TSANG TSOU CHOI (KING OF KOWLOON)
CENTRAL, HONG KONG
screenprint on skate deck, set of two
Image taken during 1996-1997, executed in 2020
Executed in 2020.
each: 20.3 by 80 cm. 8 by 31½ in.
1921 - 2007年
每件: 20.3 x 80 公分, 8 x 31½ 英寸
Tsang Tsou Choi's calligraphy style was rustic and free, his brushstrokes were thick, heavy and decisive. He often wrote the words "國王" ("king") much wider to straddle across two lines. Above the words, he would list the names of several places that belonged to his territory. The current skateboard design came from Lau Kin-wai's photographic work Central, Hong Kong, which captured Tsang's calligraphy listing "Kowloon, the New Territories, and New China" (the latter probably refers to Mainland China). The words "中國" and "國王" both contained the character "國" ("country"). Tsang also regularly included the names of his family members in his calligraphy, listed according to their family hierarchy. In Central, Hong Kong, the name of Tsang's son, Tsang Wing Wah, was also in the calligraphy.
In Central, Hong Kong, the image of a docking Star Ferry appears alongside Tsang's calligraphy in the foreground. Viewing the photograph twenty years later, it is as if the King was conversing with the contemporary city across space and time.
Tsang Tsou Choi was born in 1921 in Liansu Village in Zhaoqing, Guangdong. At age seventeen, he moved to Hong Kong where he worked as a construction worker and a waste collector. On one visit to an ancestral village in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, he allegedly found in his family record that his ancestor was granted the possession of Kowloon. Thus he came to believe that most of the peninsula belonged to his family, and beginning 1956, Tsang started calling himself the "King of Kowloon." He painted calligraphy in the streets of Hong Kong as a way to declare his form of sovereignty over the territory.
Although Tsang never received formal training in art, he was able to create an original calligraphic approach using the public space as his canvas. Guided by his own creativity and a free spirit unhindered by convention, he painted his family legacy in all corners of the city. He was staking the territory of his kingdom, anointing himself the crown king of this fantastical domain. Tsang Tsou Choi's street calligraphy found its inspirations from the city of Hong Kong and its local culture. His work, as well as images of him painting on the streets, have also become a fixture of the collective memory in Hong Kong over the years.
Image reproduction courtesy of Mr. Lau Kin Wai
曾灶財的書寫風格純樸自由，用筆厚重爽利。 他常會把「國王」二字寬出許多，橫跨兩行，並在二字之上列出數個屬於皇土的地名 。 滑板設計源自劉健威先生所攝的《香港中環》一照，相中所記錄的墨寶則列出九龍、新界和「新中國 」（大概指中國大陸）。當中「國 」字同時具有雙重功能，既是「中國 」之「國 」，也是曾的頭銜──「國皇 」中的「國 」 。「九龍皇帝」亦常於墨寶中寫上各家庭成員的名字，依照輩分交代家族源流，從《香港中環》一照中，則可見行文提及曾灶財的兒子曾榮華。
劉健威先生所攝的《香港中環》，剛好捕捉天星小輪靠岸，與前景的九龍皇帝墨寶並列之景。 時隔逾二十載回顧相片， 猶像身處「皇帝」與當代城市的跨時空對話之中。