#MadeInHongKong | 40 Years Creating Handmade Mahjong Tiles - Sister May, the Mahjong Artist

November 11, 2018


Sister May of Kam Fat Mahjong has been perfecting the art of creating handmade mahjong tiles. To HongKongers, the sound of mahjong tiles bumping against each other is definitely one of their favourite sounds. Her shop is located under the staircase (“Lau Tai Dai Pou” - under the stair shop). Through her unique (also) handmade carving tools, May has been enjoying creating some of the finest mahjong tiles for more than 40 years.

Video & Story Credit: HypeBeast



They all call me May.

My parents started working in this field, from 1962 till present, 53 years.

I started working here since I graduated primary school at the age of 13

My father used two years of his wage to buy off this shop.

So I’m going to show you how to handmade these mahjong tiles.

The tools are very basic, but they are hard to source as they’re also handmade.

These are the tools we need to work.

One, two, three, four, five.

And most importantly this light box, as I’m getting old.

This one is to etch the “on dots” tile

It uses the same concept as our pencil compass

This is for the “white dragon” tile

This is for the “bamboo” tiles

You can see the teeth in the centre.

We can etch all the “bamboo” tiles by following the teeth.

People are very smart in the old days, they can use these basic materials to make all the tools needed to handmade mahjong.

We put the tiles on top of the light box to heat them up so the acrylic plastic will soften.

Cause the light bulb is very hot.

The character four on the “four myriads” tile, symbolises someone carrying a big smile on his face.

So it means someone full of joy and happiness (Sei Man Gam Hau = “A Big Smile with teeth”)

Nothin in the world is difficult when you find a way to learn it.

Take Chinese opera as an example.

A performance on stage may last two minutes, but it takes ten year of learning and practicing off stage.

This tool is for etching the “dot” tiles.

We call this the “spinning tool” (Zyun Ga)

I don’t like playing mahjong.

It gets a bit boring after all these years.

The masters we worked with in the past are seventy to eighty years old.

Some have passed away.

Some have changed jobs.

There’s no room to grow in this industry.

People ask why I’m in this job for 40 odd years.

I tell them this place is full of memories.

I think the saddest thing in life is to lose your goal.

My goal is only to earn a few thousand dollars every month to run this place.

My father has brought me here when I was five.

This place is where I grew up.

There’s lots of childhood memories here.

So I don’t want to live.

I don’t earn much, but I love to be here.


#MadeInHongKong #HandMadeMahjong #KamFatMahjong


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