Eyebrows furrowed in cautious focus as he chisels photos and Chinese language characters onto mahjong tiles, 70-year-old Cheung Shun-king is without doubt one of the final craftsmen of his variety in Hong Kong. Hand carving enjoying tiles for the favored Chinese language sport was a supply of revenue for a lot of, however the introduction of less expensive machine-made units whittled away at their buyer base and turned their work right into a rarity. Cheung’s household alone used to personal 4 separate outlets, the place as a youngster he realized his commerce. Now just one stays.
“I’ve given my youth to it,” he says of his work. “I don’t know if I’ll have the power to hold on in a couple of years, however for now, I’ll proceed to do it.” Cheung’s retailer is on a avenue lined with mahjong parlours, however none of them purchase their tiles from him. “My mahjong units are costly,” he admits. A full set of hand-carved tiles prices HK$5,500 (US$700), he says, whereas machine-carved ones are round HK$2,000.
The worth displays the time spent making them. Industrial manufacturing of tiles takes about an hour, nevertheless it takes 5 days for Cheung to finish the method of carving and coloring his tiles. A lot of his prospects purchase units as souvenirs and infrequently request custom-made photos.
However Cheung thinks this current surge in curiosity in an previous custom could also be ephemeral. “It’s only in these previous couple of years that folks have felt a way of nostalgia” and are available to purchase his tiles, he says. “What if a couple of years later nobody feels nostalgia?” Regardless of his perception that his trade will proceed to say no, Cheung says he’ll work for so long as he can, till there is no such thing as a demand. He used to conduct workshops for younger individuals however doesn’t need to tackle apprentices due to his pessimism.
“To be taught (this talent) isn’t a matter of 1 or two months—trying it wouldn’t work in case you didn’t immerse your self in it for 2 to a few years,” Cheung says. “If, by then, handcrafted mahjong tiles are not any extra a development, then this talent would develop into ineffective.” Cheung doesn’t know methods to play mahjong himself—his curiosity lies solely in crafting the tiles. He says that being referred to as an artist, nevertheless, is flattering, and a “large praise” for him. “If others say it’s artwork, then it’s artwork. For me, it’s my job, as I’ve to make a dwelling.” — AFP