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Eastern Hand-painted Ceramics

December 2, 2015

Economies take off, urban development grows and as a result hundreds of old shops disappear and history goes with it. Cao Zhi Xiong is the manager of Hong Kong's last hand-painted ceramic store.  Fifty percent of his products are custom made and most of his output goes to high-end hotels in Hong Kong or is exported to England's upper class as decoration, often emblazoned with a family's coat-of-arms.  

Their ceramic factory in Kowloon Bay is a wonderland of treasures.

Canton woven gold polygrams are from the Ming Dynasty and dates back three hundred years.  It is one of the four major Chinese ceramic styles.  Its uniqueness lies in the master craftsman painting the colourful patterns on a white ceramic ground.

An interview with Cia Zhi Xiong

"My grandfather founded this company back in 1928. and I am the third generation to own it.  I was born in 1949 and I grew up in this factory and I have spent my life here.  Whe I was a child I would help my father with packing and started practising drawing.  Basically I got to try everything, but back then the factory was huge - we had almost the whole village working for us with a staff of over eighty, all living and working together.  I have two children and as the fourth generation they are kind of lucky as they have good jobs and no longer need to work in my factory.  Although a lot of people are still interested in this traditional craft, a lot of young people coming to me are only interested in the drawing part of the process and it has become a hobby for them, not a career. So most of our masters are close to retirement age, so I don't know how we can continue to run the company for much longer."

"The 1980's saw the peak of the company when we had over three hundred staff.  Back then, being a master was something really special and a lot of people would pay money to get into this business.  The masters lead an interesting life, working only when the have eaten well and have had enough sleep.  At that time each master had their own speciality.  Some of them were good at borders, some knew how to draw roosters.  Our business has always been highly regarded by the upper classes, including Hong Kong governors, and we have also been particularly popular in Japan and Europe.