17 November 2018
Construction of the bun towers is an intricate skill passed down through the generations at Cheung Chau.
Construction of the bun towers is an intricate skill passed down through the generations at Cheung Chau.

For ‘bun tower’ masters, it’s more about love than money

The Bun Scrambling competition is a highlight of the weeklong Bun Festival in Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau Island every year. In the competition, participants clamber onto tall bamboo towers covered with buns to snatch as many buns as possible within a specified time. Also, the higher the buns, the more points they get.

Now, the construction of the ‘bun towers’ is a intricate task overseen by skilled artisans through the ages. While the traditional festival remains popular as ever, there is this question: does it offer a chance for the master craftsmen to make big bucks?  

Not really, according to Chan Kam-yuen, whose family has been involved in the construction of the three bun towers for the festival for three generations.

Chan told the Apple Daily that it is more about preserving the traditions and heritage, rather than making money.

The bun tower construction skills are passed on only to direct family members and only to males. The construction of the 50-foot bun towers usually begins in the middle of the third lunar month, with male members taking care of the bamboo work, while females make the buns.

The bun scrambling competition was halted for 27 years due to a bun tower collapse accident in 1978 which injured over 20 people.

The Chan family has said the bun tower that year was damaged by people with ill intentions, while former secretary for the New Territories Sir David Akers-Jones concluded in an investigation report that the collapse was due to sub-standard construction materials. The competition resumed in 2005.

Chan’s 10-year-old son Chan Juen-yat is said to have has taken part in bun tower construction this year. That will certainly be glad tidings to people who fear the loss of old traditions and skills in Hong Kong.

– Contact HKEJ at [email protected]


EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe