Culture Vulture

Return of the 'lao beng' and 'lao lian'

The Hokkien-speaking gangster with a heart of gold is a modern metaphor for resistance

Screen grab of Taiwanese band Eggplantegg’s music video for their 2019 song Waves Wandering, which stars actor Jack Kao.
Screen grab of Taiwanese band Eggplantegg’s music video for their 2019 song Waves Wandering, which stars actor Jack Kao. PHOTO: EGGPLANTEGG/ YOUTUBE

The lao beng - hair combed neatly into two soft-hold waves, in uncle-ish short-sleeved collared shirt - bumbles his way into the open-air karaoke joint.

"Paiseh," he says, in Taiwanese Hokkien. Excuse me. "I'm in a hurry. Let me sing first."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2020, with the headline 'Return of the 'lao beng' and 'lao lian''. Subscribe