How Mahjong Laid Tiles for Chinese America

The Popular Game Helped Forge a New Identity as it Crossed Classes, Genders, and Generations

The rumble of shuffling mahjong tiles filled the air in Chinatowns across the United States in the 1920s. Before even seeing the game, you could hear it being played in apartment buildings, association halls, and back rooms of general stores. You might assume that most Chinese Americans were already familiar with mahjong long before the colorful, complex tile game hooked the broader American public, but the opposite is true: Before the early 20th century, mahjong was not a widespread part of Chinese culture, particularly in the regions from which most …

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Stop Using Homelessness to Hate on California | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Stop Using Homelessness to Hate on California

A Tradition as Old as the State Itself Has Caused Lasting Damage

In California, homelessness is a long-running crisis. And it is a human tragedy for an estimated 160,000 unhoused people.

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By What Metric Do We Measure Our Humanity? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

By What Metric Do We Measure Our Humanity?

Traversing Iceland's Unfamiliar Landscape, By Inch, Foot, and Stride

Driving through Iceland, the foreboding moonscape of the lava fields gives way to the mysteries of mist-shrouded mountain peaks. It is a place where the tumbling beauty of waterfalls spills …

tktk | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Elvis Is an American Tragedy. Elvis Is Just Tragic

The Singer's Story Has a Lot to Say About This ‘Pitiful Country’—But Baz Luhrmann's Biopic Ain’t Nothin’ But a Dog

There’s much to be said about Elvis Presley, the quote-unquote King of Rock ‘n’ Roll who shook the country as a white kid singing Black America’s music.

But despite its nearly …

The Whitewashing of Mexico City’s Hand-Painted Signs

A Ban on Colorful Rótulos Is Making for a More Generic Streetscape

This April, the government of Mexico City’s central Cuauhtémoc alcaldía, or borough, mandated that all its rótulos—the hand-painted signs decorating street vendors’ kiosks—be erased. The colorful optical illusions, diverse typographies, …

Bread and Conflict in Ukraine | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Bread and Conflict in Ukraine

The Central Role of Wheat in War Determines Whether Nations Starve or Survive

Russia and Ukraine control about 11.2 percent of the world’s arable land, and supply 28 percent of its exported wheat. A substantial portion the world’s most fertile wheatfields lie along …