Impoverished Chinese Immigrants came to Singapore in the 19th Century in search of better lives, but found themselves in a strange land with harsh living conditions. These hardworking migrants banded together in the Chinese ethnic enclaves of Chinatown, and eventually became the pioneer forefathers of our nation.
“The CHC celebrates the spirits of our pioneers and retraces how Chinatown has evolved and remains in the heart of many Singaporeans today.”
Step into the world of a Pagoda Street tailor and help to take an order through the telephone. Go behind into the workshop and listen to the banter of the seamstresses at work. Walk further to discover the living quarter and story of an apprentice.
The long and narrow corridor connects the many families who lived here, each plying a different trade and from different hometown. Listen to the conversations in the physician’s room or at the kitchen amidst the ambient sounds of that time.
Here, visitors retrace the journey of the Chinese immigrant. The massive 3D projection map on a junk tells the story of the treacherous sea journey. Many did not make it through, but for those who did, a glowing red lantern on the harbor rekindled their hopes of better days.
Having survived the journey, these Sinkeh (“new guests”) were immediately thrown into a frenzied world of strange sight, sound and smell. They had to quickly find a job and settle down so as to repay their loans for the journey.
Raffles had divided the ethnic groups into different quarters, but even within the Chinese quarters, the Sinkehs formed their own enclaves based on dialects. The projection mapped interactive explored the make-up, culture, and trades of these different dialects in Chinatown.
These poor immigrants were without families or friends. And with the little money they saved, many turned to vices like opium, prostitution or gambling. Listen to the story of a prostitute amidst the gambling den chaos.
Early immigrants formed clans to help people from their home village take care of one another. The clans became their new families and took care of major life events like marriage and deaths. The clans eventually played a major role in the development of education, healthcare and others. Set in a clan association the clan story is touch with the help of a multi-touch table and other displays. Those who enjoy Karaoke can even learn to recite “San Zi Jin” (3 character classic) in Mandarin, Cantonese or Hokkien.
Chinatown was a bustling and vibrant marketplace. Storytellers, barbers, goldsmiths, food, letter writers, cinema on wheels, and operas are just some of the reasons why people came to Chinatown for.
Set in an immersive theatre, this wall to floor projection showcases the multicultural festivals that were celebrated in Chinatown. Listen to first person narratives of how these festivals were celebrated.
Reflective and sombre, this is where the story of Sago lane is told. Having worked here their entire lives, and sent most of the savings home to relatives, many of these pioneers died alone in Sago lane. The old chapter of Chinatown closes, but lest we forget, the living legacy they left behind.
The Chinatown is a living history. Many trades had vanished, but many continued to thrive. Some heritage brands have even gone beyond the shores of Singapore, and some continue to draw visitors to Chinatown. View the stories of how many younger generations are taking up where their great grand parents have left off.
Design Masterplan: Gallagher & Associates
Main Contractor: Kingsmen Exhibits
3D and graphics Design Development: Chemistry
Multimedia and content interpretives: MMP