The Spirit of Craftsmanship


Many a time we hear people tired or burnt-out complaining about not having their children do their type of  work, or whenever opportunity arises, they will switch to another task to make better money. All these are understandable for the fact that one must get reward for one’s effort, and if you labor hard, you should be rewarded handsomely. But we should also note that money seeking is not the only reason for our work. What is the point of making a lot of money if there is no meaning in what you do? We also remember that we are giving our lives to our work so it is only right that it should be rewarding. It is also true that there is no meaning in what you do if you can’t get a good monetary reward for it.

So is there an ideal profession that can bring both, monetary reward and spiritual fulfilment? One that can help you make good money at the same time giving you endless enjoyment and delight of your trade?


A Good Craftsman?

Today, many young people have not heard about the spirit of craftsmanship? And why artisans can spend days and even years working on a piece of craft to reach perfection? Working is not just labor, it also learning, innovating and continuos creation and regeneration of one’s craft until it becomes an art form.  Whatever the craft is, the spirit and values of getting to perfection is called craftsmanship; In my travels, I am very happy to note, returning to the fine art of Craftsmanship is slowly returning to mainstream.

Greetings at Narita Airport — Yes, what greets visitors at arrival at the Narita Airport in Japan is no longer the beautiful sceneries of the four seasons or the advancement of Japanese industries or technology; but pictures of fine craftsmanship in making bricks, tiles, lacquer and other traditional Japanese products. Japan is one nation that has always put its tradition as part, if not a central part of its modern life; and Japanese culture celebrates their master craftsmen. Recently, the emphasis to return to fine craftsmanship is on the rise. I see an entire magazine devoted to various types of crafts that young people can take up as their lifelong vocation.

Although the other urban centres in Asia is  still slow to resonate this theme, but there are pockets of interest and it is good to note young people are becoming aware of and interested in this. In this discussion; I would like to share some thoughts on why good craftsmanship will provide a sustainable lifestyle, a lifestyle that generations can continue and be proud of.

  1. Success takes generations: All the world’s great craft are not developed overnight; many have long traditions and the knowledge and skill have passed from generation to generation. Look at the Italian Caffe Florian ( 300 years old), the Belgum Beer hose Hoegaarden ( founded in 1445), El Celler in Span that is still faithful to the memory of different generations of the family’s ancestors dedicated to feeding people. There is a certain mission is getting a good job done; and not just having a transient profession to make ends meet and put food on the table.
  2. Exploiting a region’s comparative advantage: One of the success factors to great craftsmanship is not only the presence of some great people, but the environment must also co-operate. Take Cheng Mai in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia for example, there exists villages and villagers who are have great hand-skills in making various crafts. So when western designers get there to work with them, they can exploit the human resource of the area as well as the abundance of local materials.
  3. Find out your vocation: There are young people who do not continue with their higher education after secondary school, and they go out to the work world to find out what indeed suits them. Many could adopt a craft or a skill set, be it of the type in STEM ( Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths), Culinary ( Cooking and food design) or other soft art form ( Music, Dance, Martial Arts, Fitness); after some years of apprenticeship, they realise the importance of academic theory and knowledge for them to go on to higher levels, then they go back to school. This time in school, they are very sure of what they are coming for and why are they spending their time there. They made better students, of course.
  4. Perfecting it with excellence: All great craftsmen have one habit and goal every time, every time when they do their task; perfection. You must have heard of the Michelin Three Star Sushi Master Jiro Ono in Ginza, Tokyo, Japan (, who knows exactly how many grains of rice in one piece of sushi and how long it takes him to do the sushi. It is no wonder he is called the Sushi God. So deep knowledge of the craft was developed and mastered over time, and one has the patience and tenacity to repeat day after day the same task with higher and higher level of excellence. We are happy to hear about the Michelin Star Wanton Noodle, Porridge and Chicken Rice shops in Hongkong and Singapore.  All these have carried a traditional craft and have made great commercial success of them.

If you observe how great craftsman and craftswomen work, they are preoccupied with keeping up with good standards and perfecting their craft for the ultimate enjoyment of their audience. Naturally an appreciative audience will pay good price for the product or service. At the end of the day, one does not only have a respectable financial reward, but has built a sustainable business or craft to be passed on to the family or apprentice for generations to follow.

It is harder to find this spirit in new immigrant nations or cities; more of this traditional crafts are to be found in more traditions rich villages and regions of the bigger nations around the world.  Immigrant cities around the world need more of the return to traditional crafts and art forms.




Published by Global Hanyu

The leading provider of Mandarin and Study China programs

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