Jul 02, 2009|
HK Magazine: How long have you been carving mahjong tiles?
Cheung Shun-king: I’ve been doing this for 40 years but 10 years ago my shop started to sell mostly machine-carved tiles. In the past, I’d start to carve a set whenever I had free time. Now I mostly get requests from people who have lost a tile, but I would still make a full set if someone asked.
HK: What’s the difference between hand-made mahjong sets and the machine-made ones?
CS: The obvious difference is the price. The hand-carved mahjong sets cost at least $2,000 each while the mass-produced ones can be as cheap as $100. Everything is cheaper when it’s made in a factory in China. The appearance is also different. Tiles molded by a machine would have deeper marks while hand-carved pieces would be lighter.
HK: Is the skill difficult to learn? And which suit is the most difficult to carve?
CS: My grandfather opened the shop then passed it on to my father and then he passed it on to me. I never had to actually learn it. I’d been watching them do it since I was a kid, so no, it wasn’t difficult—I just gradually picked it up. It looks tricky, but my family uses a tool specially designed for carving circles. All the suits are the same to me. I can’t say which is the most difficult but the easiest are stones.
HK: There are many mahjong parlors in the neighborhood —does this help your business?
CS: Not at all! Last year, most of the parlors switched to using automatic mahjong tables which can shuffle and stack the tiles automatically. The mahjong set comes with the table so shops like mine can hardly make any profit. This is probably the last generation of tile-makers.
HK: Do you like to play mahjong?
CS: Absolutely not! I don’t know how to play mahjong and I have no intention of learning. I face it all day and wouldn’t want to see it in my time off. And it’s a really addictive habit. Some housewives are so into it they ignore their children. The only thing I play is bridge but I’ve quit that too. I lost way too much money.
HK: What are your tips for quitting gambling then?
CS: If you think about how much you’ve actually lost then you’ll probably lose interest pretty quickly. And after you say no to the gambling parties your friends throw a few times, they will stop calling you. Just cut yourself out of the circle, it’s the most effective way.
HK: Do you invest in the stock market?
CS: No, I’m not interested. In the end it’s also gambling but people use jargon like “investment” or “using your insight” to glorify it. I can’t see how the two differ.