Chin Chew Street
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Chin Chew Street, in Chinatown, connects South Bridge Road and China Street. This was an Indian residential area in the 1820s. Later it became synonymous with the Samsui women who made this street their living quarters.
Chin Chew Street is thought to be a loose transliteration or a form of slang referring to the city of Ch'uan-chou in Fujian province. However, it is unknown when and why Chin Chew Street was named so. Being in the vicinity of Cross Street, an Indian enclave, Chin Chew Street began as an Indian residential area in the early 19th century. The road originally consisted of another portion named Upper Chin Chew Street, which extended from South Bridge Road to New Bridge Road. Upper Chin Chew Street was a riotous place with music halls, eating places, theatres and brothels until the 1930s when prostitution in Singapore was banned by law. This portion of the road was demolished to make way for the Hong Lim Complex constructed in 1980.
In the mid- to late 19th century, this predominantly Indian living quarters became a Chinese commercial area. Many beancurd-making cottage industries and sellers came to be located here. In early 20th century, this street along with Upper Chin Chew Street, became the residential area of many Samsui women; female labourers from the Sam Sui district of China's Guangdong province. These women lived in squalid and tiny spaces within dingy shophouses that lined the streets then.
Urbanisation saw the street transformed into a modern commercial-cum-residential location. On 18 January 1997, the street became part of the China Square Conservation Area, which is made up of South Bridge Road, Hokien Street, Nankin Street, Pekin Stret, Amoy Street and Telok Ayer Street. One side of the street is occupied by the China Square Complex, an office-cum-residential complex made up of two tower units, next to it is the Marsh & McLennon Centre, while across the street are the South Bridge Court, Fountain Square and China Court.
Chinese names: Tau-hu koi (Hokkien) and Tau-fu kai (Cantonese), both of which mean "beancurd street", referring to the beancurd industries and sellers on this road.
Tamil name: Arampillei sadakku, meaning "Arampillei's road". Arampillei was probably a well-known person who lived on that street.
Others: "Black cloth street", a reference to the Samsui women who lived here.
Thulaja Naidu Ratnala
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(Call no.: RSING 779. 995957 CHI)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN)
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
Haughton H. T. (1973). Native names of streets in Singapore. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (p. 218). Singapore: Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 JMBRAS)
Mak, L. (1981). The sociology of secret societies: A study of Chinese secret societies in Singapore and peninsular Malaysia (p. 137). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 366.095957 MAK)
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(Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
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List of Images
Archives and Oral History Department. (1983). Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community (pp. 57-58). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: R SING 779.995957 CHI)
The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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