Step into Yuet Tung China Works, Hong Kong’s last remaining hand-painted porcelain factory, and you find yourself surrounded by stacks of dinnerware, each piece painstakingly decorated by hand with vibrant motifs of flowers, fruits and animals.
Joseph Tso, the third-generation owner of the factory, and his small team are among the few people in Hong Kong who have mastered the traditional technique of painting “guangcai,” or Canton porcelain.
It is a fading art in this modern metropolis, as fewer young people are willing to put in the time and effort required to master the craft or to work at the factory full-time.
“The business environment in Hong Kong is not suitable for labor-intensive industries,” Tso said. “Hong Kong’s traditional handicraft industry is gradually declining. It will eventually disappear.”
Guangcai, which comes from the nearby Chinese city of Guangzhou, is characterized by an overglaze technique in which the painter sketches a design on white porcelain and then fills it in with color using thin brushes before firing the piece in a kiln.
Tso’s grandfather established the factory in Hong Kong’s Kowloon City in 1928. It rose to prominence over the years, becoming famous for its delicate craftsmanship and custom dinnerware.