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We conduct this talk on request. Suitable for both corporate and social settings. Cost: Pay-as-you-wish after the talk.


After 4 years helming a charity, Ng Tze Yong joined his family business as its 4th-generation apprentice craftsman, picking up an ancient craft from his 92-year-old grandmother and 71-year-old dad.

Established in 1896, his family business - Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop - is one of Singapore's oldest heritage businesses, tucked away in a shophouse among the hipster cafes of Neil Road.

It hand-crafts wooden effigies of Taoist and Buddhist deities using traditional techniques dating back to the early Qing Dynasty, a method which is listed as an official Intangible Cultural Heritage of China used to craft gifts to visiting foreign dignitaries. 

In this personal sharing, Tze Yong will take you on his unconventional journey, sharing his dilemmas, mistakes and insights as a heritage craftsman in 21st-century Singapore.

He will give a glimpse into the secrets of the ancient craft, which revolves around a splendidly-inclusive cast of characters ranging from the historical to mythological, male and female, infants and sages, human to animal, magistrates, warriors, and drunken monks.

He will describe the iconography that is critical to the accurate identification of individuals within this cast, utilising a myriad combination of headwear, robes, armour, weapons, accessories, postures, gestures, eye brows, skin tones, beards, and even sideburns.

He will reflect on what it is like to learn an ancient skill where little was written down, an experience that school doesn't prepare one for.

Amid the knowledge preservation and skills acquisition, he will talk about the family's innovation efforts, which started at New York's Parsons School of Design (better known for fashion models than wooden models). There, Tze Yong chose, as a business case study for his MBA final-year project, his grandma's humble shop instead of the usual Uber, Apple and Amazon.

Gradually over the years, the innovation journey has led to a Monkey God redesign competition and codification of knowledge via 

technology more commonly used in aviation and medical aesthetics.

It was a journey that made his grandma a star on Airbnb Experiences, and led to the set-up of a contemporary education arm - the Academy of Classical Chinese Culture - that helps modern kids fall in love with ancient legends and the life values they embody via experiential learning workshops.

He'd share how amid these, he is rediscovering the meaning of family, work, and life.

Oh, and realising the unobvious: That his grandma's seemingly old-fashioned heritage business was already the OG startup, lasting 130 years and counting.

Cost: Pay as you wish after the talk. Proceeds go to support the social enterprise Academy of Classical Chinese Culture in its work to pass on Chinese culture to the next generation in a non-religious manner. 

Location: Various

Important to note:

* Due to limited slots, bookings are non-refundable.

* Photos of the workshop may be taken and used for publicity purposes.

* Synopsis subject to minor changes.

* Conducted in English