by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala
Amoy Street in Chinatown begins at the junction of McCallum Street, and Telok Ayer Street and ends at Pekin Street.1 Developed in the 1830s, the street was probably named after the migrants who came from Amoy in China.2
Developed in the 1830s as part of the 1822 Raffles’ plan for Chinatown, Amoy Street was initially listed as “Amoi Street” in Coleman’s 1836 Map of Singapore.3 The street probably got its name from Amoy, a port in Fujian Province, China from which many Hokkien immigrants left to settle in Singapore.4
As it was located near the shore then, Amoy Street had businesses that catered to the sailors and the sea trade.5 It was also associated with opium-smoking dens during the colonial times. In 1854, a Chinese free school, Cui Ying School, was established on this street.6 Hence, the street was also known as Free School Street or gi-oh khau (entrance of the free school).7
Description and key highlights
Starting at the junction of McCallum Street and Telok Ayer Street, Amoy Street takes a right turn to run parallel to Telok Ayer Street.8 A short distance from the central business district, Amoy Street is about 500 m.9
The first Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore, which used to be located at shophouse number 70, was started by Methodist missionaries with just 13 pupils on 1 March 1886. Now called ACS House, this place has been classified as a historic site since the late 1990s.10 Opposite the school stands the Al-Abrar Mosque which was constructed in 1827 by Tamil Muslims known as the Chulias. It was gazetted as a national monument on 19 November 1974.11
The Thian Hock Keng Temple, flanked by Amoy Street and Telok Ayer Street on each side of the temple, was completed in 1842. Gazetted as a national monument on 28 June 1973, it is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples for the Hokkiens in Singapore.12 The Fuk Tak Chi temple, which was converted into a museum, and the Ying Fo Fui Kun (Hakka clan association) are also within the vicinity,13 while the Sian Chai Kang temple stands nearby, distinguished by the fiery dragons resting on its roof.14
Telok Ayer Green, a park about one-third the size of a football field, stands between the Thian Hock Keng Temple and the Nagore Dargah. The Ann Siang Hill park is surrounded by shophouses along Amoy Street, Club Street and Ann Siang Road.15 A commercial property, Far East Square, renowned for its vibrant mix of eateries and shops, is sited at the junction of Amoy Street, Pekin Street and Telok Ayer Street.16
Amoy Street is within the Telok Ayer Conservation area which received conservation status on 7 July 1989.17
(1) Ma-cho-kiong au (Hokkien), meaning “Behind the temple of Ma-Cho”, a reference to the Thian Hock Keng temple.
(2) Gi-oh khau (Hokkien), meaning “mouth of free school” or “entrance to free school”, referring to the free school located there in the 1850s.
(3) Kun-yam miu hau kai (Cantonese), meaning “the street behind the temple of Kun-Yam”, a reference to the Thian Hock Keng temple.
(4) Ha mun kai (Cantonese), with Ha mun being the Cantonese pronunciation for Amoy.
Thulaja Naidu Ratnala
1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Mighty Minds Publishing, 2014), 12. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD-[DIR])
2. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 17. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 17.
4. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 5. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
5. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 5.
6. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 17.
7. 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 (1905): 54–55. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
8. Mighty Minds Street Directory, 12.
9. Soh Tiang Keng, “From Opium Den to Insurance Hub,” Business Times, 8 August 1996, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “ACS Makes History,” Straits Times, 1 March 1998, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 439. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
12. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 438.
13. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 435–36.
14. Mark Lewis, Singapore: The Rough Guide (London: Rough Guides, 2010), 55–56. (Call no. RSING 915.95704 S-[TRA])
15. “Facelift for Two More Parks in Chinatown,” Straits Times, 22 June 2002, H2. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “About Us,” Far East Square, accessed 2 September 2016.
17. “Chinatown-Telok Ayer: History,” Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore, accessed 21 May 2018.
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.