The King of Kowloon created thousands of street works. Only six remain...
As part of the Art Research Institute and Google Cultural Institute partnership, the last 6 sites of Tsang Tsou-Choi's (King of Kowloon) work were documented on January 16, 2015. From 1956 to his death in 2007, the King of Kowloon wrote thousands of calligraphy works in the street, on bridges, electrical boxes, and any available surface. These works were subsequently destroyed, painted over, redeveloped, or eroded by nature and time. Only six known works remain and, using Google Street View technology, we captured not only the writing itself, but the physical environment and neighborhood surrounding the work. These writings show not only Tsang's ongoing obsession of stating his claim of rightful ownership over the land of Kowloon, but also his boundless and relentless transformation of Hong Kong into an urban canvas.
Star Ferry Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
The pillar at Star Ferry Terminal, Kowloon side, is Tsang Tsou-Choi's most famous remaining writing and one of only two that has been protected by the HK Government. From the top of this view, the three visible columns and the overlapping large characters below them translate as "King of China/England"; "King of New China"; "King of Kowloon". The lower area lists his name as well as those of several relatives, including his wife Man Fook Choi. Located at the bus terminal outside the ferry entrance, the pillar is sheathed in a protective acrylic shield with open top and bottom to allow natural airflow.
Academy of Visual Arts, HK Baptist University, Choi Hung, Kowloon
This writing by Tsang Tsou-Choi flanks the entrance driveway of HK Baptist University's Academy of Visual Arts near Choi Hung MTR station in Kowloon.The left side text translates into "Hong Kong goverment, Tsang Tsou-Choi", while the right states "New China King Tsang Foo Shang" (perhaps an ancestor). The work, done originally in Chinese ink and brush, likely in the 1990's, survives only on the concrete frame of a government utility box. It is also likely that the original work covered the electrical box as well, but was painted over some time ago.
Concrete Structures by 436-434 Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Located on an on-ramp nearby #436-434 Nathan Road in Kowloon, these abandoned concrete tube structures have a unique convex form rarely seen in Tsang Tsou-Choi's surfaces. The King of Kowloon's writing is faded and difficult to read, but in person the large strokes and characters emerge from the silos: "New China King", "Kowloon King" and a date "October 12" (year obscured). The structure has been fenced off and forgotten, perhaps providing some minimal protection to this last large writing of Tsang Tsou-Choi.
KMB Bus #18, Kadoorie Ave stop, Mong Kok, Kowloon
This writing by Tsang Tsou-Choi is located on a retaining wall behind the "Kadoorie Ave" bus stop (buses #16, #18, #24, #27, #41, #45) on Argyle St nearby the intersection with Kadoorie Ave. Sadly the work is so faded from sight that only a few characters are visible, and it is unlikely that this work will survive the weather too much longer.
A Last Farewell
In the next generation, the last 6 works of the King of Kowloon will likely fade away or be destroyed. Tsang's street calligraphy, once seen as a daily reminder of Hong Kong's rich and diverse history, has become an endangered species. While technology will help preserve the legend of Tsang Tsou-Choi, there is no substitute for the experience of viewing the original work. We hope that the people of Hong Kong and visitors to Hong Kong will take the opportunity to witness the last works of the King of Kowloon as they were meant to be seen.
Photography: Hantao Li, Google China
Words: Jehan Chu, Art Research Institute