Mosque Street

Mosque Street is a one-way street in Chinatown that connects New Bridge Road to South Bridge Road.1 It was named thus due to the presence of Jamae Mosque (also known as Chulia Mosque), which is situated near the junction of Mosque Street and South Bridge Road entrance.2

Indian Muslims, also known as Chulias, were from the Coromandel Coast in South India. They were among the first Indian migrants who settled down in Singapore during the early 19th century. While women began travelling from India to Singapore only from the 1860s, many South Indian Muslim men who arrived here prior to that period married local Malay women. Their offspring were referred to as Jawi-Peranakans.3

South Indian Muslims who settled down in the northern part of Chinatown, within the area of Chulia and Market streets, were mostly traders running small-scale ventures. Other Indian Muslims were assimilated into the Arab-Malay communities in Kampong Glam.4 To serve the religious needs of South Indian Muslims, Malays and Jawi Peranakans, Jamae Mosque was built on Mosque Street between 1830 and 1835.5The street was named Mosque Street due to the presence of the mosque.6

Mosque Street runs parallel to a portion of Upper Cross Street and Pagoda Street, which flank it on both sides.7 Situated at the corner of Mosque Street, Jamae Mosque is a well-known landmark in Chinatown with its entrance gate built in the South Indian style of the 1830s. The mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1974.8

Occupying 42 to 45 Mosque Street are buildings that were once quarters for customs officers during the British colonial days. Presently known as the Empire Lofts, these four-storey shophouses have been fully restored and converted into a mixed development with commercial spaces on the ground floor and upscale residential apartments on the upper floors. Empire Lofts won the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s 2006 Architectural Heritage Award.9

In 2012, The Straits Times reported that Mosque Street had attracted a number of art galleries due to its architectural charm, proximity to the Central Business District and lower rent.10 New hotels have also sprung up in this prime location, including The Porcelain in 201111 and Hotel Mono in 2017.12

Variant names

Kit-ling bio pi in Hokkien and kat-leng miu pin in Cantonese, both of which mean “beside the kling temple”.13 South Indians were historically referred to as “klings” in Malay”.14
Hai-san choi ang mo oh-au in Hokkien and hoi-shan kai hung-mo shu-kwun hau-pin in Cantonese, meaning “behind the European school in Upper Cross Street”15 – a reference to the Cross Street English School that used to be on Cross Street between 1874 and 1914.16


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, 2014), 36. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD-[DIR])
2. Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore and Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, vol. 1 (Singapore: Preservation Monuments Board, 1991), 10. (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 JAM)
3. C. M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1975 (Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 37–38. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
4. Jane Beamish and Jane Ferguson, A History of Singapore Architecture: The Making of a City. (Singapore: Graham Brash, 1985), 56. (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 BEA)
5. Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore and Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 4, 8.
6. Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore and Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 10.
7. Mighty Minds Street Directory, 36.
8. Lee Geok Boi, The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of Our Forefathers (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2002), 82. (Call no. RSING 726.095957 LEE)
9. Carol Lim, “Celebrating the Best in Conservation,” Skyline, (November–December 2006), 10–15. (From BookSG); “No. 42–45 Mosque Street,” Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore, accessed 30 September 2016.
10. Deepika Shetty, “An Hour @ the Museum,” Straits Times, 23 March 2012, 8; Deepika Shetty, “Chinatown Gets Arty,” Straits Times, 8 March 2012, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Fast Facts,” The Porcelain Hotel, accessed 11 August 2017.
12. “Welcome,” Hotel Mono, 11 August 2017.  
13. 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): 110–11. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
14. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 91.
15. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 110–11.
16. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 1 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 470. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])

Further resources
G. Byrne Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour (Singapore: Times Editions, 2002), 18. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BYR-[HIS])

Li Xueying, “Chinatown No More?” Straits Times, 3 June 1998, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

Old Shophouses Put to New Uses,” Straits Times, 29 April 1995, 46. (From NewspaperSG)

Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 259. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])

The information in this article is valid as at 11 August 2017 and correct as far as we 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.

Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places