The decline of Mahjong tile craftsmen in Hong Kong began since 2000 as demand for Mahjong as a game diminished and machine making products were a replacement. Coupled with high operating costs, no more Mahjong tile factories exist in Hong Kong today except suppliers of automatic Mahjong tables. All Mahjong tile factories have been relocated to the Mainland, but some suppliers have turned their old factories in Hong Kong into warehouses to meet the local demand. Wo Kee Mahjong Supplier (和記娛樂) is an example.
The founder of Wo Kee Mahjong Distributor used to be a Mahjong tile craftsman. He started working in a Mahjong Manufacturing Factory as an apprentice, and later set up his own factory in the Mainland. Besides keeping the semi-automatic carving machines in Hong Kong, Wo Kee keeps Mahjong tiles of many different styles as well as Mahjong peripherals, all of which are a witness to the once thriving Hong Kong Mahjong tile industry. Unfortunately, it is highly likely that Wo Kee may not be able to keep all of the machinery and Mahjong tiles in its warehouse due to the redevelopment scheme of industrial buildings in Fo Tan.
Until now, only very few traditional Mahjong tile retailers remained in Hong Kong. Among the household names are 金發, 標記, 快富, 志明麻雀 and 公友祥 (which keeps the semi-automatic hand-carved machine).
Only a few old hand-carving masters are still quietly and diligently practising in this craft in Hong Kong – no more than 5 of them. The mahjong tile making technique is on the verge of extinction because it takes a very long time to learn – a professional craftsman needs a combination of consummate skills, many years of experience, and carving-sharp focus.
Credit: 和記娛樂 / 公友祥