Recently discovered ink inscriptions by Tsang Tsou-choi, the famed King of Kowloon, have been restored by the MTR and can now be viewed by the public. The inscriptions, in Tsang’s signature calligraphy graffiti style, were discovered on the railway bridge barrier near Mong Kok East Station, close to Boundary Street, adjacent to Prince Edward Station, in 2022. 

Engineers and professional art conservators uncovered a total of three layers of ink inscriptions left on the wall by Tsang at different points of time, and worked to preserve them at the original site. The final restored artwork is 5 metres wide and 1.5 metres high, and showcases the clearest ink inscription from each period.

king of kowloon graffiti undergoing preservation and restoration work
Engineers and art conservators worked to conserve the King of Kowloon works discovered under the peeling paint of a rail viaduct in 2022.

Tsang became notorious among authorities in colonial Hong Kong for his graffiti, which could be seen on walls, lamp posts, pillars, electricity junction boxes, and postboxes across the territory. They are distinctive for their striking black fonts — reading from left to right and top to down — without punctuation. His works were often painted over, but he would return to these sites and recreate them.

The subject of Tsang’s work was his displeasure at what he considered the unlawful takeover by the British government of his ancestral land, which he claimed spanned most of Kowloon and led to him proclaiming himself ‘The King of Kowloon’. The content of his graffiti usually included his name, his self-given title, his family tree, the names of illustrious emperors, and the exclamation, “Down with the Queen of England!” — referring to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

map showing the location of the king of kowloon mong kok graffiti
A map showing the location of the recently discovered work by the King of Kowloon in Mong Kok.

However, in recent years, the government has made efforts to preserve Tsang’s graffiti and two of them can be viewed at their original sites — on a column at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier and on a lamp post in Ping Shek Estate. The latest inscriptions, which were first spotted under peeling paint on a rail viaduct, now have four layers of protective materials to ensure they are not damaged.

Tsang’s work on various media is considered an essential part of Hong Kong culture and is on display at M+, where visitors can see his calligraphy on paper, cloth, and even a pair of doors. They have also gone under the hammer at auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and were even exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2003.

See also
12 Best Spots For Street Art, Murals & Graffiti In Hong Kong

Image credits: MTR

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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