Archive for August, 2007


Si Kar Teng

August 31, 2007
Jalan Membina (Opposite Zhangde Pri Sch)

Kim Tian Road (Next to Regency Suite)

Was it a coincidence or was it an attempt by HDB to provide residents with subtle hints of this area’s original identity?

These modern Si Kar Tengs are found around the Kim Tian Place area. Even though these structures had been there for more than 10 years, I did not give it much thought until I realised the significance these pavilions had for this area.

I bet not many residents here knew about this also. The pavilions looked ordinary and there is nothing there to associate these pavilions to the origins of this area.

Maybe no one likes to remember that this was once a CHINESE cemetery and so one one talks about it. But the truth was this was a major Chinese cemetery in the 19th century and many pavilions were erected on the graves back then. Those pavilions were used as a shelter against the scorching sun when the descendants of the deceased came to pay their respects during the annual “Qing Ming” festival. As all the pavilions were erected with 4 pillars, so that was how this area was referred to as SI KAR TENG.

No one call this place SI KAR TENG anymore. I last time I heard it was probably in the early eighties. But my Dad’s generation will still have vivid memories of this place as he told me he could see the coffins sticking out of the eroded slopes when he was much much younger.

I think I would have freaked out big time if I ever saw those sticking around…….remember….OLD OVER SIZED CHINESE coffins…..not the modern sleek designed type with MP3 players and built in aircon.

Our Splendid Seng Poh Garden

August 31, 2007
Excerpt from Tanjong Pagar Town Council, The Window, July Edition

After six months and at a cost of $250,000, the sunny morning we had on 6 May was just right for the opening of our new garden. Many got up a little earlier to join the morning walk at 8am. Then we sat down for a rest and chat, to music by and expert zither player.

There were long queues for the free popcorn, cakes and water. And all sorts of interesting things for sale at a flea market by the side. If you didn’t like either, you could just enjoy the flowers. Seng Poh Garden is now the only garden in Tanjong Pagar Town with over thirty types of flowers in it!

Assoc Prof Koo Tsai Kee arrived at about nine, and joined us as we learned more about the history of the garden from the MC. The 1st garden was built in 1972, and had a fountain. Barbecue pits were installed later in 1992, but removed in 2006, when residents complained of the smoke and noise. Now we have pavilions surrounded by greenery, and an amphitheatre perfect for events.

We also learned about our landmark sculpture. “Dancing Lady” was sculpted by the same man who built the Merlion, Mr Lim Nang Seng. And with each renovation, the Lady danced around the garden a little. To make sure we were paying attention, the MC gave a quiz!

After a Wushu performance and a spectacular lion dance, Assoc Prof Koo officially opened the garden to great applause. In the bright morning sun and surrounded by blooms. It seemed even the Lady was pleased with her new home.

Click on the image above for the Chinese Version


Tan Chay Yan (1870 – 1916)

August 30, 2007

Chay Yan Street in the Tiong Bahru Area is named after a rubber planter, Tan Chay Yan (1870 – 1916). Chay Yan was the eldest son of Tan Teck Guan and the grandson of Tan Tock Seng.

He was known as the first rubber planter in Malaya. In 1896, he planted the seedlings on a 40-acre plantation in Malacca. It turned out to be a success. He then went on to plant rubber on a 3000 acres site. Many followed him later. He could take credit for the prosperity of the Malaysian economy which was boosted by its rubber plantations. Chay Yan also planted rubber trees in Chao Chu Kang, Singapore, with prominent Chinese like Lim Boon Keng, Lee Choon Guan and Tan Jiak Kim.

Educated at a high school in Malacca, he was appointed a Municipal Commissioner at 21 and a Justice of Peace at 24. In 1900, he was elected a member of the Straits Chinese British Association in Singapore and later President of its branch in Malacca. Chay Yan donated $15,000 in the name of his father to a medical school which was to become the King Edward VII Medical School, the forerunner of the University of Singapore’s Medical Faculty.

An orchid variety, Vanda Tan Chay Yan, was named after him. The peach-coloured Vanda Tan Chay Yan is considered one of the most outstanding hybrids produced in Singapore and has established Singapore firmly on the world orchid map. Vanda Tan Chay Yan was awarded a First Class Certificate, the highest award given by the Royal Horticultural Society of the UK, at the Chelsea Flower Show in England in 1954.

A road in Malacca was also named after him in view of his contributions to the country’s revenue.

Tan died of malaria at the age of 46. A relative believed he could have caught it during the long hours spent at the rubber plantations. His wife, Chua Ruan Neo, a tenth generation Nyonya here, continued with the family tradition of giving. The couple had seven children – six daughters and a son.


Tan Kim Ching (1829 – 1892)

August 28, 2007

Kim Cheng Street in the Tiong Bahru Area was formerly referred to as Kim Ching Street. This street is named after Tan Kim Ching.

Kim Ching was the eldest son of Tan Tock Seng, a native of Changzhou, Fujian province.

He followed his father’s footsteps and achieved considerable success for his Chop Chin Seng, which owned rice mills in Saigon and Siam.

When the Tanjong Pagar Dock Co. (the forerunner of the Port of Singapore Authority) was established in 1863, he contributed $120,000 to its development. He also engaged in saw-mill and shipping.

After his father’s death, he was revered as a leader in the Chinese community.

He was made a Justice of Peace in 1865, two years after he was made an additional Justice of Peace.

Later in 1872, Kim Cheng received another honor of being appointed a honorary magistrate to assist in the administration of justice.

In 1888, he was made a Municipal Commissioner.

As he was engaged in rice and foodstuff trade with Siam and had forged a close relation with the country, he was appointed the first Consul-General for Siam by the King in 1886.

In 1878, he joined hands with Tan Beng Swee, son of Tan Kim Seng, to found an ancestral shrine Bao Chi Gong for the Tan clan.

In 1888, Kim Cheng was conferred the 3rd class decoration of the Order of the Raising Sun for arranging Prince Komatsu’s (of Japan) visit to Siam on a diplomatic mission.

A charitable man and an arbitrator, Kim Cheng had great influence on the Chinese in Kelantan and Petani.

Before the signing of the Pangkor Treaty on Perak affairs, he exerted influence on the secret society members of Shan He Hui to accept mediation by the government.

He was fluent in Malay and was arguably the most powerful Chinese leader in the region in the 19th century

Kim Cheng died in 1892 at 63, leaving behind a daughter and several grandchildren.

All his sons died earlier than him.



August 25, 2007

Whenever my grandma needed to visit her relatives in Neil Road, she would hire a trishaw to take my brother and me there. She would ask the trishaw rider to cycle through the “SI PAI POR” which was the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). (SGH was just next to the Tiong Bahru Estate, before the CTE came about)

Hence I always thought the phrase “SI PAI POR” was the Teochew translation for “HOSPITAL”. I never really dwell on the origins of that word until I started researching for this blog.

Here’s what I found out:

There used to be a few road names within the present SGH compound that were known as Sepoy Avenue, Sepoy Lanes and Sepoy Lines. (These road names has since been expunged)

These roads are named after the Sepoy Camp (Indian troops) of the East India Company (EIC), whose quarters were located in the area. These EIC soldiers came after the founding of Singapore in 1819. They officially acquired their names in 1958. The name Sepoy lines, which is located at the end of Salat Road (Silat Road), is found in Coleman’s 1836 Map of Singapore. The cantonments of the sepoys were moved to this area in May 1823 and continued to remain here till about 1880s. (“Cantonment” refers to a group of lodging assigned to troops)

Sepoy Lines was part of the site of what is now the Singapore General Hospital, built here in 1882. It was also reported in 1843 to be an area where people were killed by man-eating tigers. Sepoy Lane and Avenue exist on the General Hospital grounds. The Sepoy Lines and police station and parade ground are at one end of Outram Road.

Note : “SI PAI POR” is the Hokkien meaning for “Sepoy plain”. Sepoy is from the Hindu “SIPAHI” (Soldier)

So now we know that SI PAI POR does not mean Singapore General Hospital but the location in which SGH happens to be located in.

So why can’t my grandma or everyone else back then, just use plain language and just refer a hospital as a hospital? (By the way, the Hokkien or Teochew equivalent for Hospital would be “Low Koon Chu” )

My mum in law offered a clue this evening. People do not like to utter words that are not auspicious and the word “hospital” was not a politically correct word to use if you do not want bad luck to head your way. She said that to tell people that you are going to the hospital is like you are going there to be cut up by the doctors. Hence, people use replacement words to make it sound more pleasant.

So instead of saying I am going to the “LOW KOON CHU”, I would rather say I going to “SI PAI POR”

Tiong Bahru Primary School

August 24, 2007
My thoughts are on my primary school tonight. I guess it has got something to do with the mini gathering my primary school friends has organised for this weekend. Yes! After more than 2 decades, some of us are still in touch!

Here’s the history of how my primary school came about and disappear and then re-appear somewhere up north.
Class Photo taken while I was in Primary 4
The photo may be fading but I hope the memories stays
Founded in 1930, Quan Min Primary was the first Chinese School in Tiong Bahru.

Located at 337, Tiong Bahru Road, it had some 30 pupils in five classes in 1949. Headed by founder Liu Jinming, the school engaged six teachers. The school’s board of directors was headed by Liu Murong. The other school in the adjacent Bukit Ho Swee was Jie Gu School, which was founded by Li Qinghu in 1936. After a fire in 1961 which gutted many houses in the areas, Quan Min and Jie Gu was merged to become
Jiemin School.

Tiong Bahru Primary School (Under Construction)
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Now : A Power Station has replaced Tiong Bahru Primary School

Tiong Bahru Primary School (Assembly)
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Some things never change, children still do not pay attention
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

My favourite place, The Tuck Shop
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Jiemin School was subsequently renamed Tiong Bahru Primary. Tiong Bahru Primary School closed down in 1990 following a steady decline in its enrolment. The Silat primary school in Jalan Bukit Merah also suffered the same fate. At present, the only surviving primary school in Tiong Bahru is Zhangde School. (Initally known as Chiang Teck School)

Note : (Jiemin Primary School was resurrected in 1985 and is now located in the Yishun area)

Looking at the 1st photo, I now realised that I had been deceived by the adults back then. I was told that my school was previously a morgue. I kinda believe that because our school was quite close to the Singapore General Hospital. While catching tadpoles in a drain behind my school one afternoon, an auntie told my friends and I that the water we were fishing in were water used for washing the dead bodies in a nearby morgue. That was so effective in getting us out of the drain immediately.

Memories are made of these


Sin Hock Heng Street

August 23, 2007

About 100 hundred years ago, there lived some 30 families in Tiong Bahru area.

The only road passable to bullock carts and rickshaws was then known as Sin Hock Heng Street.

In 1927, the former Singapore Improvement Trust acquired the areas and started to rebuild Sin Hock Heng Street.

When completed, the road was subsequently renamed Tiong Bahru Road.

Tiong Bahru Road ran through the estate from the Singapore General Hospital on one end to the Bukit Merah on the other.

Houses were built on both sides of the road.

Sin Hock Heng Road was the only road where bullock carts and rickshaws could pass when travelling between the city center and Bukit Merah