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Pagoda Street, in Chinatown, links New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road. Popular for its Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple, the whole of Pagoda Street, along with a portion of Trengganu Street, is currently a pedestrian mall.
Pagoda Street got its name from the presence of Sri Mariamman Temple, a prominent feature of the street. Pagoda, meaning a temple, is also used to refer to a temple's pyramidal tower, called gopuram in Tamil. The Pagoda or gopuram built over the main gate of the Sri Mariamman Temple was such a landmark on the street that it gave the street its name. In 1843, shophouses or terraced houses were built along Pagoda Street, and in 1935 lanes were introduced in between some of these living quarters. One of the earlier streets of Singapore, Pagoda Street was well known for its opium-smoking dens in the early 19th century. Towards the later part of the 19th century, the street turned into a coolie trading centre. A popular coolie firm, Kwong Hup Yuen, made Pagoda Street famous. Kwong later became a bicycle trader and their shop, now called Kian Seng Heng Bicycle Trader, is currently situated at 37 Pagoda Street. The street extended its role from a coolie station between the 1850s and 1880s to a coolie lodging place in the early 20th century. Around 12 coolie lodging houses were located on this street in 1901. With the urbanisation of Singapore in the mid-20th century, the street reinvented itself as a commercial place dealing in retail trade and services, textile and tailoring. Currently, the street is part of Chinatown Conservation District, and is being remodelled by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to showcase life in Chinatown in the olden times.
At its meeting point with South Bridge Road, Pagoda Street is flanked by 2 national monuments on each side; the Jamae Mosque and the Sri Mariamman Temple. Jamae Mosque (a.k.a. Chulia Mosque), built in 1827, is a national monument since 1974 while Sri Mariamman Temple, built in 1844, is a national monument since 1973. Lucky Chinatown, located next to Chinatown MRT, is a 7-storey shopping centre with a facade built in traditional Chinese architectural style. Chinatown Heritage Centre, opened in 2002, represents part of STB's efforts to rejuvenate Chinatown. It features the different aspects of Chinatown that existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Heritage Centre is housed in 3 restored pre-war shophouses. STB has also built resemblance of opium-smoking dens, gambling houses and prostitute's parlour within some shophouses on this street. Street markets on this street have reintroduced stalls that provide traditional trades such as watch repairing, fortune telling and clog making.
(1) In Hokkien Kit-ling-a le-pai au and Kit-ling bio au, meaning "behind the kling place of worship" and "behind the kling temple" respectively, a reference to either the Sri Mariamman temple or the Jamae Mosque. Sri Mariamman temple was called a kling or "Indian" temple. But the word "kling place of worship" was also used to refer to the Jamae or Chulia Mosque, which was the mosque used by Indian-Muslim worshippers.
(2) In Cantonese Kat leng miu pin kai which means the "street beside the kling temple".
(3) In Cantonese Kwong hup yuen kai, meaning the "street of Kwong Hup Yuen", referring to the famous slave trading firm Kwong Hup Yuen.
Mariamman kovil pakkathu sadakku, meaning the "street beside Mariamman temple".
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
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List of Images
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The information is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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