(71 Rating; 0 Reviews)
Rollover & click to Rate
Chinatown Fast Facts
- State: Singapore
- Famous for/as: Shopping, City
- Language: Mandarin Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil
- Best Season: All Year
- Weather: 29° C, Wind S at 6 km/h, 79% Humidity
- Clothing: Normal
- Local Transport:
Chinatown, Singapore Overview
Singapore's Chinatown is an ethnic neighbourhood featuring distinctly Chinese cultural elements and a historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population. Chinatown is located within the larger district of Outram.
As the largest ethnic group in Singapore is Chinese, Chinatown is considerably less of an enclave than it once was. (Note: The name Chinatown is usually used by non-Chinese Singaporeans whereas Chinese Singaporeans usually use the term Niu Che Shui as the term Chinatown usually refers to enclaves of Chinese people in regions where Chinese people are the minority ethnic group.) However, the district does retain significant historical and cultural significance. Large sections of it have been declared national heritage sites officially designated for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
- Traveller Rating
- Excellent (0)
- Very good (0)
- Average (0)
- Poor (0)
- Terrible (0)
Must See Places in Chinatown, Singapore
Chinatown, Singapore History
Wang Dayuan visited Singapore (then called Temasek or Dan Ma Xi) in 1330 and recorded that there was a Chinese community. This would make Singapore one of the oldest Chinatowns, as well as the largest.
Under the Raffles Plan of Singapore, the area originally was a division of colonial Singapore where Chinese immigrants tended to reside. Although as Singapore grew, Chinese immigrants settled in other areas of the island-city, Chinatown became overcrowded within decades of Singapore's founding in 1819 and remained such until many residents were relocated at the initiation of Singapore's governmental Housing Development Board in the 1960s.
In 1822, Sir Stamford Raffles wrote to Captain C.E. Davis, President of the Town Committee, and George Bonham and Alex L. Johnson, Esquires, and members, charging them with the task of "suggesting and carrying into effect such arrangements on this head, as may on the whole be most conducive to the comfort and security of the different classes of inhabitants and the general interests and welfare of the place..."
He went on to issue instructions, as a guide to the Committee, which included a description of Singapore Town generally, the ground reserved by the government, the European town and principal mercantile establishments and the native divisions and "kampongs". These included areas for Bugis, Arabs, Marine Yard, Chulias, Malays, Markets and Chinese Kampongs, the present-day Chinatown. Raffles was very clear in his instructions and his guidelines were to determine the urban structure of all subsequent development. The "five-foot way", for example, the continuous covered passage on either side of the street, was one of the public requirements.
Raffles foresaw the fact that "it may be presumed that they (the Chinese) will always form by far the largest portion of the community". For this reason, he appropriated all of the land southwest of the Singapore River for their accommodation but, at the same time, insisted that the different classes and the different provinces be concentrated in their separate quarters and that these quarters, in the event of fire, be constructed of masonry with tiled roofs.
This thus resulted in the formation of a distinct section titled Chinatown. However, only when parcels of land were leased or granted to the public in and after 1843 for the building of houses and shophouses, did Chinatown's physical development truly begin.
Kreta Ayer Road is the road that defines for Chinese, the Chinatown area. In the 1880s, Kreta Ayer was the red light area in Chinatown.
The effects of diversity of Chinatown are still present. The Hokkiens (Fukiens) are associated with Havelock Road, Telok Ayer Street, China Street and Chulia Street, and the Teochew merchants are mostly in Circular Road, River Valley Road, Boat Quay and South Bridge Road. The ubiquitous Cantonese are scattered around South Bridge Road, Upper Cross Street, New Bridge Road and Bukit Pasoh Road. These days, the Hokkiens and Teochews have largely scattered to other parts of the island, leaving the Cantonese as the dominant dialect group in Chinatown.
The Chinese names for China Street are Kiau Keng Cheng (front of the gambling houses) and Hok Kien Ghi Hin Kong Si Cheng (front of the Hokkien Ghi Hin Kongsi). Church Street is an extension of Pickering Street and the Chinese call it Kian Keng Khau (mouth of the gambling houses) or Ngo Tai Tiahn Hok Kiong Khau (mouth of the five generations of the Tian Hok Temple).
Guilds, clans, trade unions and associations were all referred to as kongsi, a kind of Chinese mafia, although the literal meaning of the word is "to share". The so-called mafia is better translated as the secret and sinister hui. However, these secret societies, the triads, who themselves had suffered under the Manchus in China, provided support to the later immigrants to Singapore by paying their passage and permitting to pay it off by working.
There were the letter writers of Sago Street—the Chinese called this street Gu Chia Chwi Hi Hng Cheng (front of Kreta Ayer Theatre), but it was mainly associated with death—the sandalwood idols of Club Street and the complicated and simple food of Mosque Street; all rang to the sound of the abacus. Old women could be seen early in the mornings topping and tailing bean sprouts, the skins of frogs being peeled, the newly killed snakes being skinned and the centuries-old panaceas being dispensed by women blessed with the power of curing.
Surprisingly, in the heart of this diverse Chinese community is the most important temple for Singaporean Indians, the Sri Mariamman Hindu Tamil Temple, and the Indian mosques, Al-Abrar Mosque at Telok Ayer Street and Jamae Mosque at Mosque Street, as well as the Fukien Thian Hock Keng Chinese Temple of 1830 to 1842.