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Keong Saik Road
Kreta Ayer Road
Maxwell Road
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Nankin Street
Neil Road
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Pagoda Street
Park Road
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Sago Lane
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South Bridge Road
Stanley Street
Tanjong Pagar Road
Teck Lim Road
Telok Ayer Street
Temple Street
Teo Hong Road
Tras Street
Trengganu Street
Upper Cross Street
Nankin Street map | list | print
Heritage Marker SB31 - Squatters & Squalor
Nankin Street
 
 
 
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Heritage Marker SB31 - Squatters & Squalor
Learn more about Chinatown's rich history by visiting our Heritage Markers. Installed at places of historical significance around Chinatown, each plaque provides a short history of the location in three languages - English, Simplified Chinese and Japanese.

Life on Nankin and Upper Nankin Streets was representative of the squatter living conditions that were found all over Chinatown until the advent of public housing in the post-war years. Rooms in shophouses were divided several times over into tiny cubicles, averaging 15.5 feet by 13.5 feet. It was not uncommon for entire families to be crammed into a single cubicle. One kitchen and bathroom was often shared by several families, if not an entire shophouse. For decades, many people lived in such squalid conditions without electricity, running water or proper sanitation. Needless to say, pollution, overcrowding and disease were rife. Infant mortality rate was high, and suicides occurred with alarming frequency.

Upper Nankin Street was one of the most densely populated streets in Chinatown. In 1955, six three-storey shophouses on Upper Nankin Street were reported to be housing over 300 residents. Large proportions of the area’s population were samsui women - hardy, weather-beaten women from Guangdong who came to Singapore to work as labourers. They were frugal, stoic and tough; plying the construction sites by day and sleeping in spartan wooden dormitories by night.
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