Ever since its inception in 19th-century China, the game of mahjong has grown in popularity around the world. While finding a game set is relatively easy, there is a unique beauty to the traditional tiles handcrafted by Chinese artisans. A now-viral video captures the intricate process of bringing each tile to life—something impressive given the level of detail each tile possesses and how small they usually are.
The clip begins with the craftsman deep cleaning the cattle bones he will later polish and transform into 144 tiles. Given the nature of the material, it's hard to believe they will look as the perfectly flat and uniform pieces we know—yet they do. The cutting and shaping is painstakingly done with analog tools, down to the rounded corners. Each of the pieces features a block of bamboo, traced and cut to perfectly fit the bone layer atop of it.
One would think that the process is about to come to an end when the artisan varnishes and carefully draws the motifs on the tiles, but he is only marking them before painstakingly carving them out. After tracing all the different suites, he gives them their signature color in shades of green, red, and blue. Once the paint has dried up, the artisan gives them a final polish to remove any excess color outside the rims and remove any other imperfections. As he goes through the tiles, he gingerly sets them down in an elegant wooden box for its future owner to enjoy.
While it's hard to pinpoint how much these artisanal mahjong sets retail for—especially considering they are likely made to order—an estimate has them at around ¥5,000 to ¥8,000 ($705 to $1130). Considering the level of craftsmanship that goes into making each tile, these artistic sets surely become treasured heirlooms.
A now-viral video captures the intricate process behind handcrafted mahjong sets—something impressive given the level of detail in each tile.
Watch the video below: