Janet Lee SCOTT (Hong Kong Baptist University), Eastern Variations of Western Apprenticeship: The Paper Offerings Industry of Hong Kong, English/30 pages, October 2002.


In Qing and Republican China, the apprenticeship system provided an honorable and well-structured means of training the next generation of crafts and tradespeople, of easing the state's burdens in education, and of satisfying industry's needs for workers and workers' demands for security. To accomplish these multiple goals, the apprenticeship system developed a structure providing both technical training and social instruction in the responsibilities of work and the learner's eventual place in Chinese society. This essay discusses the training of the young workers in the paper funeral offerings industry, as it is perceived through modern practices and the recollections of paper masters. The system employed in the paper offering industry displays striking differences to those of other existing trades: great flexibility in the learning process which encourages personal initiative, more balanced interaction between master and learner, and a resulting capacity for self training and a willingness to innovate. The continuing success of the paper offerings industry, which is not merely surviving but flourishing in Hong Kong, owes much to the built-in flexibility and rewarding of innovation which characterize its training of young workers, and demonstrates how traditional crafts can endure in the sophisticated and high-tech atmosphere of modern urban society.

Key Words: traditional Chinese crafts; apprenticeship; funeral offerings; cultural survival; learning and innovation.