Chung says many toys retailers were forced to close when Sheung Wan was redeveloped in 1991. So he went to different warehouses, wholesalers and even factories and talked to the owners one by one. He bought hundreds of toys at very low prices.
Throughout the long years of toy collecting, his real scoop was to find the only toy he ever owned during his childhood. Chung says his family was too poor to buy him any toys, so he could only play with other people’s when he visited relatives during Chinese New Year.
His one toy was a five cents plastic car that his mother bought him at a temporary stall in Diamond Hill. “That is the only toy I had ever got from my mum, when I found it all the memories of my childhood just vividly popped out,” says Chung. He adds that among all the toys he owns now, that plastic car is the only thing that can link him back to his childhood memories.
Most toys in Chung’s collection were manufactured in Hong Kong or mainland China. As a main contributor and also the curator of the exhibition Toys Paradise-Creativity and Toy Culture of Hong Kong Toys in March 2012, Chung says he wants to remind Hong Kong people of the value of local toys. “It’s weird that Hong Kong people never play with Hong Kong toys,” he says. He also reveals the little-known fact that over 70 per cent of the toys sold globally are made by Hong Kong-run companies. “It’s really something that we should be proud of; it’s a shame that no one even knows,” says Chung.
When asked about the value of toys nowadays, Chung does not skip a beat when he says toys still have their value. He says people today live in the virtual world and more and more children only play electronic games instead of playing with actual toys.
But he believes that playing with toys involves real interactions, and that these help parents to have a better understanding of their children through playing with them.
Chung believes that through playing with toys, people can learn not to take things for granted. “If you want something, you have to do something about it; if you throw the ball you have to pick it back up from the ground. It’s as simple as that.”
Some may think that collecting toys is a waste of time and money. But Chung never thinks about it this way. “As long as I have the ability [to buy toys] I will,” he says. “I’d rather skip a meal; it’s all about give and take, and that would be my choice.”