China

To the Sky

Flower Plaques, Hong Kong

“The number of full-time flower plaque maker is less than 20, and even the youngest maker is more than 40 years old. This industry is not popular anymore, and I don’t know how long it will last.” —Choi Wing Kei, flower plaque master craftsman

Flower plaques (花牌 faa pai, in Cantonese) are decorated bamboo structures, typically used for celebrations such as business openings, weddings, and anniversaries. Versatile, lightweight, and temporary, they are made from bamboo frames, wire mesh, paper, fabric, and plastic. Their parts are modular, reusable, and easily assembled and stored. While they resemble memorial arches used in other parts of China, they persist at this large scale primarily in southern China.

Today in Hong Kong, a dozen or so florists continue to make flower plaques. These craftspeople create pieces for storefronts as well as for the facades of temporary bamboo theaters.

FESTIVAL PARTICIPANTS

Wing Kei Flower Shop 榮基花店 is a workshop in New Territories, Hong Kong, that specializes in making traditional bamboo structures for rituals, anniversaries, restaurant openings, and other special occasions. Owner Choi Wing Kei 蔡榮基 learned the craft from his father who had been a bamboo scaffold worker before shifting his focus to making flower plaques for the next several decades. Choi started working with his father when he was thirteen years old, and he established the business—which he runs with his brother—in the mid-1990s. This is one of only a handful of such businesses in Hong Kong that have the knowledge and skills to work in all aspects of bamboo structure-building, from scaffolding to ritual structures and temporary theaters.

Chau Kai Ho 周啓豪, who has been training and working in the business for over three years, also provided demonstrations every day of the Festival. He, like many young people in Hong Kong today, did not previously pay much attention to the tradition of flower plaques. Since working in the craft, he has found satisfaction in meeting the challenges presented by each different project and in the camaraderie of the workshop.

From the Festival

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Choi Wing Kei holds up a piece of a decorative panel that typically gets installed at the crest of a flower plaque. Photo by Michael Moennich, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

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