Hokien Street (sometimes spelt “Hokkien Street”) is a one-way street connecting China Street with South Bridge Road. After crossing South Bridge Road, it becomes Upper Hokien Street and ends near New Bridge Road.1 Hokien Street is named after the large number of Hokkiens who settled along it, forming the dominant group.2
Built in the 1820s, Hokien Street is one of the oldest roads in Singapore. The road appears in the 1828 Jackson Plan (or Raffles Town Plan) of Singapore as “Hokien Street”.3 As its name implies, Hokien Street was a main settlement area for early Hokkien immigrants from China. The Hokkien community was the largest dialect group to have emigrated from China to Singapore.4 They dominated commerce in early Singapore and many were noted philanthropists.5 Hence, many streets in Singapore have been named after prominent personalities from the Hokkien community.6
The Chinese also referred to Upper Hokien Street as tiang thye kai after the clan association, Tiang Thye Hui Guan. Built in 1849 by Cheang Sam Teow, a Chinese immigrant from the Tiang Thye county of China’s Fujian province, it became dilapidated after some years. In 1887, 38 years later, it was rebuilt as Tiang Thye Temple by Cheang Hong Lim, the son of Cheang Sam Teow. The temple was later demolished to make way for the construction of Hong Lim complex in the 1980s.7
As they are relatively short roads, Hokien and Upper Hokien streets are lined with just a few buildings. Great Eastern Centre, a commercial property, covers the whole length of Hokien Street on one side. Along Upper Hokien Street lies Fook Hai Building, Parkroyal hotel, a market as well as a food centre.8 Many old two- and three-storey shophouses can still be found along the street.9
Cho be chia koi in Hokkien, meaning the “street where horse carriages are made”.10
Chhiang-thai koi e chat (Hokkien) and cheung-thai ha kai (Cantonese), both meaning “lower portion of Chhiang Thai Street”11 – because Upper Hokien Street was often called “Chhiang Thai street”, a reference to Tiang Thye Temple which once stood there.12
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2015), map 132D, 13. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD)
2. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 151, 392. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 151; Survey Department, Singapore, Plan of the Town of Singapore by Lieut Jackson, 1828, map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP002918)
4. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 151.
5. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 455. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
6. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 151.
7. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown: An Album of a Singapore Community (Singapore: Times Books International, 1983), 48, 50 (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 CHI); “Hong Lim Complex to Have 1,000 Flats by 1980,” Straits Times, 3 March 1978, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 151.
9. Streetdirectory Pte Ltd, Hokkien Street, n.d., map.
10. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 455.
11. H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 92–93. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
12. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 92–93; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 455.
The information in this article is valid as at September 2018 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.