This is Life in Shantou - A Remaining Wooden Barrel Craftsman

A special series of articles about ordinary people living in Swatow, written by students from Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism

by Zhang Mimi (张咪咪)


Some wooden barrels were piled up in the front, and the sound of wood-planing came out from an old shop on Zhen ping road. If passers-by looked inside it, carpenter Ye Hongjin would raise his head, but then bury it again to continue planing the wood on his hands.

Wooden barrels were piled up on the floor outside the door

59-year-old Ye is the owner of the shop and the only remaining carpenter in Shantou that could make nice wooden barrels by hand. He followed his father to learn how to make wooden furniture when he was 12.

“Most people can make wooden chair, wooden tables because they are easy to make, but now in Shantou, only me can make wooden barrels,” Ye said as he pointed to the barrels outside the door. “However, no one likes to learn about it.”

He usually began to work in the shop from 7 am and went home at 8  pm.

“I never work on wooden furniture at home because it is a place where I have a rest and be with my family,”he said.

 Ye Hongjin lighted up a cigarette, sat beside tools that he used when making furniture.

Ye felt proud of his job but complained that he can find no one that is interested to learn about making wooden furniture, which he thought was a pity.

He has one daughter and two sons. His daughter graduated from university two years ago and now worked in a foreign trade corporation.

“My daughter,” Ye said, feeling proud of her, “She often need to talk to foreigners because of her job.”

His two sons were both now working in Guangzhou.

“Now all my children have their own business,” Ye said. “When I was young, I had to work with my father, we did all we can to earn our living.”

Reporters from Shantou TV station had came and interviewed him in the past years.

“They all asked me if I thought it a pity because no one wants to learn the craft,” Ye said. “Of course I feel pitiful!”

However, he said that he can understand why the young people had no interest in learning about making wooden furniture.

“It is a hard job, bloody and tough,” he said and his voice turned gradually lower. “Now most young people are unwilling to learn about it.”

“But as to me, it has now become my habit and I will continue doing it,” he said.


Article reproduced by kind permission of Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism.


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