Tai Thean Kew Circus Brief History

The Tai Thean Kew Circus troupe photo

The Tai Thean Kew Circus troupe photo

The Tai Thean Kew Chinese Circus was a family-run operation, founded in the 1930s by Nanjing native, Sun Sze Ting. He moved the family from China to Malaya to run the growing circus, until it was destroyed during the war.

At Sun’s deathbed, his apprentice and son-in-law, Sze Bing Shen, promise to rebuild the circus someday. In 1948, Sze Bing Shen re-established the circus and it was renamed Tai Thean Kew Circus. He became a shareholder of this new business, along with fellow heirs, Sun Tien Zhu, Sun Shuang Gen and Yang Shao Bai.

The circus peaked through the 1950s-60s and toured all over Malaya (Singapore and Malaysia) and parts of South East Asia. Sze Bing Shen’s eldest daughter, Sze Ling Fen, was one of the lead female acrobats. The Hong Kong press touted her Princess of the Circus.

Meanwhile, a pair of brothers from a long performing heritage had also joined the circus in their teens. Wong Fu Kwan and Wong Fu Qi grew quickly to become one of the strapping male leads of the circus. The latter was named the No.1 Aerialist.

After a few years of dramatic teenage courtship and young adult romance, Wong Fu Qi and Sze Ling Fen married in 1954. They worked hard and tirelessly side by side for the circus, touring 365 days a year for almost 2 decades.

In the rapidly changing and modernized world, the dynamics within the circus were also forced to change. It officially closed its doors in the 1980s.

Wong Fu Qi and Sze Ling Fen set up their base in Singapore, and eventually established a successful set up as the Wong Family Acrobatics and Magic duo, touring the region once again. Their transition into retirement was slow. The birth of their first grandchild, Adele Wong, called them away from their busy traveling schedule for a season as they slowly bid farewell to a 5 decade long performing career.

This webpage is managed by Adele, based on the experiences and oral histories of her grandparents’ lives as performers.

Adele has been collecting documents and oral histories about the circus from her family, specifically her grandparents, Sze Ling Fen and Wong Fu Qi. An actor and writer, Adele is working on a couple of books, exhibitions, and a screenplay based on different aspects of this family project.

For queries
Email : adelewong@outlook.com


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