Chinese Swimming Club
The Chinese Swimming Club, at Amber Road, was founded in 1905 by a group of six Chinese swimming enthusiasts. Today, the club is a landmark institution for training in swimming in Singapore.
Founded by six friends in 1905, the Chinese Swimming Club started off humbly as an informal gathering of swimming enthusiasts, calling themselves the "Tanjong Katong Swimming Party". The six middle-class Straits Chinese men (babas) used to swim and played water polo off the strip of a beach in Marine Parade every Sunday. As their popularity increased in the area, many other swimmers joined them. By 1909, their group had grown to 22 men, and by 1911, they numbered an impressive figure of 100, and they changed their name to the "Chinese Swimming Club". They began meeting in their first clubhouse in a rented building at Chapel Road. Ten years later, the club moved to a permanent site at Amber Road, renting the famous Bungalow C from wealthy philanthropist Lee Choon Guan, who was also the club's patron. The group's clubhouse remained at that site until today. The club was the Chinese answer to the Europeans-only Singapore Swimming Club set up by the British in 1894.
Early developments and WWII
By the early 1930s, there were plans to increase membership and upgrade the clubhouse facilities. In 1939, the Bungalow C was torn town to make way for a brand new three-storey clubhouse and the club's first concrete swimming pool. The pool was filled at high tide with natural sea water. The pool became very popular and memberships at the club soared. The Chinese Swimming Club became a landmark Straits Chinese (peranakan) institution and was a gathering place for many English-speaking middle class families of Katong. During the War, the Japanese soldiers used the three-storey club building as a recreation centre and an interrogation room. The platform of the club's swimming pool became a stage for the Japanese firing squad in the massacre of the Chinese during the bloody Operation "Sook Ching".
After the war, the British Military Administration (BMA) stationed at the clubhouse until 1946 when it fully returned the building to the Chinese Swimming Club. As life was slowly returning to normal, members did not immediately come streaming back to the clubhouse. Furthermore, the Japanese had vandalised much of the building. Only in 1947, after the introduction of life-time membership at S$100 that business once again picked up for the club.
The club occupies three plots of land. In 1980, a new Sports Complex was built and in 1991, a new Recreation Complex was constructed. The club currently has two Olympic-sized pools and a baby pool. Sports facilities available here also include billiards, badminton, bowling, squash, tennis, table-tennis and basketball. The sleek clubhouse has both Zen-like and Chinese architectural features. This is visible with its deep blue pagoda roofs and intricate dragon carvings. The Grand Arrival Pavilion is connected to the Sports Complex through a linkway. Other facilities there include restaurants, spa, sauna, food outlets, a fitness centre, a video games room and three KTV rooms. Swimming and water polo are still the main sports emphasised at the club with extensive training provided for these sports. The club has over 7000 members, most of whom joined the club during a 1964 membership drive. Currently membership is by recommendation only.
The Chinese Swimming Club is reputed for having produced many of Singapore's swimming bests. Coaches can be seen training future national swimmers from the poolside. Apart from sports facilities and training, the club also hosts social functions such as children's workshops, social outings and ladies' activities . Swimming enthusiasts from Katong and other parts of the island often congregate here for dinner and dance functions. The club has affiliation privileges with well-known clubs in Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
Kong, Lily, & Chang, T.C. (2001). Joo Chiat: A living legacy (pp. 37, 111, ). Singapore: Archipelago Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 KON)
National Heritage Board. (2002). Singapore: 100 Historic Places (p. 106). Singapore: Archipelago Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
Singapore Chinese Swimming Club: 88 years and beyond. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Swimming Club.
(Call no.: RSING 797.200605957 SIN)
Club plans $8m complex. (1988-09-13). The Straits Times, p. 14.
$45m facelift for Chinese Swimming Club. (2002, January 24). The Straits Times.
Teo, Ginnie. (1998, June 1). It all began 90 years ago with 6 pals. The Straits Times, Home Focus, p. 31.
AAZ Regional Marketing. (1996-2002). Chinese Swimming Club. Retrieved August 14, 2003 from
The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we are able to 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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