Thursday, 26 January 2012


通渠佬: tong keui lou = plumber (specifically, the bloke who comes to unblock your drains)

In the autumn, prior to the onslaught of Christmas and Chinese New Year music in the supermarket, Wellcome was regularly running one particular ad over its sound system. The product in question is a liquid drain-unblocker, and the brand name is 'tong keui lou' (i.e. same idea as the name 'Mr Muscle' for cleaning products). It went  like this:

A woman, finding her drain blocked, calls a plumber (tong keui lou). When said tong keui lou rings the doorbell and gets out his bag o' tools, the woman exclaims, 'tong keui lou dou yung tong keui lou!' (= the plumber also uses 'tong keui lou!'). 

My Cantonese still leaves much to be desired, so the fact that I came to understand what this ad was about says something about how often it was played! It seems that at least one real tong keui lou is using an equally aggressive marketing strategy. He calls himself  渠王 (keui wong; plumber king) and his characteristic lettering can be seen in back alleys across HK.

So, if you want to find out whether tong keui lou really uses tong keui lou... you know who to call!

Or, you could just read about the man himself in this article by Christopher DeWolf.

All content © Emilie Pavey


  1. As we used to say in the valleys: laughed, I nearly bought a round. You can't beat a good plumber joke. I'm surprised the tong keui lo wasn't Polish. Your collection of photos is amazing!

  2. Actually I was reminded that I had been amassing pictures of this guy's grafitti when I saw this photo on flickr:

  3. He has painted his number on our road - probably been there a while but I've never noticed it. I'll send you the evidence for your collection if you like!!

  4. I'm always amazed at the amount of territory this guy has covered. He is like the new King of Kowloon (if less imaginative). He has it painted in our rood too (though it got painted over). By all means send me the picture!