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Hidden Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s last hand-painted porcelain workshop

By Amanda Sheppard 18 March 2019

Hong Kong was once home to a thriving ceramics industry, but now only one remnant of the city's creative legacy remains. And with no clear successor in place ready to take the reins, its fate remains uncertain. Yuet Tung China Works was the first hand-painted porcelain factory to set up shop in Hong Kong shores in 1928, and 91 years later, its doors remain open, but it lies on borrowed time. The city’s only remaining hand-painted porcelain workshop—while still in operation—has just three painters now.

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The craftsmen have developed a reputation among Hong Kong businesses and consumers alike for their guang cai—a type of ceramic hailing from the Guangdong province in mainland China that dates back to the Qing dynasty. The porcelain boasts bright colours and intricate, ornate designs.

The industry saw its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s when Yuet Tung’s own business was booming, with three factories of its own across Hong Kong and Kowloon. Today just one workshop remains, tucked away on the third floor of a building in the Kowloon Bay Industrial Estate. The business is run by Tso Chi-chung, who has assumed ownership from the third generation of Tso porcelain painters.

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yuet tung china works - hong kong dying arts

Photo credit: Jenny Leung

Yuet Tung stocks a wide range of products, from vases and planters to lamp bases and ornate fish bowls. It sells its wares to several of the city’s luxury hotels and restaurants. Individuals can also purchase excess stock and final run pieces at discounted rates, while there is also the option to place a customised order from clients looking to create one-of-a-kind, personalised designs. Visit the workshop’s website to find out more.

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Following a brief and bitterly cold stint in Scotland, Amanda returned to Hong Kong—a place she’s called home for over 18 years—to begin her career as a writer. She can often be found getting lost somewhere very familiar, planning her next holiday, and enjoying a cup (or three) of good, strong coffee.

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