Living Legacies: Paying Homage To Singapore’s Last Industrial Craftsmen

CAPTURE A SLICE OF HISTORY with our limited edition Brass Chinese Chess Set, designed with forest&whale. Each piece is cut and polished by Mr Yee Chin Hoon of Hup Yick Engineering Works, using his skills as a metal lathe craftsman.

Given the current socio-economic changes and no one to take over his metal lathe business, Mr Yee, now 69, is set to retire in the next one or two years. The original intention of the design was not to make chess pieces out of brass, but rather to engage Mr Yee’s expertise to create something that is deeply rooted in our Singaporean culture.

The chess pieces are hand lathed from solid brass. The chess board is made of nyatoh wood, finished with sapele veneer and complete with a nook to store the chess pieces.

The National Collection – Jiang! by Supermama Store illustrates the round concrete tiled stone tables at HDB void decks.

Remember the HDB void deck tables we used to have? The game was so ubiquitous that the communal Chinese chess table – concrete tiled stone tables and stools – became a regular fixture in the void decks of many HDB estates.

A community would gather round to watch and socialise while the game was being played; even today, you can see many elderly people congregating in Chinatown near the Smith Street market playing or watching a game of Chinese chess.

In the auto spare parts community, it is very collaborative by nature of the trade, drawing a parallel with the way Chinese chess is played, where strangers are brought together especially in Chinatown, to watch and sometimes, comment on a game of chess being played. Like the trade, the game is a social glue that binds people.

The Brass Chinese Chess Set encapsulates a time period that has passed, alongside the diminishing traditional gameplay. Gone are also the days when the making of things depended more on hands than machines.

READ MORE ABOUT OTHER LIVING LEGACIES: Preserving Our Heritage Through Art

If you beckon for the rest of mind, you may like the Brass Incense Stick Holder also crafted by Mr Yee from Hup Yick Engineering Works. Pause, meditate and live.

About forest&whale
A design practice founded by Gustavo Maggio & Wendy Chua to create experiences that tell stories of people and spaces; of craft and rituals; of flora, fauna and the environment.

Featured in this post:
Brass Chinese Chess Set
Brass Incense Stick Holder