Dying trades and practices in Hong Kong and where to find them

The unstoppable march of progress is starting to leave once hallowed trades and practices in the dust
Advertising

Gentrification, urbanisation, Westernisation. Whatever the diagnosis is, the prognosis is the same: once treasured trades and practices in Hong Kong are slowly disappearing before our eyes. Thankfully though, they’re not gone quite yet as we take a look at some once-thriving trades and practices on their last legs and where you can find them. 

Unfortunately, these aren't the only things on their way out. Join us down on memory lane as we look at disappearing cultural experiences and things we miss in Hong Kong

Image: Photo by Calvin Sit

Dying trades and practices in Hong Kong

Restaurants, Chinese

Bamboo pole noodle making

icon-location-pin Sham Shui Po

This technique is an age-old method of making noodles in which dough is kneaded with a bamboo pole that's ridden kind of like a see-saw. The long and exhaustive process creates a unique texture in the noodles that can’t quite be achieved any other way. Unfortunately, there are not many places left that still do it, with Lau Sum Kee in Sham Shui Po being one of the last bastions of bamboo pole noodles.

Shopping

Birdcage making

icon-location-pin Prince Edward

Owning songbirds was once a staple of Cantonese culture but since the government banned all travel on the MTR and buses for animals, ownership has diminished and we're seeing the last vestiges of the beautiful handmade birdcages in which they were housed. One of the last remaining artisans of the craft is Chan Lok-choi, who still makes the cages the traditional way out of his shop, Choi Kee in Prince Edward’s Yuen Po Bird Garden – by soaking bamboo in hot water for hours, then bending and moulding the shaved pieces under kerosene lamps, finally nailing them altogether in a process that can take months for a complete birdcage.

Advertising
Shopping

Bus sign painting

icon-location-pin Jordan

Mak Kam-sang is the last standing minibus sign painter, vying against the bland digitisation of bus signs. He single-handedly provides local minibusses’ beautiful hand-painted signs. Although a dying trade, Mak is determined to keep the tradition alive. Support his craft and make a visit to his 200 sq ft room on Battery Street in Yau Ma Tei, where hand-painted souvenir signs are available on request

Shopping

Cheongsam dress-making

icon-location-pin Central

As the golden generation of Shanghainese tailors dies out, the tradition of hand-crafted cheongsams also leaves with them in Hong Kong. Thankfully, it’s not in as critical a state as some of the others on the list – cheongsams are still worn for special occasions and popular during Chinese New Year – and there are still a number of traditional makers to be found in the city. One of the best being Linva Tailor on Cochrane Street, who famously made the costumes for In the Mood for Love

Advertising
Shopping

Mahjong tile carving

icon-location-pin Jordan

While the game itself is alive and kicking, hand-crafted mah jong tiles are becoming a rarity as cheaper, cost-effective mass produced options have increasingly become the norm. Check out our interview with Cheung Shun-king (pictured), one of the last remaining mahjong tile carvers, who still works out of his shop, Biu Kee Majong on 26 Jordan Road.

Shopping

Neon sign making

icon-location-pin Kwai Chung

Practically synonymous with some parts of Hong Kong, these iconic fixtures are sadly going extinct with the on-set of LED adoption and government regulations that started restricting the creation of signs. Recently there's been more of a push to try and preserve these charming light fixtures, with groups like the Hong Kong Neon Heritage advocating to have some of the more iconic fixtures preserved. It's not easy finding places that still custom-make signs in Hong Kong, but they are around. We suggest checking out Wu Chi-kai's workshop in Kowloon – with over 30 years experience, he's one of the city's last great neon sign masters.

Advertising
Shopping

Umbrella repairs

icon-location-pin Sham Shui Po

After five generations and a move from Guangzhou, Sun Nga Shing in Sham Shui Po is a historic umbrella store that is still going strong since its establishment in 1842. One of the last standing stores in Hong Kong that still repair umbrellas – it only costs around $20 and 45 minutes – here at the shop, you’ll find numerous handcrafted umbrellas that the owner Mr Yau has made over the years. Though they’re no longer for sale, Mr Yau is happy to chat about art of making one and how to upkeep your umbrellas.

Looking for more Hong Kong heritage?

Attractions

Hong Kong’s lost buildings

Hong Kong is home to a surprising abundance of beautiful architecture. Unfortunately, not all of it has survived our city’s pell-mell race into modernity. From Victorian private members’ clubs to Hong Kong’s old international airport, here are some of the marvelous structures we’ve lost along the way.

Advertising
This page was migrated to our new look automatically. Let us know if anything looks off at feedback@timeout.com