Dying trades and practices in Hong Kong
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.