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Nankin Street, a one-way street in Chinatown, connects South Bridge Road to China Street. Named after the city of Nanking in China, it was associated with Samsui women who lived here and tinsmiths who set up shop on this street during the 19th century.
One of the early streets of Singapore, Nankin Street appears on the original 1822 Raffles' town plan of Singapore. The street runs parallel to Hokien Street and Chin Chew Street on its either side. It is listed on the 1836 Coleman's Map of Singapore as Nankeen Street. It is not known when and why this street was named after the Chinese city of Nanking although some streets in the vicinity were named after places in China. The street originally stretched up to New Bridge Road and this portion of the road, from South Bridge Road to New Bridge Road, was called Upper Nankin Street. A Hakka secret society named Sung Bai Kun used to be located here in the 19th century giving the street a notorious reputation. The street's residents were supposedly so mired in poverty and lived in such cramped spaces that it became the subject of Sociologist Barrington Kaye in 1960 to give an in-depth view of the slum problem in Chinatown. Samsui women who arrived in Singapore from 1934 to 1949 made Upper Nankin Street and Upper Chin Chew Street their residential quarters. Both Upper Nankin Street and Upper Chin Chew Street were expunged to pave way for the construction of the Hong Lim complex in 1980.
Nankin Street was remembered for being a food alley in the early 20th century that served up food to its customers late in the evenings. The short street currently is lined with a few conserved 2 to 3-storey shophouses of architectural interest, shops, eating places and residential units. The whole of one side of the street is occupied by China Square Complex, an office-cum-residential complex. Nankin Street being under the Chinatown conservation area is under a revival phase by the Singapore Tourism Board to bring back the glamour of 19th century Chinatown to the present day.
Chinese names: Siong Pek Kwan Koi (Hokkien) and chhung-phak kai (Cantonese) meaning "the street of Siong Pek". Siong Pek Kwan was an infamous secret society. It was the Keh branch of a reputedly dangerous association called Thien Thi Hoi.
Others: Black cloth street. The name came about because of the Samsui women who lived here. Samsui women always wore black coloured clothes
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
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List of Images
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(Call no.: RSING 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 is 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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