Mahjong, Amsterdam 1992

Mahjong '92 A'dam

Yin and Yang, Avenue Magazine, October 1992

“Chinese it has to be.” the stylist said. “Anything Chinese. We need to do a story on Chinese influences on fashion. I’m really sure it’s the next big thing.”
I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion China had been the next big thing for the past 5000 years. But in this case it concerned fashion and all of a sudden I was not so sure anymore. Talking about food I knew how big Chinese influences had been throughout the ages, or wisdom, thinking of Lao-Tse and Confucius, revolution, having Mao in mind or fire crackers, thinking of New Years eve, but fashion?

Not knowing what to do I went to the Chinese quarters of Amsterdam, a Chinatown similar to the ones you find anywhere in the world – from London to Singapore, from Texas to Madrid.

I saw the restaurants where I loved to go, and had dim-sum for lunch or roasted duck Beijing style. The gambling houses, off limits for non-Chinese, the grocery stores, the souvenir shops with all kinds of stuff for incredibly low prices and the doors with nameplates mentioning doctors practicing traditional Chinese medicine.

“What are you looking for?” a friendly old man dressed in shorts and a ‘wife beater’ asked me when he saw me wandering around. “Can I help you?” “Maybe, I don’t know.” I answered and tried to explain that I was looking for inspiration.
“Oh, yes. I understand.” He smiled at me and I noticed he had hardly any teeth. “You make pictures. Just make them in front of my store, very Chinese and here, come, look.”

He invited me to enter the empty space behind him that probably once had been a restaurant and gave me a red painted piece of wood with some golden characters on it. “You take this. Use it somewhere on the wall. Very Chinese. Bring it back when you are ready.”

A week later, I went back to the store to return his property.
The place was empty. No one answered when I rang the bell.
A note on the door said: “Closed. Out of Business.”
I always kept the sign but only recently I found out what the meaning was of what was written on it. Very Chinese indeed.


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