Using a pair of scissors, a blow pipe and small metal tools, Hong Kong shopkeeper Louis To whittles a chunk of molten sugar into a dragon, a talent he began honing during China’s Cultural Revolution.
To’s shop on Cheung Chau, a small island in the waters west of Hong Kong’s famous Victoria Harbour, has become a must-see for visiting tourists.
There they can watch a man locals dub “The Candyman” sculpt sugar into a host of animals and fantastical creatures.
The technique is a centuries-old folk art form in mainland China but there are few people in Hong Kong with the knowledge or skillset.
The origins of To’s art go back to the deprivation of the Cultural Revolution when he learned to make his own toys.
“During this period, there was no food, there was nothing,” recalled To, who was born in Chaozhou, southern China. “So when I saw other children with toys, I tried to make replicas for myself.”
He remembers being transfixed by the local sugar sculptor who would come to his neighbourhood on a bike and using little more than a kerosene lamp and a few chunks of coal would magic up candied works of art.