Pagoda Street



Located in Chinatown, Pagoda Street runs parallel to Mosque Street and Temple Street.1 Together with Trengganu Street, it was converted into a pedestrian mall in 1997.2

History
Pagoda Street obtained its name from the presence of Sri Mariamman Temple, located at the corner of South Bridge Road and Pagoda Street. The pagoda (or gopuram in Tamil) built over the main gate of the Sri Mariamman Temple was a significant feature on the street, thus giving the street its name.3 In 1843, shophouses-cum-residences were built along Pagoda Street. As there was no access through the back of the shophouses, back lanes were introduced in between some of these living quarters in 1935.4


Notorious for its opium-smoking dens in the early 19th century, Pagoda Street was probably also one of the stations of the coolie trade. This street was once referred to as Kwong Hup Yuen Kai (which means “street of Kwong Hup Yuen” in Cantonese), as Kwong Hup Yuen, a well-known coolie trading firm, was located there. From a coolie station between the 1850s and 1880s, Pagoda Street evolved into a coolie lodge in the early 20th century.5 In 1901, there were some 12 lodging houses located on this street.6 With the urbanisation of Singapore in the mid-20th century, the street reinvented itself as a commercial area for retail trade and services, as well as textile and tailoring. The street is part of the Chinatown Historic District, which has been gazetted for conservation.7

Description
At its convergence with South Bridge Road, Pagoda Street is flanked by two national monuments: the Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple. Jamae Mosque (or Chulia Mosque) was gazetted as national monument in 1974, while Sri Mariamman Temple in 1973.8 The Chinatown Heritage Centre, which opened in 2002, represents part of the efforts by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to rejuvenate Chinatown. Housed in three restored pre-war shophouses, the centre features the different aspects of Chinatown that had existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, the STB has built facades resembling opium-smoking dens, gambling houses and a prostitute’s parlour within some shophouses on this street.9 Street markets on this street have also reintroduced stalls that provide traditional trades such as watch repairing, fortune-telling and clog making.10

Variant names
Chinese
In Hokkien, Kit-ling-a le-pai au and Kit-ling bio au, which mean “behind the kling place of worship” and “behind the kling temple” respectively, a reference to either the Sri Mariamman Temple or the Jamae Mosque.11 The South Indians are referred to as kling or keling, which is a Malay word.12

Kat leng miu pin kai (Cantonese), which means the “street beside the kling temple”.13 

Kwong Hup Yuen kai (Cantonese), meaning the “street of Kwong Hup Yuen”, referring to the well-known coolie trading firm Kwong Hup Yuen.14

Tamil
In Tamil, Mariamman kovil pakkathu sadakku, which means the “street beside Mariamman Temple”.15



Author

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja



References
1. Mighty minds street directory. (2014). Singapore: Mighty Minds Publishing, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 MMSD-[DIR])
2. Street closed to make way for pedestrian mall. (1997, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 234. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
4. Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community. (1983). Singapore: Times Books International: Archives and Oral History Dept., p. 76. (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. 285. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Chinatown: An album of a Singapore community. (1983). Singapore: Times Books International: Archives and Oral History Dept., p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 CHI)
6. Singapore. Municipality. (1902). Administration report of the Singapore Municipality for the year (1901) [Microfilm no.: NL 3406]. Singapore: Fraser & Neave.
7. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 285. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
8. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 405–406. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
9. Showcase of old Chinatown opens. (2002, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Wong, D. (2003, January 3). Plans for a Chinatown street market area, minus cars. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Firmstone, H. W. (1905). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, 53–208, pp. 118–119. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
12. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 91. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
13. Firmstone, H. W. (1905). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, 53–208, pp. 118–119. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
14. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 285. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
15. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 234. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])



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.
 

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