For many of us who went on the Chinatown Heritage Tour last Saturday, our prior knowledge of Chinatown did not go beyond the front facades of the many shophouses that line the streets and lanes of Chinatown. In other words, we knew Chinatown as nothing more than the commodities and paraphernalia being sold in its shophouses.
The tour introduced all of us to another side of Chinatown, that is, the “living presence” – the people and places – of Chinatown. At the wet market in Chinatown Complex, we were introduced to a local spice trader who has one of the coolest and tech-savvy shops one will ever find in a wet market. We then visited the rooftop of People’s Park Complex, where we were greeted with an amazing panoramic view of Chinatown’s rooftops. We truly enjoyed the meaningful interactions we had with some of the residents of Chinatown, and the chance to explore some of the little-known places in Chinatown.
After the tour, we attended a talk on heritage in Singapore, where we learnt about the challenges of heritage conservation in Singapore. It was interesting to find out that Singapore’s history has been revised, and is continuously being revised. In the 1980s and 1990s, the start of Singapore’s history was defined as 1819, but now, it is being defined as the 14th Century. We went away from the talk with the understanding that it is ultimately up to us to define how our children and grandchildren remember Singapore when they celebrate SG100.