Shanghai’s Only Surviving Wok Maker

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For 51 years, Mr Cen has been making woks in a little shed nestled in an old part of Shanghai.

Spanning 3 generations, this ancient Chinese art of the wok will soon be a thing of the past as urbanisation and industrialisation threaten to revamp this district and on a sad personal note, none of Mr Cen’s kids have the faintest interest in carrying on the family’s business. Now in his mid 70s, the bubbly and chatty Shanghainese maestro is the only surviving wok-maker in Shanghai – his rough and tired hands hammer away producing no more than 2 woks a day.

I bought 2 woks off him today and it only cost me all of RMB200 (£20, S$40). Price aside, that was the equivalent of an entire’s day work for Mr Cen and a superior craftsmanship second to none.

Make this a “Must Go” & do pick up a handmade wok along the way. This, my friends, is the penultimate keepsake for any visitor.

Shop name: Cen Rong Gen

Address: 214 Baoyuan Road, Shanghai, China.

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About Theresa Lim

Hello. My name is Theresa. I am a Singaporean living in London. I love baking, dining out, dancing, laughing and travelling. Currently, I am a Digital Strategist at a media agency to pay the rent. In the near future, I will win The Great British Bake-Off, set up my own Bakery and charity organisation. This is my dream and I will live it one day.

2 responses »

  1. This is amazing that someone is so committed to their craft and it’s sad to see a man, who is just a few years younger than my father, becoming a dying breed in a discipline that, in many places, has already become automated by large corporations.

    If he were able to get his woks online for people, who live all over the globe, to purchase, he could touch many more lives.

    Cheers.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Matthew. A friend and I are currently scripting and want to do a short documentary on Mr Chen in January. This will be a part of a series of videos my friend wants to curate whilst living in China.

      It pains me that an art form will be lost forever and soon, the food that we cook using woks will all be machine-made and once again, strengthening our reliance on technology to survive.

      Fantastic idea about selling his woks online. Unfortunately, Mr Chen will be forced to close down in a matter of months and with rising rental in the city and the fatigue of 51 years finally taken a toll on him, this is sadly going to be unlikely 😦

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