Hong Kong is home to many traditional crafts however, without apprenticeships, these skills are dying off as their practitioners age and retire. One app is hoping to breathe new life into these fading crafts through a new series of videos. We asked Calvin Wong from Urban Discovery to explain a bit more about their app and their latest project.
Fung Kwok Ho operates Nam Hing Loong and specialises in elaborately embroidered, handmade Chinese wedding gowns. He’s a true craftsman, taking up to six months to complete a “King” wedding gown by hand, such is the level of detail.
When Mr. Fung pulls down the shutters at the close of business today, it will be for the very last time. After 43 years, he’s retiring, and with no succession plan for the business, Nam Hing Loong will close for good.
His story is part of “Portraits” by iDiscover City Walks, a series of short videos with Hong Kong artisans and craftspeople. It’s about celebrating traditional trades and bringing cultural heritage to life. Each person featured is passionate about the products they create. For them, it’s not about the money. Their devotion goes beyond financial success; it’s their lifeblood. The challenge is to keep these traditional skills and businesses alive in today’s fast-paced society. However, with no firm succession plans in place, these old trades really are in danger of being lost.
Mr. Fung’s situation is not uncommon; many traditional trades and skills are disappearing right before our eyes.
“Portraits” is a project from iDiscover City Walks, a smartphone app offering 2-3 hour, self-guided, off-line, GPS based neighbourhood walks in Hong Kong and other Asian travel destinations. Each walk highlights 20-30 local cultural heritage sites. The neighbourhoods of Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, Sai Kung, and Sham Shui Po are currently available for Hong Kong. Kowloon City and Aberdeen, in collaboration with local organisations Walk in Hong Kong and VeryHK respectively, are due later this year.
The app, in English and the local language, is available for iPhone and iPad with an Android version to be launched in the next three months. Proceeds from in-app purchases are passed on to iDiscover City Walks destination partners in each city to help with heritage awareness and preservation efforts. All “Portraits” interviewees feature in their respective neighbourhood walk. By documenting these traditional trades and the skills of these Hong Kong artisans, we hope to make people more aware of their urban environment and in doing so, make built and cultural heritage more tangible.