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Heritage Marker SB06 - 37 Pagoda Street: A Former Coolie House
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.

Much of early Singapore was built by coolie labourers. Coolies came to Singapore by the thousands in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Mostly from southern China, they sailed to Singapore in overcrowded junks; upon arrival, they were sold to the highest bidder. Those who were not immediately auctioned off were kept in holding stations, which were cramped, dimly-lit and airless rooms. The men shared wooden beds, and there was hardly any proper sanitation or fresh water. Sickness, violence and opium addiction were rife. Commonly called piglets, or ju zai, coolies were treated no better than beasts of burden. The fit ones were prized and the sick ones were left to fend for themselves.

Pagoda Street was the location of many coolie-holding stations. In 1901, 12 coolie stations operated on this short street, each licensed to hold up to 200 coolies. In actuality, they often held far more. The most widely known amongst them was Kwong Hup Yuen, situated at no. 37. Possibly the largest of the coolie houses on this street, it certainly made a lasting impression on the area’s residents, who still refer to Pagoda Street as Kwong Hup Yuen Street.
Pagoda Street
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