The Murals of Chinatown

There’s a lot to see in Singapore’s Chinatown, from temples to tea shops to Michelin-starred hawker stalls — it’s one of few neighborhoods in Singapore that can easily cause sensory overload. So blank walls are hard to come by; but when you do stumble on one, you may be lucky enough also to find some amazing street art.B111DD51-A348-4752-9052-101E75CF9061_1_201_a

That’s part of the “Old Trades” mural on Mohamad Ali Lane by Yip Yew Chong, a local artist who seems to be responsible for over half of Chinatown’s outdoor art. It’s easy to see why — he captures old Singapore beautifully. In addition to his depiction of the paper mask and puppet seller above, Chong uses this mural to show us snapshots of a lion dance head maker …

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… a mamak shop (convenience store) …

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… and these samsui women (Chinese immigrants who worked in Singapore’s construction industry from the 1920s through the 1940s):

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You can find a very different take on samsui women in one of the murals hidden at the back of the Amoy Street Food Centre:

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This string of murals, designed and painted by students at the Anglo-Chinese School, explores themes from Amoy Street’s history and mythology:

Almost all of the paintings in Chinatown connect to the neighborhood’s history in some way; you can see an impression of a traditional Chinese roofscape …

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… this woman in fancy Chinese dress (with Singapore’s Marina Bay juxtaposed in the background) …

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… and even Bruce Lee!

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Traditional Chinese lanterns are a common theme, both on the walls …

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… and strung all across the streets of Chinatown:

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Reflections of the neighborhood’s heritage are everywhere. Indeed, I only found three pieces of street art that appeared not to have any connection to China or days of Singapore gone by: this bit of optical fun …

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… these very active stick figures …

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… and this tag, some of the the only street art I’ve seen in Singapore that appears to be unplanned (and, therefore, probably illegal).

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All of the other street art harkens back to another time (and pretty much all of it is by Yip Yew Chong). There’s this mural of a letter writer, an occupation that would have been common in Chinatown a hundred years ago when many immigrants could not read or write … 

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… an image of Singapore’s mid-Autumn festival in days of yore…

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… and a glimpse into Yip Yew Chong’s own childhood home in Chinatown …

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… complete with his mother’s kitchen …

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… and a table fully stocked with Singaporean delights:

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A more playful mural combines old and new — here’s a traditional fruit seller plying his trade with Detective Conan, the star of a Japanese magna series:

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Yip Yew Chong’s most recent Chinatown mural is this rendering of a Cantonese opera performance, which I happened to see him painting just over a year ago:IMG_4605

The opera mural is complete with backstage activity, and mischievous boys can be found under the stage…

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… hanging out near the rojak (an Indonesian fruit and veggie salad) vendor …

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… and lining up for ice cream:78109832-6A5C-4411-90BA-10A8E8BBAC31_1_201_a

The largest Chinatown mural is just at the edge of the neighborhood, in Telok Ayer, painted on the back of Thian Hock Keng Temple.

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This mural portrays a father and his daughter looking out across the Singapore River at a long row of scenes of old Singapore:

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Just next to this mural is a piece of art titled “Chinese Precessions [sic],” which celebrates 19th century lantern parades:

3EC55E75-0CEE-4415-ACDA-85FC8C02D1A3_1_201_a If you find yourself wandering the streets of Chinatown and in need of a snack, I recommend stopping by the upper floor of the Chinatown Complex for a treat from Old Amoy Chendol — yum!

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And if you want a bit of a smile, there’s this sign not far from the MRT to end your journey:

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One response to “The Murals of Chinatown

  1. Oh wow there murals are stunning!! Ispent 2 days in Singapore years ago…not nearly enough time to explore what this place has to offer. I would love to go back and explore the place properly someday.

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