Probably the world’s oldest graffiti artist, dubbed the "King Of Kowloon" has sadly passed away at the ripe old age of 85. The man was famous in Hong Kong for his bombing style which consisted of densely-packed, obssesive Chinese script arranged in neat lines and scrawled over phone boxes and the sides of pedestrian underpasses.
“The contents of the calligraphy usually contain some or all of the following: his name, his title (King or Emperor of China, Kowloon or Hong Kong, depending); a list of 20 or so ancestors, with new additions from time to time; the names of some famous Chinese emperors and phrases such as, ‘Down with the Queen of England.’” Apparently, the King of Kowloon actually believes he is the king of Kowloon.
Tsang Tsou Choi was thirty-five when he started covering Kowloon with assertions that he was its rightful owner. That was in 1955. Tsang said that, as a young man, he stumbled across a set of documents that indicated that most of Kowloon was owned by his ancestors, before it was ceded to the British in 1860, after the end of the Second Opium War. Of course, none of these documents have ever been proven to exist. That has never deterred Tsang, whose obsession with proving himself as the King of Kowloon drove away his wife and family and earned him a few brief stints in jail.
In a city that until recently was devoted almost entirely to the individual pursuit of wealth, the King’s persistent eccentricity drew attention. He was relentless in his work: if any of his graffiti was painted over, as it frequently was, Tsang would return as soon as the paint dried to scrawl something anew. In the 1990s, a new generation of creative-minded Hong Kongers embraced the King as an “outsider artist” whose minimal literacy and lack of self-consciousness gave him the freedom to reinterpret Chinese writing. AsiaWeek reports that his unique calligraphy has inspired “fashion designers, interior designers and CD cover artists.” In 2003, Tsang was featured in the 50th Venice Biennial. In 2004, a piece of wood he painted fetched US$1,100 at an auction.
Hong Kong may be famously known for skyscrapers, good food and kung-fu action stars; but for the ESPV Team, the King Of Kowloon will forever remain in our hearts as an inspiration to the perserverance of one's art. Rest In Peace Tsang Tsou Choi.
A mixture of ESP's words and the following links:
Big White Guy