The King of Kowloon's death draws calls to save graffiti legacy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2007, 12:00am

Calls to preserve the calligraphy of the 'King of Kowloon' grew last night after news of his death emerged yesterday.

Tsang Tsou-choi, 86, renowned for writing densely packed Chinese script in neat lines on the sides of pedestrian overpasses, phone boxes and electrical boxes, died on July 15. News of his death was only revealed yesterday as his family wanted to keep it a low-profile affair while funeral arrangements were made.

Friends, exhibitors, members of the Antiquities Advisory Board and a legislator said Tsang's work, some of which remains on walls in Kowloon, was part of the city's collective memory and must be preserved.

His long-time friend, artist Lau Kin-wai, urged the government to help preserve his artworks.

'It is a pity that the Hong Kong Museum of Art still refuses to display his works but if the museum accepts, I can let them display these works,' said Lau, who owns dozens of Tsang's works, which he will show in a future exhibition.

Tsang's work, which can be seen at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier and Kwun Tong police station, will receive international exposure when two of his pieces appear at an exhibition in Geneva in January.

Lau said: 'His works transcended many levels. He was arrested by police and scolded by many people. They surpassed the boundaries of law. No one can imitate them.'

Fashion designer William Tang Tat-chi, a long-time admirer of Tsang's, said: 'You can see his works all over Hong Kong, Many of us grew up with them.'

Members of the Antiquities Advisory Board said Tsang's calligraphy was a unique Hong Kong street culture.

'The government should stop covering his characters with paint now, just leave them there,' said member Ng Cho-nam.

Citing the removal of Tsang's work from the walls of Mong Kok MTR station, he said Tsang's calligraphy had been 'relentlessly' cleaned away by the government when he stopped writing several years ago. '[Having] a city as clean as Singapore is like being castrated, no character at all,' he said.

Legislator Patrick Lau Sau-shing said the government should seek approval from Tsang's family for his art to be used to decorate the city.

A Leisure and Cultural Services Department spokesman declined to say if any of Tsang's graffiti would be preserved in the art museum.