The man behind the Huntington’s Chinese Garden art

Before he left China in 1986, Che Zhao Sheng’s shifu, or teacher, said to him, “After you go to the United States, share some of our Chinese culture with them if you have a chance.” The shifu was a penjing master, the man who taught Che the art of creating miniaturized trees and plants in pots, pruned and constricted over time to take the shape and spirit of their full-size siblings.



a blurry image of a man: The Huntington's resident penjing artist, Che Zhao Sheng, in the newly expanded Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. (Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)


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The Huntington’s resident penjing artist, Che Zhao Sheng, in the newly expanded Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. (Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)



One of Che Zhao Sheng's penjing at the newly expanded Chinese Garden. (Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)


© (Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)
One of Che Zhao Sheng’s penjing at the newly expanded Chinese Garden. (Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)

Today, more than three decades later, the student is fulfilling that legacy, and in a major way. Che is specialist gardener for the penjing court, the Verdant Microcosm, in the newly expanded Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.

A spry 69-year-old with a broad-brimmed straw hat and a water bottle tucked into the side of his workman’s pants, he is surveying the 21 penjing brought from his home garden, plants that have been unloaded in a cluster on the ground. He points out the varieties — Chinese elm, olive, ficus — then suggests we go look at one of his favorites down the hill.



a vase with flowers in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Che Zhao Sheng places a penjing on its stand in preparation for the Chinese Garden expansion's opening. (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)


© (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)
Che Zhao Sheng places a penjing on its stand in preparation for the Chinese Garden expansion’s opening. (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)

The court is composed of winding paths, whitewashed walls and occasional pieces of gnarled Taihu rock imported from Lake Tai in China. We pause before a twisting juniper tree a few feet high, positioned on a stone pedestal, dramatic against a creamy wall. Its elegant, broad canopy flows from a weathered trunk. Che is anxious to finish installing the other penjing in time for previews, so we head back up the hill. It looks like the other gardeners are on break, so we continue our interview in the shade of the pavilion that overlooks the landscape.

Born in Guangzhou, China, Che started studying penjing when he was 26. He practiced with Lu Zhi Quan, the son of noted master Lu Xue Ming, in Guangzhou, and later became a student of Master Lu himself. In 1986, Che immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in San Gabriel.



Teruo Chinen wearing a blue shirt: Penjing specialist Che Zhao Sheng. (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)


© (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)
Penjing specialist Che Zhao Sheng. (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)

“When you first arrive as a Chinese [immigrant], you’re penniless,” he says in Chinese. “You have to be willing to do all kinds of work.” He’s taken jobs in restaurants, he’s worked as a residential gardener. He started as a volunteer at the Huntington, helping to develop and to tend to a small collection of black pine penjing.

“When we began building the Chinese Garden,” says

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The magical new Chinese Garden at the Huntington is the getaway you need right now

Enchanting. Extraordinary. Entrancing.



a body of water surrounded by trees: The new Stargazing Tower, with its sweeping view to Mt. Wilson, commands the highest point in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


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The new Stargazing Tower, with its sweeping view to Mt. Wilson, commands the highest point in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Really, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the $25-million completion of the magnificent Liu Fang Yuan — the Garden of Flowing Fragrance — at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. But that’s probably for the best, since a description with too many embellishments would go against the core aesthetic of the now 15-acre space commonly known as the Chinese Garden, which finally opens to the public on Friday.

The newly completed garden should have opened in May, with great fanfare and many public events, but the COVID-19 pandemic ended those plans and forced the closure of the institution for several months. In this respect, the pandemic has been a bit of a gift: It gave the landscapers more time to complete plantings, and now that the Huntington has reopened, with social distancing rules limiting daily attendance, visitors will be able to experience the Chinese Garden without the usual crowds.

That’s a lucky thing, because the garden is a meditative spot, with something to inspire or delight at every step — turtles posing in the Lake of Reflected Fragrance, near the weaving Bridge of the Joy of Fish; the intricate pebble mosaics on the walkways and courtyards; the huge contorted oaks sprawling over the new courtyard outside the Flowery Brush Library; the garden’s handmade charcoal-colored roof tiles and swooping roofs; the whimsical cutouts in the freestanding walls; the giant limestone rocks looming throughout, like sculptural deities.

The good news-bad news is that experiencing the Garden of Flowing Fragrance will take patience. Because of the pandemic, all admissions to the Huntington are by reservation only, even for members, who enter for free. Timed-entry tickets become available at noon every other Tuesday, including Oct. 6, but because attendance is limited, it’s likely slots will fill quickly for people wanting to visit on the Chinese Garden’s official opening day.

But persist. (Masks are required at all times at the Huntington — and be prepared for questions about your health and having your temperature checked before you enter.)

Be sure to bring a smartphone, unless you are well versed in Chinese history and calligraphy. The pavilions, courtyards and many of the larger rocks reveal a poem or name carved in calligraphy, China’s most popular art form, and those words can give new meaning or insight into the scene before you. For nonscholars, the Huntington has created audio guides and a GPS map you can access on your smartphone to get descriptions of what you’re seeing, or the translations of the characters carved into wood or rock.

Indeed, the garden’s place names are poetry in themselves: consider the Studio for Lodging the Mind, the Terrace of Shared Delights, the Verdant Microcosm (dedicated to miniature potted landscapes known as

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Daniel Stowe Garden cancels Chinese Lantern Festival, but not directly due to COVID-19

A festival that drew hundreds of thousands of visitors on its first stop in the Charlotte region will not have an encore this year.

The popular Chinese Lantern Festival, scheduled to begin Oct. 15 in Belmont, has been canceled, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden said Thursday in a statement.

Hanart Culture’s festival was featured at the garden in fall 2017 and attracted more than 100,000 visitors in eight weeks, according to the statement. More than 800 hand-crafted Chinese lanterns were set up on 12-plus acres in the formal gardens and public spaces, the Observer previously reported.

The festival had previously been rescheduled from August to October because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The show’s producer is based in the U.S. but depends on Chinese artists. U.S. embassies and consulate offices are closed or operating on a limited basis throughout Asia, so Hanart Culture was unable to secure visas because of “ever-changing policies,” a trickle effect of COVID-19, according to the garden.

“We had become confident in our ability to implement an incredible experience in a safe and healthy manner, but rescheduling at this time isn’t practical,” said Jim Hoffman, the garden’s interim executive director.

Ticket holders can receive a refund or receive a deal on tickets to the annual Holidays at the Garden beginning in late November. More details about this year’s event will be released soon.

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Chinese Lantern Festival at Daniel Stowe Garden canceled

A festival that drew hundreds of thousands of visitors on its first stop in the Charlotte region will not have an encore this year.

The popular Chinese Lantern Festival, scheduled to begin Oct. 15 in Belmont, has been canceled, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden said Thursday in a statement.

Hanart Culture’s festival was featured at the garden in fall 2017 and attracted more than 100,000 visitors in eight weeks, according to the statement. More than 800 hand-crafted Chinese lanterns were set up on 12-plus acres in the formal gardens and public spaces, the Observer previously reported.

The festival had previously been rescheduled from August to October because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The show’s producer is based in the U.S. but depends on Chinese artists. U.S. embassies and consulate offices are closed or operating on a limited basis throughout Asia, so Hanart Culture was unable to secure visas because of “ever-changing policies,” a trickle effect of COVID-19, according to the garden.

CHINESE_LANTERNS_01 (2)
Lanterns shaped as tigers were part of the Chinese Lantern Festival at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont in 2017. The festival has been canceled for 2020. John D. Simmons Observer file photo

“We had become confident in our ability to implement an incredible experience in a safe and healthy manner, but rescheduling at this time isn’t practical,” said Jim Hoffman, the garden’s interim executive director.

Ticket holders can receive a refund or receive a deal on tickets to the annual Holidays at the Garden beginning in late November. More details about this year’s event will be released soon.

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Catherine Muccigrosso is the retail business reporter for The Charlotte Observer. An award-winning journalist, she has worked for multiple newspapers and McClatchy for more than a decade.

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U.S. Targets Only One Percent of Chinese Students Over Security: White House Official | World News

By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is targeting only about one percent of the 400,000 Chinese students in the United States over China’s bid to gather U.S. technology and other information, a top White House said official said on Wednesday.

Matt Pottinger, the deputy White House national security adviser who has been a leading figure in the development of President Donald Trump’s China policy, said the vast majority of Chinese students were welcome.

“It’s a surgical approach,” Pottinger said in a online event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Institute, referring to the administration’s policy of denying student visas to Chinese nationals it considers a security risk.

“President Trump has taken action to target roughly one percent of that massive number, to target military-affiliated Chinese researchers who are in some cases here under false pretenses or even false identities,” he said.

Other cases involve individuals who have come to the United States to gain access to “technologies that would be useful to Chinese military advancement or to the repression of their own people,” he added.

Pottinger said the overwhelming majority of Chinese students were “people that we’re glad to have here, and many will stay here and start great businesses.”

The U.S. action against Chinese students has come at a time when China-U.S. relations have sunk to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to Trump’s Nov. 3 re-election bid. The world’s two biggest economies have clashed over issues ranging from trade and human rights to Hong Kong and the coronavirus.

The U.S. State Department said this month the United States had revoked visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers deemed security risks. China called this a violation of human rights.

Washington said the action followed a May 29 proclamation by Trump in response to China’s curbs on democracy in Hong Kong.

The large number of Chinese students studying in the United States bring significant revenue to U.S. universities, although the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted returns to campus this fall.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.



a person sitting at a table in front of a sign: Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments


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Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments

Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

THE IC GETS A LESS THAN STELLAR REVIEW: A House committee warned Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community is not equipped to handle evolving threats from China in the fields of technology and politics.

The House Intelligence Committee detailed its findings in an unclassified summary of a report, approved for release by the panel by voice vote, that delves into the intelligence community’s (IC) capabilities to respond to Chinese threats.

“The United States’ intelligence community has not sufficiently adapted to a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China and the growing importance of interlocking non-military transnational threats, such as global health, economic security, and climate change,” the committee wrote in its summary.

“Absent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government and intelligence community will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable continued U.S. competition with China on the global stage for decades to come, and to protect the U.S. health and security,” the committee added.

The report said the IC places “insufficient emphasis and focus” on “soft threats,” such as viral pandemics and climate change, and that if the IC did not modernize systems to increase focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, national security could be undermined.

On the technological front, “China’s continued advancements in cyber and space-based systems also introduce the likelihood of entirely new domains of conflict in the event of a contingency,” which could serve to “extend the battlefield to our political discourse, mobile devices, and the very infrastructure that modern digital communication and communities rely upon,” the lawmakers wrote.

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) acknowledged the shortcomings laid bare by the report, saying in a statement that “our nation’s intelligence agencies have a lot of work to do to fully address the challenge posed by China.”

Read more here.

MORE CHINA CONCERNS: The House GOP’s China task force unveiled its full report laying out hundreds of recommendations and legislative suggestions to combat threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday.

The report includes more than 400 policy recommendations to address issues ranging from national security concerns, human rights violations, problems with the supply chain, Beijing’s missteps in its handling of the pandemic and China’s overall expanding influence on the world stage.

The task force – which is made up of 15 GOP lawmakers who sit on 11 different committees – was initially slated to be bipartisan before Democrats ultimately opted out before its launch in May.

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DRIVERS TO

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House panel says US intelligence community not equipped to address evolving Chinese threats

A House committee warned Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community is not equipped to handle evolving threats from China in the fields of technology and politics.

The House Intelligence Committee detailed its findings in an unclassified summary of a report, approved for release by the panel by voice vote, that delves into the intelligence community’s (IC) capabilities to respond to Chinese threats.

“The United States’ intelligence community has not sufficiently adapted to a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China and the growing importance of interlocking non-military transnational threats, such as global health, economic security, and climate change,” the committee wrote in its summary.

“Absent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government and intelligence community will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable continued U.S. competition with China on the global stage for decades to come, and to protect the U.S. health and security,” the committee added.

The report said the IC places “insufficient emphasis and focus” on “soft threats,” such as viral pandemics and climate change, and that if the IC did not modernize systems to increase focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, national security could be undermined. 

On the technological front, “China’s continued advancements in cyber and space-based systems also introduce the likelihood of entirely new domains of conflict in the event of a contingency,” which could serve to “extend the battlefield to our political discourse, mobile devices, and the very infrastructure that modern digital communication and communities rely upon,” the lawmakers wrote.

Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump official releases unverified Russian intel on Clinton previously rejected by Senate panel Schiff subpoenas Homeland Security, charges ‘unlawful obstruction’ Schiff to subpoena top DHS official, alleges whistleblower deposition is being stonewalled MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged the shortcomings laid bare by the report, saying in a statement that “our nation’s intelligence agencies have a lot of work to do to fully address the challenge posed by China.”

“After 9/11, we reoriented towards a mission to protect the homeland, and were very successful. But after two decades, the IC’s capacity to address hard targets like China has waned,” Schiff said. “Absent a significant and immediate reprioritization and realignment of resources, we will be ill-prepared to compete with China — diplomatically, economically, and militarily — on the global stage for decades to come.”

Committee staff reviewed thousands of assessments and conducted hours of interviews with intelligence community officials in compiling the report, which recommended a series of steps to ensure the IC can keep up with evolving Chinese threats.

Those recommendations include the White House conducting a review of the IC’s budget, the IC prioritizing its training of employees on China-focused issues and the formation of a “bipartisan, bicameral congressional study group” to evaluate if changes need to be made.

“It’s my hope that the Intelligence Community will work hand-in-hand with the congressional oversight committees to make these necessary changes quickly. We should all have the same goal — ensuring the U.S. and its intelligence

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House GOP China task force releases report on combating Chinese Communist Party: ‘The U.S. must act decisively’

House Republicans Wednesday will release the results of their monthslong probe into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and how the U.S. can turnaround a “failed” engagement strategy that has put Americans’ safety and prosperity at risk.

The China Task Force report, to be released in full later Wednesday, makes 83 key findings and 430 policy recommendations on how the U.S. can better combat the threat of the CCP, whose malign activities have gone unchecked for too long, the GOP leaders say.

“This report is the blueprint for bipartisan actions Congress and the Administration can take now to address the greatest national and economic security challenge of this generation,” the task force report says.

REPUBLICANS UNVEIL NEW AGENDA IF THEY WIN BACK HOUSE

The recommendations include securing the medical supply chain by boosting U.S. production, allowing the Department of Defense to fund experimentation of emerging technologies to modernize the U.S. military faster and to require the Treasury Department to sanction China.

The report also calls for the U.S. to secure a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan, to require heightened scrutiny of Chinese investment in U.S. companies, and to cut off material support for CCP military-industrial base companies.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 15: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with House Republicans, conduct an event on the House steps of the Capitol to announce the Commitment to America, agenda on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The plan outlines ways to restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, and renew the American dream. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 15: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with House Republicans, conduct an event on the House steps of the Capitol to announce the Commitment to America, agenda on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The plan outlines ways to restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, and renew the American dream. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The China Task Force, comprised of 15 GOP members, was formed in May to assess the threat of the Chinese Community Party and come up with legislative solutions on how to combat the risks. The work has taken on greater importance during the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China before killing more than 1 million people worldwide.

In the aftermath of shortages of personal protective equipment in the United States, the task force has honed in on securing the medical and national security supply chains through targeted tax incentives to speed up production of critical goods. The GOP representatives also call for providing a safe harbor for Hong Kong refugees and to determine whether the crimes against the Uyghurs, a persecuted ethnic minority in China, amount to genocide.

REP. KEVIN BRADY CALLS FOR PROBE INTO WHETHER TRUMP’S TAX INFORMATION RELEASE WAS ‘ILLEGAL’

The China task force was initially set to be bipartisan, but Democrats bailed on the effort, the Washington Post first reported. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., however, plowed forward with the GOP effort anyway and named House Foreign Affairs Committee Republican Leader Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman.

Since May, the task force has met with 125 people, including policy experts, business leaders and bipartisan current and former administration officials.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairs the China Task Force

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairs the China Task Force

The U.S. established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China more than 40 years ago.

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New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden to officially reopen this weekend

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A special portion of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden is officially reopening this week.

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, which closed in March due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, will begin to welcome visitors again on Saturday. It will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” said Aileen Fuchs, president and CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden. “We’re thrilled to make this local treasure available once more for our community to find peace and wellness, and to enjoy the dynamic culture represented by the garden’s details and story.”

Snug Harbor staff members are urging visitors to maintain a distance of six feet from other guests, wear a mask while in the garden, practice good hygiene and stay home if they are sick.

Tickets, which are on sale inside Cottage E, are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (65+) and students, and free for children 5 and under and active military members through the Blue Star program. Entrance into Snug Harbor is free and there is ample parking.

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden officially opened in June 1999 and is one of only two authentic classical Chinese scholars gardens in the United States. Materials were shipped to Staten Island in the spring of 1998, when a team of 40 Chinese artists and artisans from Suzhou constructed the garden. It has since attracted thousands and been the center of private events along with film and photo shoots.

This time last year, the CBS television show “Madam Secretary” filmed inside the garden.

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is located in the southwest corner of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terr. in Livingston, near the Healing Garden and the Connie Gretz Secret Garden. For more information, visit Snug-Harbor.org.

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how five professional chefs chose theirs, from a humble Chinese cleaver to the Ferrari of sushi knives



a close up of a person with a knife: Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson


© SCMP
Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson

Since the Covid-19 pandemic blew into Hong Kong in late January, restaurants in this foodie capital have been fighting for their lives. Now with the third wave, hopefully, under control, eateries are finally being allowed four to a table and opening hours approaching some semblance of normality – and profitability.

As they prepare to get back to work, chefs across Hong Kong are sharpening their knives. These tools come in many shapes, sizes, and prices, from the inexpensive chopper used by Cheng Kam-fu at the Michelin-starred restaurant Celebrity Cuisine to Mitsuhiro Araki’s katana-like sashimi knife, which is of such high quality that it could be in a museum.

Knives are more than every-day kitchen equipment. Many of the city’s chefs have an intimate relationship with their favourite blade, recalling exactly when and where they bought it, and how it became an extension of their body.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.



a woman holding a phone: Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: Antony Dickson


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Chef Vicky Lau, of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, with her Sasuke knife. Photo: Antony Dickson

Vicky Lau

The owner of the one-Michelin-star Tate Dining Room, in Sheung Wan, has about 20 knives, but her favourite is the one she bought last year in Japan.

“I went on a tour of Osaka with Relais & ChAteaux (an international association of independent hotels and restaurants, of which Tate is the only Hong Kong member), and one of the places on the itinerary was a knife shop and everyone was eager to go,” Vicky Lau recalls. “Most of the knife makers used to make samurai swords.”

Sasuke is a fifth-generation workshop that makes knives by hand, and customers usually wait three months for their purchase. Luckily for Lau, as the shop tour was arranged in advance, she was able to take one home on the spot.

“I tested it and it is light, well balanced and perfect for everyday use, even fish or meat,” says Lau, having gained a chef’s sixth sense for knives now that she is into her late 30s. “As a woman, this knife is not too heavy, some handles can be too big for me to grip. This one fits nicely.”

She finds the knife easy to rock forwards and backwards when chopping, requiring little energy. However, she must sharpen the knife every day with two Japanese water stones. “I have to polish it otherwise it will rust,” she says.



a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Chef Cheng Kam-fu buys his general purpose cleaver from Chan Chi Kee, on Shanghai Street. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Chef Cheng Kam-fu buys his general purpose cleaver from Chan Chi Kee, on Shanghai Street. Photo: SCMP / Antony Dickson

Cheng Kam-fu

Cheng Kam-fu, executive chef of the one-Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant Celebrity Cuisine, in Central, tends to use one chopper to prepare all his dishes. Despite its size, the cleaver is quite light, with a very sharp blade.

He is not

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