Teochew Street Names in Tua Poh (part 1)

Before 1840 tua poh was demarcated by South Bridge Road, the Singapore River and the coastline. Being the heart of the early Chinese settlement and trade, most of the streets here were known by Chinese names different from the official versions.


Extract from Map of the Town and Environs of Singapore from an Actual Survey by G.D. Coleman, dated 1839. Source: National Archives of Singapore.

Below is a list of streets in pre-1840 tua poh where Teochews were dominant:

1. Boat Quay
Called 十八溪墘 (tsap poih khoi ki; 溪墘 means “beside the stream”) or 十八間 (tsap poih koiⁿ), referring to the 18 riverside merchant houses there. Also known as 吻基 (buk ki. i.e. Boat Quay)

2. Circular Road
十八間后 (tsap poih koiⁿ au) – “behind the 18 riverside merchant houses”.

3. Upper Circular Road
This was a place of early concentration for the Teochews and where horse stables were located. It was called 潮州馬車街 (Teochew bhe tshai goi – “Teochew Horse Carriage Street”), as well as 馬車街 (bhe tshai goi – “Horse Carriage Road”) or 拍鐵街 (phah thih goi – “Blacksmith Street”).

4. Carpenter Street
Initially the street where Chinese carpenters lived and worked. It later became part of a vegetable wholesale area that extended to Tew Chew Street and Chin Hin Street until 1979. Carpenter Street was also known as 戲館街 (hi kueng goi – “theatre street”) as the first Teochew opera theatre was reported located here. Its other name was Ghee Hok Street 義福巷, as the main meeting place of Ghee Hock Kongsi, a breakaway of the original local Triad body Ngee Heng, was here. Despite its name Ghee Hok was not a Hokkien group. Its leader was a Teochew gambier/pepper trader and coolie broker named Choa Moh Choon 蔡茂春.

5. Hong Kong Street
Named after Hong Kong island and not migrants from Hong Kong. It was called 棺材街 (kuaⁿ tshai goi – “Coffin Street”)

6. Lorong Teluk
Called bih lang koi in Hokkien (possibly 竹藍街, tek na goi in Teochew) or bamboo/rattan basket Street, because of the bamboo basket shops. Goh Hup Heng, a rattan weaving basket shop at No. 22 Lorong Teluk closed in 2001.

7. Canton Street
Named after the port Canton (Guangzhou) and not the Cantonese people. This part of Boat Quay was called also known as chap sa hang (十三行 tsap san hang, “13 merchant houses”). It was also known as Khoi-kin huen-koi-a (溪墘?街?) (this is reported to be in Hokkien, but sounds Teochew), meaning “small cross street by Boat Quay.

8. South Canal Road / Chulia Street
山仔頂 (sua kia teng – “top of little hill”). Until the 1970s, the Teochews at Chulia Street dominated the import, export and wholesaling of dried seafood products such as dried shrimps, salted fish, sharksfin and sea cucumber. They later moved to North Canal Road

9. North Canal Road
Named after the Singapore Canal (originally a tributary of the Singapore River) that it ran alongside, which was later filled up. Called khoi kia kin (溪仔墘 – “side of the stream”) and 單邊街 (tua pi goi – “one side street”) as there were houses only on one side of the street.

10. Philip Street
Called大老爺宮頭/口 (tua lau ya gheng tau/kao – front of the temple) or孖廟街 (ma bie goi – Twin Temple Street), referring to the Wak Hai Cheng Bio


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