exist in the wild, so essentially they are only bred for the production of silk.

Silk is the strongest natural fiber that there is, it is extremely versatile and strong which makes a practical material to use in many products. It is also luxurious, delicate, smooth, shiny and simply a beautiful material  that can also be easily dyed and these properties make it extremely attractive to different industries.Having so many   incredible qualities allows  silk  to be such a popular material. In both the fashion industry and interior markets silk is used in their products from clothing to fine furnishings. Silk is a popular material for clothing (for both womanswear i.e dresses and menswear i.e ties) as it can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer and it is extremely light and flexible, so is therefore comfortable to wear. To add to the attractiveness of silk, it can be dyed different colours to fit changing fashion trends and beads or embroidery can be easily added to the fabric.

Alongside the “boom” of silk production the Chinese artwork and crafty embroidery styles also developed. Working into the silk with fine embroidery threads produced incredibly beautiful and detailed designs whither it be of people, animals/mystical creatures, flowers or objects. As an ancient form of artwork there are four major styles that developed in China which were “Su embroidery”, “Xiang embroidery”, “Yue embroidery” and “Shu embroidery” and all had slightly different techniques. “Su embroidery” was known to be very intricate, “Xiang embroidery” used many colours emphasising tonal changes,” Yue embroidery”  was complicated and used very bright colours and “Shu Embroidery” was very neat. As well embroidery another popular art form developed  in China and applied to silk was “silk painting” as silk was “invented” before paper so it was a popular material to paint on to.

China was fortunate enough to innovate the production of silk all thanks to the silkworm native to the country and are innovators in techniques that can be applied to silk. As a textile student I enjoy using silk as I am aware of course it’s great properties and  of course it’s  popularity. I can easily add my printed design onto the fabric and work on top of them to add more texture(embroidery), all things that the Chinese developed centuries ago are still being applied today.