Phillip Street (or Philip Street) is a short one-way street in Chinatown that connects Chulia Street to Church Street. It was named either after William Edward Phillips,1 the governor of Penang (1820–26) or after Charles Phillip,2 the superintendent of the Sailors’ Home.
Phillip Street, one of the older streets in Singapore, ran along the coastal area in the early 19th century. The street is home to the Yueh Hai Ching Temple (Wak Hai Cheng Bio in Teochew), one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore.3 In the 1800s, a group of Teochew immigrants built a shrine dedicated to Mazu, Goddess of the Sea, on the street.4 The shrine was then near the sea before land reclamation pushed the coastline out. Newly arrived Teochew immigrants visited the shrine to give thanks for their safe journey and seek blessings from the deity.5 In 1826, a proper temple was built on the site of the shrine. In the mid-1850s, the temple was rebuilt by the Nee Ann Kongsi, which had taken over its management.6
In 1830, Phillip Street and one side of Market Street were razed by a fire that had begun in a blacksmith's shop. This paved the way for the construction of shophouses and terrace houses in 1931 to replace the badly-built houses.7 In the 1980s, the area encompassing Phillip Street, Market Street and some nearby streets underwent urban redevelopment, and the shophouses were replaced by high-rise buildings.8 Today, Phillip Street is part of the Central Business District.
OCBC Centre East, a commercial building, is located at the junction of Phillip Street and Chulia Street. It was designed by world renowned architect I. M. Pei, and construction of the building was completed in the 1990s.9 The Yueh Hai Ching Temple, which was gazetted as a national monument on 28 June 1996, is located beside it.10
Buildings on the other side of Phillip Street are the Royal Group Building (former Commerce Point), Tan Ean Kiam Building, Grand Building and a portion of the Golden Shoe carpark.11
(1) Lau la keng khau, which means “mouth of the lau la temple” (lau la means “grandfather”).12
(2) Ma-miu kai (Cantonese), which means “double temple street”. The Yueh Hai Ching Temple is built in such a way that two temples are enclosed within one outer wall.13
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 242. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
2. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 295. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 451. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
4. “Yueh Hai Ching Temple,” National Heritage Board, accessed 6 May 2016; “170-Year-Old Temple to Be Preserved,” Straits Times, 28 June 1996, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Back to Former Glory after Facelift,” Straits Times, 10 April 1997, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
6. National Heritage Board, “Yueh Hai Ching Temple.”
7. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 395; Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 209. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
8. “Step Terrace Design for the Matterhorn,” Straits Times, 26 April 1982, 17; Kalpana Rashiwala, “CDL Sells Commerce Point for $2,200 Psf,” Business Times, 20 June 2008, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
9. “OCBC Group Forking Out $ 194M to Build 15-Storey Block,” Business Times, 12 November 1994, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “170-Year-Old Temple to Be Preserved.”
11. “Street directory, Phillip Street, map, accessed 6 May 2016.
12. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 296.
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): 120–1. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
The information in this article is valid as of 6 May 2016 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.