Tracing the Journey of Singapore's Early Pioneers
The Chinatown Heritage Centre also traces the journey of Singapore's early pioneers who left their villages in China and made their way to Nanyang, the southern seas. They were driven by famine, floods and unrest, and came to Singapore with the hope of earning a living and seeking a better life.
New foreign sights, sounds and smells greeted the Chinese immigrants also known as sinkheh (meaning 'new guest' in Hokkien dialect) when they arrived in Singapore.
Disembarking at the piers, they would have seen labourers and traders at work – Armenians, Europeans, Jews, Arabs, Parsis, Bugis, Indians – just to name a few. It would have been their first time seeing someone of another ethnicity.
Most of the Chinese immigrants settled south of the Singapore River, giving birth to Chinatown.
Chinatown was commonly referred to as Kreta Ayer, or 'water cart' in Malay, after the road. Until the early 20th century, bullock carts carrying water plied Kreta Ayer Road, distributing water drawn from wells at Ann Siang Hill.