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Made by hand: local treasures of West Kowloon
West Kowloon was the stomping grounds for a lot of master craftsmen back in the day, some of which survive even now. One can turn a corner and still see elderly artisans working copperware with their hands and keeping forgotten crafts alive alongside convenience stores and luxury brand shops.

Witness the masters at work as they ply their traditional crafts with well-practised hands and check in on skilled tailors, mahjong makers, and jade sellers to behold their labours of love, born of decades of experience. Discover Hong Kong’s intangible heritage through the alleys and hidden doorways of West Kowloon, and try your hand at these time-honoured crafts through the workshops hosted by the masters themselves.
Lee Wo Steelyard

Start your trip down memory lane at Lee Wo Steelyard (利和秤號), the last remaining shop in Hong Kong selling steelyards and Chinese scales. In operation for over 90 years, Mrs Ho took over the shop from her father, Mr Wong, a master scales craftsman who began honing his skills at 13 years old. Although she is well into her 80s, she is determined to continue her father’s legacy. She continues to sell handmade scales and weights, made with bone, wood, and steel, as well as abacuses. You can also come across aged customers visiting Mrs Ho’s for repair services for old scales, as well as instruction manuals for more amateur customers. Invented around 200 BC, these scales are used in traditional settings, such as for weighing ingredients by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, in wet markets, by goldsmiths, and in restaurant kitchens.

Address: 345 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Man Kee Chopping Board

Meander down Shanghai Street and you’ll be greeted by a veritable tower of chopping boards, stacked neatly against the shopfront of Man Kee Chopping Board (萬記砧板). Man Kee has been a fixture on Shanghai Street for over 65 years, peddling heavy-duty chopping boards favoured by restaurants, meat mongers, and roasted meat shops. The store is now helmed by the second- and third-generation owners Mr and Mrs Au and their son Mike, who has always taken a keen interest in the family business, and feels the weight of his family legacy the most. Man Kee also sells various kitchenware in addition to chopping boards to keep up with the times.

Address: 342 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Chan Chi Kee Cutlery Company

Chan Chi Kee (陳枝記) is another fixture of Shanghai Street, selling high-quality kitchen knives and other kitchen utensils. Knowledgeable and professional, long-time staff members who have worked for the Chan family for decades witnessed the store’s transformation into the household name it is today. Chan Chi Kee’s clients include Shangri-La and Disneyland, as well as Chinese restaurants all over the world.

Their knives are handmade through the combined effort of four craftsmen, though parts of the process have now been replaced by machinery. Chan Chi Kee’s steel woks are also widely used in local restaurants for stir-frying, touted for their high conductivity and even heat distribution.

Address: G/F, 316-318 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Ming Shan Steel Bamboo Receptacle

Bamboo steamers are a familiar fixture in Cantonese cuisine — head to Ming Shan Steel Bamboo Receptacle (明生鋼竹蒸籠廠) to see them in different shapes and sizes. The owner of the store, Master Lui Ming — who is more than 90 years old — began handmaking bamboo steamers when he was 32 years old and he still handmakes some of the steamers sold there. He pioneered the use of steel rims and joins in bamboo steamers, which resulted in a longer-lasting product that has gained widespread popularity in Chinese restaurants all over the world. The Shanghai Street store is now run by his son Lui Lok-koon, and Master Lui spends his days making custom orders in his Tuen Mun factory, and channelling his lifelong passion for his craft into dreaming up new inventions and perfecting his old ones.

Address: 284 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Jade Market

Jade is believed to bestow good fortune and good health upon wearers, and makes for a popular gift — just be sure to ask for the meaning behind different stones and the significance of the design motifs! Following relocation, the Jade Market nonetheless boasts an impressive collection of stalls selling jade jewellery, trinkets, and sculptures. It came into being in 1984, and is beloved amongst locals and visitors alike.

Although Hong Kong’s jade industry today is not as robust as it was in the 1950s, you can still get an impression of its heyday walking along the dim corridors of the market.

It also houses letter writers specialising in Chinese calligraphy, filling out tax return forms, and other writing services. This industry sprung into being when English was declared as an official language of Hong Kong and most of the population did not know how to read or write in English. While there are still a few of these tradespeople typing away, they are the last of their kind, made redundant in the digital age.

Address: 261 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Koon Nam Wah Bridal

Opened in the 1920s, Chinese bridalwear store Koon Nam Wah (冠南華) specialises in intricately embroidered gowns and jackets, often bearing the auspicious dragon-and-phoenix pattern — regal motifs favoured by Chinese emperors and brides and grooms. Brought to life on silk with gold and silver thread, the patterns are sewn meticulously by hand over the course of weeks to a whole year.

Many local celebrities have enlisted the sartorial help of the shop’s master tailors, including actress and diva Liza Wang and opera singer Law Kar-ying. In addition, their neon shop sign is one of the most recognisable in the area, and one of the last remaining ones still in use in the city.

Address: Shop 16, G/F & 1/F, 383 Nathan Road, Ping On Building, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Cheung Shing Fans Factory

Opened in the 1950s, Cheung Shing Fans Factory (祥盛檀香扇莊) has been selling sandalwood fans and incense on Shanghai Street for over half a century. Once an important part of upper-class society and a status symbol for the well-heeled, sandalwood fans were as ornamental as they were functional. Cheung Shing originally set up shop on Shanghai Street to cater to the boat dwellers who would dock at the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter and come into town for supplies, purchasing everything from food to incense, which is used for safe passage ceremonies at Tin Hau temples and also on board their boats.

Address: 185 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Biu Kee Mahjong

A disappearing craft in this day and age, Uncle King at Biu Kee Mahjong (標記麻雀) is one of the last craftsmen in Hong Kong that still handmakes mahjong tiles. The game of mahjong is deeply rooted in Chinese tradition, traditionally played at family gatherings and during important festivals like Chinese New Year.

Sitting on his work stool facing Jordan Road, Uncle King would deftly etch symbols and numbers onto the smooth plastic faces of the bare tiles, before bringing them to life with technicolour. He inherited the shop from his father and has been honing his craft for over 50 years. Apart from traditional mahjong sets, Uncle King also makes custom tiles that can bear anything from names to cartoon characters. He also hosts mahjong-carving workshops for people who would like to try their hand at making their own tiles, and has worked with local authorities to create pieces for art exhibitions.

Address: G/F, 26F Jordan Road, Jordan
Get me there
Sindart

Miru Wong is the third-generation owner to run Sindart (先達商店), a small store founded in 1958 that sells traditional embroidered Chinese footwear. These silk-brocade slippers were popular amongst ladies of the upper and middle class, who wore them inside their homes.

She began practicing embroidery with her grandmother in primary school, and learnt how to make shoes from her grandfather in high school. Completely handmade, the traditional designs of Sindart’s slippers are infused with modern elements, incorporating animal motifs such as pandas and owls and non-traditional flora like camellia and cherry blossom. Apart from slippers, Sindart also offers flats and heels to be worn outside of the house, as well as accessories and handbags. Miru takes this traditional craft to the next level by incorporating new elements into the product while staying true to its roots.

Address: Shop 16-17, 1/F, Bowring Commercial Centre, 150-164 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
Get me there
Shanghai Baoxing Qipao

Just next door is Shanghai Baoxing Qipao (上海寶星時裝祺袍), where Master Yan patiently handmakes qipaos and Chinese cotton jackets, and has been doing so for over 65 years. All of Master Yan’s work is made to measure, so don’t expect to purchase ready-to-wear stock from his store. He has made qipaos for Miss Hong Kong contestants as well as celebrities like Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, and Michelle Yeoh, and he was responsible for much of the wardrobe of actresses in Wong Kar-wai films. To preserve this invaluable part of Chinese history, Master Yan hosts classes with fashion and design students on the art of qipao making.

Address: Shop 13, 1/F, Bowring Commercial Centre, 150-164 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
Get me there
Lee Wo Steelyard

Start your trip down memory lane at Lee Wo Steelyard (利和秤號), the last remaining shop in Hong Kong selling steelyards and Chinese scales. In operation for over 90 years, Mrs Ho took over the shop from her father, Mr Wong, a master scales craftsman who began honing his skills at 13 years old. Although she is well into her 80s, she is determined to continue her father’s legacy. She continues to sell handmade scales and weights, made with bone, wood, and steel, as well as abacuses. You can also come across aged customers visiting Mrs Ho’s for repair services for old scales, as well as instruction manuals for more amateur customers. Invented around 200 BC, these scales are used in traditional settings, such as for weighing ingredients by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, in wet markets, by goldsmiths, and in restaurant kitchens.

Address: 345 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Man Kee Chopping Board

Meander down Shanghai Street and you’ll be greeted by a veritable tower of chopping boards, stacked neatly against the shopfront of Man Kee Chopping Board (萬記砧板). Man Kee has been a fixture on Shanghai Street for over 65 years, peddling heavy-duty chopping boards favoured by restaurants, meat mongers, and roasted meat shops. The store is now helmed by the second- and third-generation owners Mr and Mrs Au and their son Mike, who has always taken a keen interest in the family business, and feels the weight of his family legacy the most. Man Kee also sells various kitchenware in addition to chopping boards to keep up with the times.

Address: 342 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Chan Chi Kee Cutlery Company

Chan Chi Kee (陳枝記) is another fixture of Shanghai Street, selling high-quality kitchen knives and other kitchen utensils. Knowledgeable and professional, long-time staff members who have worked for the Chan family for decades witnessed the store’s transformation into the household name it is today. Chan Chi Kee’s clients include Shangri-La and Disneyland, as well as Chinese restaurants all over the world.

Their knives are handmade through the combined effort of four craftsmen, though parts of the process have now been replaced by machinery. Chan Chi Kee’s steel woks are also widely used in local restaurants for stir-frying, touted for their high conductivity and even heat distribution.

Address: G/F, 316-318 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Ming Shan Steel Bamboo Receptacle

Bamboo steamers are a familiar fixture in Cantonese cuisine — head to Ming Shan Steel Bamboo Receptacle (明生鋼竹蒸籠廠) to see them in different shapes and sizes. The owner of the store, Master Lui Ming — who is more than 90 years old — began handmaking bamboo steamers when he was 32 years old and he still handmakes some of the steamers sold there. He pioneered the use of steel rims and joins in bamboo steamers, which resulted in a longer-lasting product that has gained widespread popularity in Chinese restaurants all over the world. The Shanghai Street store is now run by his son Lui Lok-koon, and Master Lui spends his days making custom orders in his Tuen Mun factory, and channelling his lifelong passion for his craft into dreaming up new inventions and perfecting his old ones.

Address: 284 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Jade Market

Jade is believed to bestow good fortune and good health upon wearers, and makes for a popular gift — just be sure to ask for the meaning behind different stones and the significance of the design motifs! Following relocation, the Jade Market nonetheless boasts an impressive collection of stalls selling jade jewellery, trinkets, and sculptures. It came into being in 1984, and is beloved amongst locals and visitors alike.

Although Hong Kong’s jade industry today is not as robust as it was in the 1950s, you can still get an impression of its heyday walking along the dim corridors of the market.

It also houses letter writers specialising in Chinese calligraphy, filling out tax return forms, and other writing services. This industry sprung into being when English was declared as an official language of Hong Kong and most of the population did not know how to read or write in English. While there are still a few of these tradespeople typing away, they are the last of their kind, made redundant in the digital age.

Address: 261 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Koon Nam Wah Bridal

Opened in the 1920s, Chinese bridalwear store Koon Nam Wah (冠南華) specialises in intricately embroidered gowns and jackets, often bearing the auspicious dragon-and-phoenix pattern — regal motifs favoured by Chinese emperors and brides and grooms. Brought to life on silk with gold and silver thread, the patterns are sewn meticulously by hand over the course of weeks to a whole year.

Many local celebrities have enlisted the sartorial help of the shop’s master tailors, including actress and diva Liza Wang and opera singer Law Kar-ying. In addition, their neon shop sign is one of the most recognisable in the area, and one of the last remaining ones still in use in the city.

Address: Shop 16, G/F & 1/F, 383 Nathan Road, Ping On Building, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Cheung Shing Fans Factory

Opened in the 1950s, Cheung Shing Fans Factory (祥盛檀香扇莊) has been selling sandalwood fans and incense on Shanghai Street for over half a century. Once an important part of upper-class society and a status symbol for the well-heeled, sandalwood fans were as ornamental as they were functional. Cheung Shing originally set up shop on Shanghai Street to cater to the boat dwellers who would dock at the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter and come into town for supplies, purchasing everything from food to incense, which is used for safe passage ceremonies at Tin Hau temples and also on board their boats.

Address: 185 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Get me there
Biu Kee Mahjong

A disappearing craft in this day and age, Uncle King at Biu Kee Mahjong (標記麻雀) is one of the last craftsmen in Hong Kong that still handmakes mahjong tiles. The game of mahjong is deeply rooted in Chinese tradition, traditionally played at family gatherings and during important festivals like Chinese New Year.

Sitting on his work stool facing Jordan Road, Uncle King would deftly etch symbols and numbers onto the smooth plastic faces of the bare tiles, before bringing them to life with technicolour. He inherited the shop from his father and has been honing his craft for over 50 years. Apart from traditional mahjong sets, Uncle King also makes custom tiles that can bear anything from names to cartoon characters. He also hosts mahjong-carving workshops for people who would like to try their hand at making their own tiles, and has worked with local authorities to create pieces for art exhibitions.

Address: G/F, 26F Jordan Road, Jordan
Get me there
Sindart

Miru Wong is the third-generation owner to run Sindart (先達商店), a small store founded in 1958 that sells traditional embroidered Chinese footwear. These silk-brocade slippers were popular amongst ladies of the upper and middle class, who wore them inside their homes.

She began practicing embroidery with her grandmother in primary school, and learnt how to make shoes from her grandfather in high school. Completely handmade, the traditional designs of Sindart’s slippers are infused with modern elements, incorporating animal motifs such as pandas and owls and non-traditional flora like camellia and cherry blossom. Apart from slippers, Sindart also offers flats and heels to be worn outside of the house, as well as accessories and handbags. Miru takes this traditional craft to the next level by incorporating new elements into the product while staying true to its roots.

Address: Shop 16-17, 1/F, Bowring Commercial Centre, 150-164 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
Get me there
Shanghai Baoxing Qipao

Just next door is Shanghai Baoxing Qipao (上海寶星時裝祺袍), where Master Yan patiently handmakes qipaos and Chinese cotton jackets, and has been doing so for over 65 years. All of Master Yan’s work is made to measure, so don’t expect to purchase ready-to-wear stock from his store. He has made qipaos for Miss Hong Kong contestants as well as celebrities like Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, and Michelle Yeoh, and he was responsible for much of the wardrobe of actresses in Wong Kar-wai films. To preserve this invaluable part of Chinese history, Master Yan hosts classes with fashion and design students on the art of qipao making.

Address: Shop 13, 1/F, Bowring Commercial Centre, 150-164 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
Get me there
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More Routes
  • Heritage & Craftsmanship
    Where modern architecture meets history
  • Cultural Arts
    West Kowloon: art in panorama
  • Cultural Arts
    See urban art in all its forms
  • Culinary Arts
    Feast your way through delicious local flavours
  • Heritage & Craftsmanship
    Where modern architecture meets history
  • Cultural Arts
    West Kowloon: art in panorama
  • Cultural Arts
    See urban art in all its forms
  • Culinary Arts
    Feast your way through delicious local flavours
  • Heritage & Craftsmanship
    Where modern architecture meets history
  • Cultural Arts
    West Kowloon: art in panorama
  • Cultural Arts
    See urban art in all its forms
  • Culinary Arts
    Feast your way through delicious local flavours

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