Spring Street

Spring Street, a one-way road in Chinatown, connects the junction of South Bridge Road and Neil Road to Banda Street.1 A water source used to be located here from which water was drawn and transported by bullock carts to different parts of Chinatown.2

Spring Street got its name from a spring that used to be found there. Water from the spring flowed into a well; once drawn, the water was loaded onto bullock carts and transported to different areas in Chinatown.3

Spring Street is located near Smith Street, Sago Street and Sago Lane. The latter three streets were red-light districts in the early 20th century.4 Spring Street, being next to Sago Lane and the last of those three streets, was also known as fan tsai mei in Cantonese, meaning “end of the foreign brothels”.5 However, Spring Street was also dotted with a few Japanese brothels.6 Spring Street is bustling during Chinese New Year7 and food festivals. Activities such as busking and arts performances can sometimes be found on empty plots of land near Spring Street.8

Variant names
Cantonese: Fan tsai mei, meaning the “end of the foreign brothels”.9
Fan tsai mei ma ta liu pin, meaning “end of the foreign brothels beside the police station”,10 refers to Pearl’s Hill Police Station, which was located towards the end of Sago Lane and Spring Street, near Banda Street.11


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2015), map 132D. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD)
2. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 286. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
3. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 178, 286; Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 355. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown: An Album of a Singapore Community (Singapore: Times Books International, 1983), 101 (Call no. RSING 779.995957 CHI); Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 330, 352.
5. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown, 110; 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): 130–1. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
6. Lisa Kong, “Comfort in History,” Straits Times, 23 July 1992, 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. “Road Closure in Chinatown,” Straits Times, 10 January 2003, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Busking in the Limelight This New Year,” Straits Times, 19 December 1999, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Chinatown, 110–19; Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 130–1.
10. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 355.
11. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 130–1.

The information in this article is valid as of 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. 

Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places