Professional letter writers were once a common sight on Hong Kong’s streets, but today only a few survive. In the latest episode of our Uniquely Hong Kong series, we talk to Pun Tse-ching about the dying art
Pun Tse-ching, 73, performs a role which is dying out in Hong Kong. He is a professional Chinese letter writer.
As is that case with so many other industries, the rise of modern technology, coupled with higher rates of literacy, have led to a sharp fall in the number of letter writers.
Once they performed a vital role in Chinese society. During the 1950s, for example, they were needed because Hong Kong only had a literacy rate of about 60 per cent.
A professional letter writer or “se seun lou” (寫信佬) writes formal letters for customers in Chinese characters. These can include business letters or correspondence to family and friends abroad.Usually well-educated and highly literate, they were skilled in writing and performed the role of professional secretary. As well as writing letters, they also had to read letters to their customers.