The Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆飞车队)

5 loved this Story

The Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆飞车队)

The Kong Chow Clan Acrobatic Cycling Troupe was formed in 1957 and was well known for their acrobatic cycling stunts and performances.

The Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆飞车队)
Group Photo of Kong Chow Wui Koon Acrobatic Cycling Troupe in 1958. Courtesy of Mr Chia Kum Loke

The troupe was led by two voluntary instructors Mr Lim Hiang Ghee (林香仪) and Mr Chan Yew Ham (陈耀钦) who were veteran professional circus acrobatic cycling performers during the 1930s-1940s.

From the 1950s to 1980s, the troupe trained more than a hundred acrobatic cyclists, and on average the troupe had eight to ten performances every year. It was during the 1980s, that the troupe enjoyed its peak and was invited to perform in national events such as the National Day Parade, Chingay procession, charity shows as well as many other school and community events.

The Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆飞车队)
The troupe performing during a street parade in the 1960s. Courtesy of Mr Chia Kum Loke

The troupe had an impressive repertoire of up to 20 acrobatic cycling stunts involving unicycles and bicycles. These stunts included “A Single Dragon” (一条龙), ” Crossing Three Obstacles” (过三关) and “Cycling around in Bagua Diagram” ( 走八卦).

The Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆飞车队)

Members of the Kong Chow Clan Acrobatic Cycling Troupe executing “A Single Dragon”. Courtesy of Mr Chia Kum Loke.

However, the troupe’s most challenging and most popular stunt was the “Pile-Up Arts” (叠罗汉) which involved 9 members “stacking-up” from a single rider on the bicycle. As a result of its success, the troupe and its acrobatic cycling routines became the Kong Chow Clan’s pride and icon as it was a troupe that was unique to the clan.

The Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, Kong Chow Wui Koon (冈州会馆飞车队)
Members of the Kong Chow Clan Acrobatic Cycling Troupe performing onstage. Courtesy of Mr Chia Kum Loke.

During the early 1980s, as a result of the global success of the movie “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and its bike riding scenes, many youths in Singapore were inspired to take up acrobatic cycling. As a result, by 1984, there were up to 50 acrobatic cycling troupes or teams all across Singapore and professional acrobatic cyclists from Kong Chow Clan started teaching and sharing their skills with these troupes or teams.

However, the acrobatic cycling trend did not last as Singaporean youths started gravitating towards new trends such as break-dancing and by the 1990s, the acrobatic cycling troupe in Kong Chow Clan was disbanded.

Mr. Chia Kum Loke (谢锦乐), age 74, is one of the pioneer members of the acrobatic cycling troupe. He was only 15 years old when he joined Kong Chow Clan and started practicing Chinese martial arts and lion dance at the clan. As a result of his youth, fitness and bravery, he was always selected to be the person to climb to the top during the “Pile-up Arts” routine. Since then, Mr. Chia learned all of the acrobatic cycling routines and imparted the routines to new members of the troupe.

Mr Chia Kum Loke performing a high-risk acrobatic act
Mr Chia Kum Loke performing a high-risk acrobatic act. Courtesy of Mr Chia Kum Loke.

Copyright by National Heritage Board


About Kong Chow Wui Koon (Gongzhou Clan)

Kong Chow (Gongzhou) is the older name for Xinhui county in Guangdong province. Kong Chow Wui Koon was established in 1840 and is one of the oldest Chinese Clan associations in Singapore.

It was first located at Upper Chin Chew Street, commonly known as “Tofu Street” and provided temporary lodging for new immigrants from Xinhui county. It moved to its present site at New Bridge Road in 1924.

In 1929, the Kong Chow School was established at the clan premises, and during the Japanese Occupation, the clan building was used as the World Red Swastika Society.

In 1939, the Kong Chow Wui Koon established its Martial Arts and Lion Dance troupe. Subsequently, it also established its Acrobatic Cycling Troupe, the Music and Opera Section, the Social Affairs Section, and the Dragon Dance Troupe.

Since its establishment, Kong Chow Wui Koon has been actively promoting Chinese traditional arts and culture.

References:

(1) Kong Chow Wui Koon 165th years Anniversary Souvenir Magazine, p17, 2005.

(2) Kong Chow Wui Koon 170th Years Anniversary Souvenir Magazine, 2010

(3) Kong Chow Wui Koon 175 years Anniversary Souvenir Magazine, p35, 2015.

(4) Straits Times 4 Aug 1980 p8.

(5) Lianhe Wanbao 7 Dec 1987 p4.

(6) Lianhe Zaobao 21 Feb 1988 p31.

(7) Kong Chow Wui Koon Cultural Centre exhibition: Acrobatic Cycling Section at Level 4 of Kong Chow Wui Koon Building.