China Street



China Street connects Cross Street to the junction of Pickering Street and Church Street.1 The street used to be notorious for its gambling dens and secret societies.

History
The street was closely associated with Hokkiens who lived and worked around China Street.2 It was famous for its gambling dens and served as a meeting place for secret societies. In fact, the Hokkiens called the street kiau keng khau, or “mouth of gambling houses”, as the street was seen as an entrance to the gambling dens. A powerful Hokkien secret society, Ghee Hin, had their meeting house along this street. The street was therefore also known as “Ghee Hin street”.3


Description
Far East Square, bounded by Telok Ayer, Cross, Pekin and China streets, consists of six blocks of 61 old shophouses, and a seventh building that houses commercial and parking spaces.4 This whole area of shophouses, with its quaint old-world charm, used to be very popular for affordable food, bargains and Chinese opera.5 The hawkers in the area, due to urban redevelopment work, were relocated to Maxwell Road Market in the 1980s.6 However, efforts were later made to bring back some of the charm to the shophouses by reintroducing performers here.7 Opposite Far East Square is China Square Central, an office-cum-residential complex comprising two tower.8 It occupies a site that was once an outdoor hawker centre.9 Other commercial buildings on this street are Capital Square and Great Eastern Centre.10


Variant names
Hokkien:

Kiau-keng khau, meaning “gambler’s corner” or “mouth of gambling houses”.11
Kiau keng cheng, meaning “front of gambling houses”.12

Gi hin kong si or “Ghee Hin clan house.13
Hok kien gi hin kong si cheng, meaning “the front of Hokkien Ghee Hin society”.14

Cantonese: po-tsz-chheung kai, meaning “gambling-hall street”.15



Author

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja



References
1. Mighty minds street directory. (2015). Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, [map 132B]. (Call no.: RSING q912.5957 MMSD)
2. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 484. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
3. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 76–77. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. Chin, S. F. (1998, April 23). Eat and disco in an old school. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Lee, S. H. (1998, December 19). Dust cobwebs off memories. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chan, K. S. (2000, September 18). Ah, sweet scents of nostalgia for Maxwell Market. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lee, S. H. (1998, December 19). Dust cobwebs off memories. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Batacan, F. (2001, November 23). China Square Central to house home offices. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Bustling area part of early Chinese settlement. (1997, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Mighty minds street directory. (2015). Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, [map 132B]. (Call no.: RSING q912.5957 MMSD)
11. Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, pp. 76–77. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
12. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 485. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
13. Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, pp. 76–77. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
14. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 485. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Yen, C-H. (2008). The Chinese in Southeast Asia and beyond: Socio-economic and political dimensions. Singapore; Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, pp. 307–308. (Call no.: RSING 305.8951059 YAN)
15. Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, pp. 76–77. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)



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.

 

Subject
Immigrants--Singapore
Street names--Singapore
Ethnic Communities
Streets and Places
Heritage and Culture
Urbanization--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
People and communities>>Social groups and communities