Ip Chung-sang (葉中生) – leading designer and interior decorator for Chinese restaurants in HK and beyond in the 1960s and 1970s

York Lo: Ip Chung-sang (葉中生) – leading designer and interior decorator for Chinese restaurants in HK and beyond in the 1960s and 1970s

Ip Chung Sang Image 1 York Lo

Left: Picture of Ip Chung-sang and article about his work on the Metropole restaurant in 1970 (WKYP, 1970-7-19); Right: Ip Chung-sang in the early 1950s from an article about his work on the Golden City restaurant (WKYP, 1954-7-7) 

The 1960s and the 1970s was the golden era for Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong when many large-scale restaurants were built with large banquet halls featuring elaborate traditional Chinese palace designs and decorations such as dragons and phoenix sculptures and columns. The leading designer and interior decorator from that era responsible for the design and decoration of many of the large Chinese restaurants with that design was Ip Chung-sang, who not only dominated the market in Hong Kong but was also hired by Chinese restaurants across the globe ranging from Japan, Australia, Canada, the US to South America and even the South Pacific. Much of Ip’s work has since faded into history along with the restaurants but work of his which survived are the famous Tin Hau and Kwun Yum statues in Repulse Bay which he designed and built for the Life Saving Society.  

The first major restaurant project Ip’s name was attached to was the Golden City Restaurant (金城酒家) at 122 Queen’s Road Central in Central near the Central Market, which was completed at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars in 1954. The air conditioned 5-story restaurant included a bar on the first floor, nightclub on the second floor, dim sum restaurant on the third floor, Roman style banquet hall on the fourth floor and traditional Chinese style banquet hall on the fifth floor. Ip was responsible for the design and his Chung Kiu Construction (中僑建築公司) handled all the interior decorations. His activities in the 1960s through 1980s was conducted through Ko Wan Design Co.   

By the early 1960s, Ip was already getting business outside of HK and he was hired to help design a dog racetrack in Australia in 1963.  (TKP, 1963-06-28) In 1964, Ip completed one of his most famous works – the multi-story 45000 sq ft Golden Crown Restaurant (金冠酒樓, see articles on Wallpaper and Wing Tai Cheung Timber) on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. When the restaurant expanded to convert its top floor to a banquet hall with 70 tables the next year, Ip was hired again for the job. (WKYP, 1965-4-17) 

In 1967, Ip was hired by the Luk Hoi Tung group to design the new Nathan Restaurant on Nathan Road in Kowloon. He was also hired by the Dragon King Court (龍王閣) restaurant in Tokyo to design the first Chinese palatial style restaurant in the Japanese capital at the time. (KSDN, 167-11-28) 

In 1970, the restaurant tycoon Stanley Wong (黃瑞麟, to be covered) hired Ip to design and decorate his Metropole Restaurant (新都城酒樓) in North Point, which included state of the art stage and lighting equipment from Japan and as a result Ip flew to Japan to inspect the equipment and visited the World Expo in Osaka on that trip. In 1971, Ip was hired by Kwan Kwok-kei (關國) to design the International Restaurant (國際酒樓) in Mongkok. The 60000 sq ft restaurant had 120 tables incorporating Chinese palatial designs with a nightclub featuring Chinese musical performances for tourists.  Other projects completed by Ip by this time included Moon Palace restaurant in Lima, Peru (designed by Peruvian Chinese architect/politician/pastor Humberto Lay), Plum Garden in Venezuela, Phoenix restaurant in San Francisco and restaurants in Japan, Tahiti and Macau. (WKYP, 1971-1-4)

In 1972, Ip was hired to design the Kam Yuen restaurant (金源舘) in New York City’s Chinatown. (WKYP, 1972-12-15) In 1974, Ip was contracted by a consortium of HK investors led by preserved ginger magnate Ma To-sang (馬道生) who was a major shareholder of his client Golden Crown restaurant and electronics distributor Leo Lee (see article on Wah Mei Electric) to design the 50000 sq ft Golden Crown restaurant on Hastings Street in Vancouver and he was interviewed by the local Chinese radio station during his stay. (WKYP, 1974-4-22) In 1975, Ip went to Toronto to help design the West Lake restaurant ahead of the Summer Olympics in Canada in 1976 and was also contracted by the King Wah Restaurant (瓊華酒樓) in Kowloon to work on its renovation (WKYP, 1975-12-11) 

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Design of the Ocean Palace restaurant and nightclub by Ip Chung-sang in 1976 (WKYP, 1976-10-9) 

An expert in interior design and decoration, Ip Chung-sang was referred to as “Dr. Ip” in the many articles which covered his activities over the years, but it is unclear as to where he received his doctorate. In July 1976, he was invited by Education TV to give a lecture on Chinese architectural design as part of the Interior Design course broadcast on Commercial Television (which became the TV division of RTHK). (WKYP, 1976-7-20) The same year, Ip was asked by Golden Crown manager Cheung Chi-on (father of Legco councilor Tommy Cheung) to do the design and decoration for Ocean Palace Restaurant & Nightclub (海洋皇宮酒樓夜總會) in Ocean Center within the Ocean Terminal complex in Tsim Sha Tsui. The restaurant, which was developed by Cheung and the Chinese American restauranteur Jack Lee (李時佑, 1915-2015) and featured an oval shape nightclub/banquet hall with several dozen VIP rooms.  

Ip Chung Sang Image 3 York Lo

New exterior design of the Hing Sheung Fung restaurant by Ip Chung-sang (WKYP, 1978-8-8) 

In 1977, Yip was hired by Stanley Wong, his old client from Metropole in HK, to design his Tai Yuen Palace (太源皇酒樓) restaurant in Sydney. (WKYP, 1977-6-11; 1977-7-26) The next year, Ip was hired by the Hing Sheung Fung (慶相逢) restaurant in Kowloon to renovate both its exterior and interior. (see above picture and article).  

In early 1979, Yip was hired by Linton Chu Seu-kwan (諸兆鈞,1927-1993) to design his restaurant in Japantown in Los Angeles and the project was completed in the summer when it was opened with Chu’s friend Far East Exchange chairman Ronald Li as guest of honor. Ip then traveled to Victoria, Canada to design another restaurant and met with the mayor during a forum to discuss the beautification of Chinatown there.  (WKYP, 1979-8-11) 

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Advertisement for Ip’s Goldwyn Decoration Co in 1977 (香港年鑑)

In 1982, Ip was hired by the Dongfang Hotel (東方賓館) in Guangzhou to design many of the new additions to the hotel which was originally built in 1961. This included presidential suites, various restaurants (Mongolian barbecue, Chiuchow cuisine, Japanese teppanyaki), 19 banquet rooms and large banquet hall ahead of the Canton Trade Fair in the fall. (WKYP, 1982-6-22) 

Outside of his design business, Ip Chung-sang was very active in community affairs. In 1969, he was elected director of the Pok Oi Hospital. In 1973, he was elected chairman of the Hunghom chapter of the HK Boy Scouts. (WKYP, 1973-4-29) He was also honorary life president of the Ng Yup Industrial & Commercial Society, chairman of the HK Federation of Clansmen Associations and vice chairman of the Yip Nam Yeung Tong Association (KSDN, 1970-4-26) He was however best known for his involvement with the HK Life Saving Society as he was commissioned by the Association to design the large Tin Hau statue in Repulse Bay, which took five years from initial concept to completion in September 1970 when it was opened by Lady Trench. This was followed by the largest golden dragon made out of wood and a large Kwun Yum statue nearby which was completed in 1975. 

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Ip Chung-sang in front of his Tin Hau statue in Repulse Bay in 1970 (WKYP, 1970-9-5) 

As a firm, Ip’s Goldwyn Decoration Co (高雲裝飾工程公司) never appear to have incorporated. He was also chairman of Oriental Arts Factory (incorporated in 1968 and dissolved in 1996), which presumably produced many of the decorations used in the restaurant projects he was involved in.   

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Ip Chung-sang (left) receiving a letter of commendation from the Director of Agriculture & Fisheries of the HK government in 1978 for his work with the Life Saving Society (WKYP, 1978-6-10)  

This article was first posted on 4th September 2020.

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