Traditional joss-paper products reinvented for the 21st century
A festive industry
"Where there are Chinese, there are festivals, and there will always be lanterns and paper crafts," says lion dance master Ha Chung Kin, who started Tin Bo Lau 40 years ago. First, he started making lion heads, then different types of paper offerings, lanterns, and flower arrangements. Tin Bo Lau is now in its 3rd generation of paper craftsmen. Even though you can't buy lion heads here anymore, Tin Bo Lau is your go-to place to find paper crafts for festivals and funerals. "The paper-crafting industry has never deteriorated. The busiest times of the year are the Ghost Festival and Mid-autumn Festival; then, our orders can jampack a 20-feet container!" says Master Ha.
Reinventing old skills
Ha is a proud craftsman: "The art is to reinvent your skills. A paper craft master is someone who can create what the customers want and keeps up with the trends. We created our own version of a two-storey Spanish house with a veranda and backyard, which is now very popular. We also invested in a new type of paper more resilient to water and wind." In his career, Mr Ha has had some unusual requests: "I once was asked to make a giant mummy for Halloween". The Tin Bo Lau crew also hosts lantern-making workshops for students, families, businesses, and prisoners.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of HKSAR's handover, Tin Bo Lau created the largest hanging lantern in the world and broke the Guinness World Record. Their lantern was more than five metres wide and nine metres high.
The most precious piece of equipment in the workshop is an old-fashioned Chinese ruler. "I recently heard the master who makes these rulers in Central was about to retire, so I purchased his entire stock of 1,000 rulers," Mr Ha explains.