Singaporean Mandarin Database
This database contains a collection of Mandarin terms which have cultural, historical or sentimental value unique to Singapore. These terms may be used by Singaporeans in the past or at present. Some of the terms are read in print while others are used in our everyday conversations.
North Bridge Road area
North Bridge Road area
Photo courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
指新加坡河的北岸一带，即今天的桥北路（North Bridge Road）地段。
Area around the northern bank of the Singapore River, which is known today as the North Bridge Road area.
- 1822年，莱佛士爵士（Sir Stamford Raffles）的城市规划将新加坡河的北岸划分为欧洲人聚居地，范围为桥北路的地段，并以埃尔金桥（Elgin Bridge）作为分界点。这个地区即民间俗称的“小坡”。
- “小坡”的“坡”并不是指山坡，而是将同音的福建（闽南）词语 “埠”错误地音译成为“坡”。“埠”在福建话中指沿岸城市，在华语中有码头的意思，就如新加坡河岸的驳船码头（Boat Quay）。
- In 1822, Sir Stamford Raffles developed a town plan for Singapore. In the plan, he allotted the northern bank of the Singapore River for European settlements. This area would become the North Bridge Road area, and was demarcated by the Elgin Bridge. The area became known to the locals as “小坡” .
- The “坡” in “大坡” does not refer to an actual slope. Rather, it is the mistaken transliteration of the Hokkien (Minnan) term “埠”. In the Hokkien dialect, the character “埠” refers to “a coastal city”. In Mandarin, however, it refers to a “quay” or “harbour”, such as Boat Quay situated along the banks of the Singapore River.
- The Mandarin term “小坡” is used in relation to the term “大坡”, which refers to the area along the southern banks of the Singapore River. According to Chinese tradition, there is a proper order for things, from big (“大”) to small (“小”), elder to younger. Hence, the southern bank of the Singapore River was named “大坡” because it was the first area for the early Chinese settlers in Singapore. The northern bank came to be known as “小坡” as it was the second settlement for the early Chinese.
- The North Bridge Road area was originally allotted for European settlements. However, as the Europeans started moving out and more Chinese settlers arrived in Singapore, the area gradually became a Chinese settlement.
- According to the records found in A Description of Singapore in 1887（《新加坡风土记》） written by the Qing Dynasty Court Official Li Zhongyu, “Although there were markets located in Xiaopo, there were no large and established shops within. Instead, the wares offered only comprised of produce and food by the indigenous people.” It was clear that, at the time, the North Bridge Road area was not as prosperous as the South Bridge Road area. The items on sale were mainly local wares and food, and there were no large-scale stores.
In the later years, the population in the North Bridge Road area increased exponentially. However, the area was poorly connected. Hence, the shop owners there established the Sian Chay Medical Institution on Second Street in the North Bridge Road area (Victoria Street today) in 1901, in accordance with the principles of the Thong Chai Medical Institution. (Lianhe Zaobao, 7/9/2015)
- In the early 19th century, the people living in the South Bridge Road area were mainly from the Hokkien (Minnan), Teochew, and Cantonese dialect groups. By the end of the 19th century, there were also settlers there who hailed from the provinces of Hainan and Guangxi, as well as other parts of Fujian province. The South Bridge Road area had become very densely populated as a result. Hence, these new settlers moved into the North Bridge Road area.
- In the early days, Singaporean Chinese would use the term “落坡” or “下坡” to mean “going to town”. The North and South Bridge Road areas were also collectively referred to as “坡底”.