Celebrate and document the rich experiences of 11 participating heritage businesses in Chinatown at the Street Corner Heritage Galleries.
Dates: from 15 Sep 2022
The heritage businesses of Chinatown are full of stories of hard work, dedication, and resourcefulness. From restaurants, confectioneries and tea merchants to goldsmiths and traditional Chinese medicine shops, they embody the ethos of the communities who live in the area.
The Street Corner Heritage Galleries
The National Heritage Board (NHB) will be launching its Street Corner Heritage Galleries for Chinatown on 15 September 2022 with 11 participating heritage businesses. Under this scheme, NHB works closely with interested owners of heritage businesses with at least 30 years of history to co-curate and co-create “mini-museums” at their premises that showcase the history and heritage of their businesses and trades, accompanied by historical documents, photographs, artefacts, etc.
The Street Corner Heritage Galleries scheme is part of NHB’s ongoing efforts under Our SG Heritage Plan to strengthen partnerships with communities, and raise awareness of and foster a deeper appreciation for heritage in everyday spaces. It is a three-year pilot scheme which was first launched in the Balestier precinct in March 2020, followed by the Kampong Gelam precinct in April 2021 and the Little India precinct in January 2022. The scheme will subsequently be rolled out to the Geylang Serai precinct in 2023.
Street Corner Heritage Galleries: Chinatown will feature 11 heritage businesses in the precinct comprising Eu Yan Sang, Chop Wah On, Spring Court Restaurant, Mei Heong Yuen, On Cheong Jewellery, Tin Sing Goldsmiths, Kim Poh Hong Goldsmith, Bee Cheng Hiang, Lim Chee Guan, Tong Heng and Pek Sin Choon.
- Eu Yan Sang: 26 Upper Cross Street, Singapore 058336
Check out the various tools used in preparing herbs as the brand continues its founder's mission to use traditional medicine to service mankind.
- Chop Wah On: No. 34 Upper Cross Street, Singapore 058340
One of the oldest medicated oil and balm companies in Singapore, Chop Wah On was a popular stop for Chinese coolies and Samsui women returning to China to stock up on gifts, in particular its Red Flower Oil.
- Spring Court Restaurant: 52-56 Upper Cross Street, Singapore 058348
One of the oldest restaurants in Singapore, Spring Court was established at Great World Amusement Park in 1929 by lorry driver turned restaurateur Ho Loke Yee.
Originally named Wing Choon Yuen (“singing in a spring garden” in Cantonese), it relocated to New Bridge Road in 1978, renaming itself Spring Court while retaining its Chinese name, before settling at Upper Cross Street in 2004. Discover how much a wedding banquet cost with the receipt issued in 1961.
- Mei Heong Yuen: 63-67 Temple Street, Singapore 058611
Known for its traditional desserts today, few might be aware that Mei Heong Yuen (“fragrant garden” in Cantonese) first began operations as a producer of roasted peanuts, the Farmer Brand.
- On Cheong Jewellery: 251 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058800
On Cheong was founded in 1936 by Ho Yew Ping who immigrated from Guangdong, China in 1925 and apprenticed at various goldsmiths in Malaya before moving to Singapore. Ho set up his first shop with friends at North Bridge Road selling silver and gold accessories and named the business On Cheong, which translates to “peace and prosperity” in Cantonese, reflecting the desires of immigrants in those uncertain times.
Take a look at a photograph of a specially-made vest worn by founder Ho Yew Ping during World War II, which contains multiple pockets for Ho to carry his gold while on the run.
- Tin Sing Goldsmiths: 205 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058756
Tin Sing was also the go-to jeweller for commissioned works, which often made headlines. Examples include a gold medallion depicting two swallows returning to a nest, gifted by a fan in 1952 to Hong Kong Cantonese opera star Sek Yin-Tsi; and a gold medallion commissioned by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, presented as a token of appreciation to then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the official opening of the chamber’s building in 1964.
- Kim Poh Hong Goldsmith: #01-48 3 Pickering Street, Singapore 048660
For more than 80 years, Kim Poh Hong Goldsmith has been crafting and selling
jewellery to generations of customers.
- Bee Cheng Hiang: 189 New Bridge Road, Singapore 059422
Bee Cheng Hiang started in the 1930s as a roadside stall selling bak kwa (barbecued meat slices) near the former Majestic Theatre in Chinatown. The family named the business Bee Cheng Hiang and each Chinese character of its name is composed of nine strokes to signify longevity in Chinese culture. It is also a representation of the Bee Cheng Hiang experience, where the bak kwa is touted as “beautiful, aromatic delicacies”.
- Lim Chee Guan: 203 New Bridge Road, Singapore 059429
Lim Chee Guan was established by Lim Kay Eng who arrived from Fujian, China in the 1920s. He made bak kwa using his mother’s recipe and adapted the marinade of the meat to suit local tastes. Lim also experimented with the preparation process, such as sun-drying
- Tong Heng: 285 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058833
Recognised for its diamond-shaped egg tarts today, Tong Heng has its roots as a pre-war establishment known as Huang Hou Teahouse. Its founder, Fong Chee Heng, who arrived in the 1910s from Guangdong, China, started out as an itinerant hawker peddling drinks in various teahouses. With savings accumulated over the years, Fong bought over the teahouse on Smith Street in 1934, which was later renamed Tong Heng.
- Pek Sin Choon: 36 Mosque Street, Singapore 059514
One of the oldest tea merchants in Singapore, Pek Sin Choon was founded in 1925 by Bai-Zhuang Dan Niang and her son Pek Kim Aw.
To build his own clientele, Pek would carry tea on a shoulder pole, selling it door-to-door to businesses and residents in the city area. By 1925, Pek saved enough to set up his own shop on George Street. He chose the buffalo as the brand’s mascot because he was nicknamed “Buffalo Head'' by his associates due to his strong-headed character. Pek Sin Choon gradually gained a reputation for its quality tea blends over the years.
*Photo Credits: National Heritage Board