An ethnic neighbourhood, projecting various Chinese cultural elements and historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population, Singapore’s Chinatown is nestled within the larger district of Outram. Although, the ethnic Chinese group is largest in Singapore and most of them reside in Singapore, it is less of a regency than it once was.
Chinatown is a name coined by the British and presently its used by the non Chinese Singaporeans, while Chinese Singaporeans refer to their domain as Niu Che Shui. There’s is a lot of historical and cultural significance attached to the district of Chinatown and so a major section of it has been declared, National heritage site, officially designated for Conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Singapore’s chinatown houses several districts such as…
- Kreta Ayer- literally meaning “water cart” is usually considered as the heart of Singapore’s chinatown, as it houses attractions like the Chinatown Heritage Centre, Chinatown Food Street & chinatown Market and Kreta Ayer Wet Market. Kreta has won the hearts of many and become a popular tourist destination as well as a favoured spot for local food.
- Telok Ayer- an abode of several Chinese temples and Muslim Mosques, which exist since the first days of Chinatown. Presently housing a number of restaurants and bars on its streets, Telok ayer is known as the original focal point of settlement in Chinatown.
- Tanjong Pagar- The Pinnacle@Duxton, Singapore’s tallest Housing and Development Board Flat, resides in Tanjong Pagar, which is one of the major attractions of the area. The place is popular for its numerous bridal saloons, set up along the rows of preserved pre World war two shophouses. Also, Tanjong pagar was once a Centre of operations for rickshaw pullers.
- Bukit Pasoh- Also famous as the ‘ Street of Clans’, Bukit Pasoh is the historic and in many cases, current home of several Chinese culture and clan associates. The place houses several boutique hotels and international restaurants. The Bukit Pasoh road is situated on a hill, which in 1830s marked the western boundary of the colonial town.
- Ann Siang Hill- the hill crowded with en number of cafes, quirky shops and drinking holes, making it to the top of the hangout lists of the younger generations. The hill is named after a wealthy Hokkien Chinese sawmiller, who acquired the area, as his house and estate in the 1800s.
The birth of the street names…
- The Mosque Street- was christened thus, after the Jamae Mosque, situated on the south bridge road, end of the street. The mosque is used by the Malay Muslims along with the other Muslim communities. It was built by the Chulia Muslims, from the Corromandel coast of south India, on a site which was earlier a group of ten stables.
- Pagoda Street- the street takes its name from the Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. Built in the Dravidian style, the temple mainly serves the Hindu Singaporeans in the city- state. The street houses a number of coolie quarters and opium smoking joints. The street also, has a history of being the Centre of slave traffic.
- Sago Street and Sago lane- the two were named after the numerous Sago factories, situated in the area. Sago is a type of starch, which is extracted from the spongy Centre of various tropical palm stems. It is a major staple food for the lowland people of New Guinea. This sago in the factories was used to make flour, that is used to make cakes. Also , dead bodies were transported to the sago lane.
- Temple Street- refers and takes the visitors to the Sri Mariamman Temple, located at the south bridge road end of the street.
- Trengganu Street- the name has been borrowed from Trengganu, a present day, Malaysian state. Popularly called ‘the Piccadilly of Chinese Singapore’ in the past, now forms the tourist belt in Singapore’s Chinatown.
A little into history… According to the Raffles Plan of Singapore, the area now called the Chinatown was where the Chinese immigrants tended to take refuge. Now, of course, it is a major tourist attraction, with its numerous restaurants, drinking holes and shops, also the beautiful architecture.
The architectural styles employed to build the houses in Singapore’s Chinatown, combine various elements of the Baroque architecture, characterized by dramatic lighting, color & ornamentation and pear shaped domes, and the Victorian architecture, with features such as patterned bricks, decorated roof lines, terraces, bay & sash windows, floor tiles, stained glass, porches etc. The architectural character of many terraces is Italianate in style. There are windows with decorated fanlights. The pilasters and balconies, the plasterwork and colors, are all Mediterranean in flavor. Pastel shades, particularly dominate the color patterns of the houses and buildings. This style of architecture was probably brought in by the early Chinese immigrants, who may have been inspired by the Portuguese architecture in places like Macau.
The Chinatown MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station is located in the middle of the Pagoda Street. There are several bus routes from the area. The place is surrounded by Clarke Quay station on the north east line, Outram park interchange, serving as an interchange between east west line and north east line and Tanjong Pagar station on the east west line.
Chinatown invites you to join the splendor of ethnic Chinese culture, in the heart of your very own Singapore !!