Lee Wo Steelyard – Shanghai Street – probably last of its kind in Hong Kong
Connie Fong: “People in Hong Kong may come across traditional Chinese steelyards, a type of balance, in wet markets and Chinese medicine pharmacies. Yet only a few of them know the proper way to use one, though it was the optimal tool for measuring weight in the olden days.
HF: I have tried to leave a comment at the end of Connie Fong’s article posted in The Young Reporter Magazine and emailed TYRM directly to acknowledge inclusion of the extracts and images used here, both without success.
Lee Wo Steelyard, the last store selling handmade steelyards has nestled in Yau Ma Tei for over eighty-five years although digital balances had replaced steelyards and diminished its crafting industry.”
“My goal is to preserve my dad’s spirit and let more people understand about the beauty of steelyard”, said Mrs Ho, the owner of Lee Wo Steelyard. She has been determined to keep her father’s dream alive by operating his store up till this day despite having few successors in steelyard crafting…
…“I hate to say this but this is really a pity for me to witness this unique craft vanishing in the society”, said Ho.
The steelyard shop owner is unable to make any new steelyards at 76 years of age and the stock in her shop are all that she has left. There are only three to four steelyard masters left in Hong Kong and they would soon be retired as all of them are in senility, Ho said.
“I wouldn’t retire until the day I die because the shop is my dad’s ambition in his life and I will do everything to preserve the craft of making steelyard,” Ho said.(1)
“One corner of [Shanghai Street] that looks frozen in time is Lee Wo Steelyard. While the neighbouring store sells digital scales, among other goods, Mrs Ho, 77, still sells abacuses – a must for a traditional bridal dowry and called “everlasting rulers” for measuring happiness.
She also sells various types of steel weighing implements known as steelyards, and large wooden ones for weighing Chinese herbs or use in the kitchen. A tiny, delicate steelyard, which measures down to cash (an old East Asian measurement equivalent to 37.8mg) and candareen (378mg), is used for weighing gold and is the most expensive because it’s made out of cow bone.” (2)
- Weighing ambitions with a steelyard – A skill that bonded father and daughter over decades The Young Reporter Magazine 11th December 2016
- Hong Kong’s Shanghai Street: goldsmiths, craftsmen, kitchenware and prostitutes SCMP 10th March 2017 – includes Lee Wo Steelyard
See: The Young Reporter Magazine is an English news publication run by students of International Journalism in the Journalism Department at Hong Kong Baptist University since 1969. We publish eight times a year and have a circulation of more than 4,000, including tertiary institutions, public libraries, secondary schools, media organisations, legislative councilors, popular cafes and bookstores.
This article was first posted on 15th April 2017.