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.
South Bridge Road area
South Bridge Road area
Photo courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
指新加坡河的南岸一带，即今天的桥南路（South Bridge Road）地段。
Area around the southern bank of the Singapore River, which is known today as the South Bridge Road area.
- 1822年，莱佛士爵士（Sir Stamford Raffles）的新加坡市区规划将新加坡河的南岸划分为华人聚居地，范围为桥南路地段，并以埃尔金桥（Elgin Bridge）作为分界点。这个地区即民间俗称的“大坡”。
- “大坡”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 southern bank of the Singapore River for Chinese settlers. This area would become the South Bridge Road area, and was demarcated by the Elgin Bridge. The area became known to the locals as “大坡” .
- 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 “大坡” is used in relation to the term “小坡”, which refers to the area along the northern bank 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.
- 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, “The city is prosperous, and there is no better place than Da Po. Foreign banks, local banks, trust offices, and customs are all located on the coast of Da Po.” It can be seen that there were foreign banks, local banks, postal office and customs offices along the bank of the South Bridge Road area, which was a picture of prosperity.
Amoy Street is a historic street in the South Bridge Road area. Built in the 1830s, the street is lined on both sides with two and three-storey shophouses dating back to before the Second World War. (Lianhe Zaobao, 13/6/2019)
- 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”.