Sago Lane


Sago Lane is a one-way road in Chinatown connecting South Bridge Road to Banda Street.1 It was named for the many sago factories that were located there in the 1840s.2 Sago Lane was also known for the Chinese “death houses”.3

Description
Running parallel to Sago Street,4 much of Sago Lane’s history is similar to that of Sago Street. From a prosperous sago flour manufacturing centre in the mid-19th century, it evolved into an area rife with prostitution in the early 20th century.5 The most defining feature of Sago Lane, however, was its Chinese death houses.6


People believed to be living the last days of their lives would go to death houses to spend their last days. Typically, a death house consisted of a living space on the first level and a funeral parlour below.7 A common Chinese belief is that one can bring one’s belongings to the next world upon dying. Hence fake paper money and paper models of various items, such as a house or a car, are burnt during funerals to effect that transition. The whole stretch of Sago Lane were lined with shops that sold paraphernalia used in funerals, including paper models, clothes, flowers, appliances and other possessions considered valuable to the deceased.8 As Chinese funerals are extended affairs that continued through days and nights, many foods stalls were found on Sago Lane and Banda Street catering to night visitors and mourners.9 Death houses were banned in 1961.10

The construction of Kreta Ayer Complex, also called Chinatown Complex,11 in the early 1970s resulted in part of Sago Lane being expunged.12

Variant names
Ho-ban-ni au koi in Cantonese and ho-man-nin hau-pin kai in Hokkien, both of which mean “the street behind Ho-man-nin”. “Ho-man-nin” was the chop or seal of a popular singing hall on Sago Street.13
Sayyun kai (“street of the dead”): a reference to the death houses that lined the street.14



Author
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja



References
1. Mighty minds street directory. (2015). Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, [map 132]. (Call no.: RSING q912.5957 MMSD-[DIR])
2. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 330–331. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 192. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
4. Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community. (1983). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 100–101. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 CHI)
5. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
6. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 330–331. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 192. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
8. Chan, K. S. (2001, October 15). Paper chase in afterlife. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lowe-Ismail, G. (2016). Memories of Chinatown. Singapore: Tailsman Publishing, pp. 24–26. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LOW-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 192. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
9. Chan, K. S. (1999, March 13). No love lost for the old ‘street of the dead’. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
11. Lee, K. L. (1985, May 12). Kreta Ayer Complex, elderly ladies: Group photograph [Photograph]. Retrieved from PictureSG website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/pictures
12. Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community. (1983). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 104. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 CHI)
13. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Firmstone, H. W. (1905, January). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4, 126–127. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
14. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Chan, K. S. (1999, March 13). No love lost for the old ‘street of the dead’. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

 

Subject
Funeral rites and ceremonies--Singapore
Streets and Places
Customs
People and communities>>Customs>>Death customs
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Street names--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Ethnic Communities>>Customs and Traditions