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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Feb 5, 2011

3D Blog - Chinatown Complex

A group of senior citizens playing "dum" ("draught" or "checker") at the Chinatown Complex. They were engrossed in this game for almost an hour, despite distraction from the loud blasting amplifier from the public karaoke performance in the nearby.


The above map indicate the location of the Chinatown Complex with a thumbnail photo of the building and marked with a red star. The "Walk the blog" journey through Chinatown.

The following black & white photos of Sago Street in the same place in Chinatown over 50 years ago. Now, the "Festive Street Bazaar" covered the streets of this enclave in Chinatown from Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Temple Street and Smith Street. thronging with shoppers and the vendors of festive delicacies and traditional Chinese New Year decorations.

Sago Street circ 1950. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Sago Street circ 1950. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

The simple, no-frill decoration with written scrolls, "Wishing Happy New Year" (right) and "All kinds of candies and goodies from Europe" (left) on the push-cart stall. The same on a little street of Chinatown in Singapore in the 1950s during Chinese New Year shopping then and now. "Same Place. Different Times. Different Lifestyle".

Sago Street circ 1950. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Sago Street circ 1950. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Photo Credit: Robert Steiner

Photo Credit: Robert Steiner

Photo Credit: Robert Steiner

Photo Credit: Robert Steiner

Source: Google Map.

Source: Google Map.

Source: Google Map.

A relaxed lady busker performing karaoke in Mandarin or Hokkien songs at the entrance of Chinatown Complex.

It’s that time of the year! Heritage TV brings you to Chinatown, a place at it’s most colourful and busiest during this festive season. What’s the story behind the word ‘niu che shui’ here .

Please meet Mr Victor Yue , Resident of Chinatown and Chinatown's Greatest Fan.

Interview stories of Chinatown at Chinatown Singapore:
Mr. Yue was born in Chinatown, grew up in Chinatown and got married in Chinatown. He is passionate about heritage, events and happenings in Chinatown and helps to promote various aspects of Chinatown in his own unique ways using English as a platform to reach out to different people. He actively maintains a blog titled 'bullockcartwater', where he uploads the photos and videos that he takes at various events. His blog was even mentioned in the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech in 2005! It is very interesting to talk to Mr Yue and hear of his memories of growing up in Chinatown, and of what he knows about the Chinatown of today.



Blogger sim hui hwang said...

Listening to Mr Yue is like listening to Redifusion minus Mr Lei Dai Sor and Mr Ong Tor. Mr Yue's version is in English. He has so much to share and it should be archived for the younger ones. When I listened to this heritage aspect, I couldn't help but feel so deprived. As a child, I never lived near Chinatown and I never got to go near there at all even in my 20s. All I got to hear came from my mom and something that Mr Yue said reminded me of this road that he mentioned: Craig Road which he said was called 'Tern Tiam Hang" - which I understand to mean an alley where the pawnshops are. As I grow older, I notice I am more interested in the past and I have begun to hanker over such places where I never got to know. The part about getting toothbrush, basin and such for a wedding is very interesting. I have always wondered why a chamber pot was part of the wedding trousseau. Subsequently, I realised that having an attached bathroom in the master bedroom is a privilege few could afford in those days and that was the reason why a chamber pot was part of the 'jia zhuang' (wedding trousseau). Now when Mr Yue mentioned getting a matchmaker on the wedding day, it sets me wondering why matchmakers in the past were made to appear as horrendous versions of big women with moles near their mouths. This could be a version that I was exposed to when young. You see, my idea of watching Teochew opera was to hover round the opera stage waiting for hawkers who would be selling rojak, muah chee and tikam tikam. With ten cents in my hand, I would be waiting to have my fix of a small portion of rojak on a small leaf, or playing tikam tikam hoping to win a fake gold ring with a fake ruby stone on top for dramatic effect. Occasionally, I would look up on the wayang stage to spy a matchmaker in that permutation - a big woman with a fierce, foxy-looking face, with a mole near her mouth and an ubiquitous handkerchief stuck near where she buttoned up her samfoo. Totally hilarious! Incidentally, until today, muah chee and rojak are still my favourite snacks.

February 6, 2011 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Ipohgal said...

Hi James,

Gong Xi Fa Cai to you and your family. You are doing a great job featuring Chinatown at its best. I loved all the black and white photos in your latest series. They are so nostalgic. You won't get such scenes again. Keep up with your good work- sharing the past with the present.

February 6, 2011 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger chinatownboy said...

@ Sim Hui Hwang: Kamsiah for your comments. I was rattling away whatever floated into my mind. (^^)

Thanks for sharing your childhood experience. It would be great to compare notes of experiences at different times of the history of Singapore.

Yes, I like muah chee too, and in the old days, one would have to wait for the street opera (wayang) to find them. And well, always on the lookout for possible gang-fights too. (^^) Whenever I see the muah chee seller at the temples in the heartlands with their age old carbide lamps, it never fails to bring me back to the happy old days.

Ah, the operas demonise the matchmakers. They are so important in the old days and perhaps even now, especially with cross-marriages amongst dialect groups of the Chinese (maybe inter-race marriages might need different skills) where they interface them to negotiate for an agreed term, be it what to offer before and during the wedding days and the nice words to say for the bride and groom, the in-laws and the relatives. And to smoothen up any potential crisis that might occur during the course of the wedding day. (^^)

February 8, 2011 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger sim hui hwang said...

Dear Mr Yue
You are so funny!I like the part where you said you were looking out for potential gang fights. That is a nice one to blog about. My mom did tell me of this place called 'pok chwee long' - I sound as if I am anyhow plucking names from the air - but is this Havelock Road? She told me once she had to be separated from her helper when she was going home after school. She ran into someone's back door to hide when there was a gang fight between two teams at this pok chwee long place. Sounds like a factory making soft drinks.

The other thing about the matchmaker is equally funny - my knowledge on traditional marriage is really very limited. Oh, so now I understand that she must be summoned to be an intermediary when negotiating terms between two different dialect groups. I like the word 'demonise'. Really, the matchmaker of yore were really like demons. Talking about the muah chee makes me laugh and I don't care. My mom used to embarrass me by relating this incident about how I dipped the little cubes of muah chee back onto the roasted peanut mixture. She chided me for pushing the muah chee back into her peanut mixture, contaminating the mixture with my saliva. Ha ha ha!

February 9, 2011 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger PChew said...

I learned to play dum from a Malay playmate in the kampong behind my house. As kids we played for fun. The 2 players in the photo like those senior citizens in HDB void decks were betting in the game. Hence, their concentration were on the dum board.

February 12, 2011 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

The "dum" game is easier to learn than the strategic game of western chess, Philip. However, "dum" is still need concentration. In my young days in the kampong, I used to draw the "dum" on a cardboard and soft drink caps as DIY chips with two different colours for the players. Fun. Cheers!

February 13, 2011 at 3:52 PM  

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