“It’s like a piece of art,” said Mr. Wong, a bronzed 54-year-old with stony hands and a quickgrin, describing what he loves about the scimitar-shaped boats with the batwing sails that heso rarely gets to build.
A native of the delta region, Mr. Wong in 1982 swam for two hours from nearby Zhuhai, onChina’s mainland, to what was then the Portuguese colony of Macau to escape China’s strictCommunist government. Once there he set up an early incarnation of Yi Hap Shipyard, a builderof wooden junks, which symbolize the delta and the maritime culture that drove China’s earlygrowth.
“Not many people are hand-making wooden junks anymore,” Mr. Wong said. “I wish morepeople would.”
Within the next few months, the junk, the Dai Cheung Po — also known as the Aqua Luna II —will unfurl its blood-red sails above its high stern and low bow and join its smaller sister, theCheung Po Tsai, or the Aqua Luna I, already in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, to offer partiesand dinners.
再有几个月，“大张保”号木船(英文名Aqua Luna II)的血红色的风帆将在其高船尾和低船头上撑开，驶入香港的维多利亚港，她的姊妹号“张保仔”(英文名Aqua Luna I)已经在那里提供乘船派对和晚宴服务。
It is one of a few of these traditional ships with sails being made by one of the last remainingjunk builders in China.
“The building tradition is more or less moribund,” said Stephen Davies, a former director ofthe Hong Kong Maritime Museum.
Yet the style remains traditional, “insofar as they are still doing what Grandpa did, and beforehim,” he said.
The new junk is made of Southeast Asian ironwood and teak and cost about $1.3 million tobuild. It was commissioned by a restaurant group in Hong Kong, which lies about 50 miles eastof Shenwan on the edge of the delta where the river’s silty water turns ocean blue.
Also in Hong Kong is the Dukling, a classic, red-sailed junk that dates from 1955. It sank onceand was recently refurbished. Since June, its owners have offered tours of Hong Kong’s waters,reflecting how junks today are used mostly for tourism and private parties.
They are three of only a handful of junks that remain in the delta, replaced long ago by stouterwooden fishing vessels without sails, speedboats and huge container ships.
The 19th-century pirate Cheung Po Tsai, or Cheung Po “the Kid,” who crisscrossed the deltapillaging and later joined the Qing dynasty imperial navy, sailed a ship that looked similar to hisnamesakes, though its sails may have been a yellow woven bamboo, not red. The red color islargely a flourish, Mr. Davies said.
The life of the delta is partly interlaced because of junks, which were once numerous with theirfanlike silhouettes, trading down into Southeast Asia and up the coast of China.
The junk — the word’s origins are murky, with Chinese, Malay and Portuguese cited asinfluences — may have assumed its iconic, curved hull and sails about 1,000 years ago, duringthe Song dynasty, though written records are scarce.
Captivated by the junk’s beauty, David Yeo, the founder and owner of Aqua Restaurant Group,commissioned a Hong Kong master boat builder, Au Wai, to conceptualize and direct theconstruction of the Aqua Lunas and to work with Mr. Wong in Shenwan. The first waslaunched in 2006, and unlike junks of the past, both are motor-powered, and their sails aredecorative.
Aqua餐饮集团的创始人和所有者David Yeo被这种帆船的优美形状迷住，他委托香港造船高手Au Wai为“大张保”和“张保仔”做概念设计，并指导它们的建造，建造工作是与神湾的黄球叔合作进行的。“张保仔”是2006年建成下水的，它们与过去的帆船不同，都是电动的，它们的风帆只是装饰而已。
“He has made more commercial junk boats than anyone else in Hong Kong. He is a master ofa true art form,” Mr. Yeo said in an email. “An art form that is sadly dying out in Hong Kongtoday.”
Mr. Au’s life reflects the sweep of delta geography. He is unsure where he was born but knowshis father was from Guangdong Province in China, through which the Pearl River runs.
Known as Ah Sin — the honorific and name translate as Dear Magician, for his talent — Mr. Au, 85, grew up poor in Hong Kong.
In his boatyard on Hong Kong Island, in the eastern district of Shau Kei Wan, he points tophotographs of wooden ships of all kinds that he has built since being apprenticed to an uncleat the age of 13: simple “walla-walla” motorboats and corporate junks that carry some designelements of the traditional junk but without sails.
Beyond the wood shavings, the harbor glitters in the sun. Fishing boats draw up outside todeliver their catch to the next-door Shau Kei Wan wholesale fish market.
“I was very naughty as a boy, and no one could control me,” Mr. Au said in Cantonese, thelocal language. Barely a teenager, he sold fish on the streets.
“I did what I wanted. So my family said, ‘You should look for a special skill,’” he said. “An unclewas the owner of a shipyard and also a member of the ship association.”
His son, Au Sai Kit, works with him, but because his son has no children, the family tradition willprobably end there.
他的儿子Au Sai Kit和他一起工作，但由于儿子没有孩子，他家的传统可能将不再传下去。
Hardly anyone in Hong Kong is willing to do manual labor, the elder Mr. Au said, so he has tolook to places like Shenwan, where he and his son travel regularly to confer with Mr. Wong andhis team of workers.
Building a luxury junk is a labor of love, Mr. Au said.
“We take the wood piece by piece, fit them together in a curve, measure each piece and cutit,” he said. Copper nails are used to hammer the hull together. No other metal or artificialmaterials are used.
It takes about a year to build a traditional junk, Mr. Wong said.
Once junks were made from camphor wood and pine from next-door Fujian Province, said Mr.Davies, the former museum director.
“They were simple to build. That was the genius of the hull design,” he said.
But they had flaws.
“The hull is only joined together by nails, so you can’t have one high sail. You need low-stressrigging,” he said. “They had to keep adding sails to make the junk sail in a straight line.”
The idea of a Chinese junk has been romanticized, Mr. Davies said.
“Junks were brutally hard work. The grunt work — it took 14 members of crew to work thesails. It was pure sweat,” he said.
But Mr. Davies concedes that the traditional Chinese junk remains iconic.
“That sweep down to the bow, the fan in profile, with the masts that create this beautiful arcalong the top. The fully battened, standing rigging. There is just a beautiful harmony in lookingat it,” he said.