Chinatown Heritage Centre offers retail

Singapore’s Chinatown Heritage Centre, which officially reopens next Thursday after an upgrade, includes a new F&B and retail section.

Visitors will be able to taste Chinese cuisine, such as curry puffs at Curry Times by Old Chang Kee, a cafe reminiscent of old Chinatown shophouses. On the retail side, there are limited-edition souvenirs by local designers Doe & Audrey, My Paper Earrings and ThePigBakesClay.

With its new look, the centre will help lift the profile of Chinatown, which is building a reputation as a retail destination for tourists seeking something out of the ordinary. The centre is dedicated to reviving the precinct’s rich history and culture with a collection of intimate stories, immersive exhibits and enriching programs, says the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Passport website.

Opened in 2002 as a gateway for visitors to understand the Chinatown story, the attraction has had a year-long makeover under the guidance of the STB. The renewal aims at making Chinatown more appealing to both visitors and locals, including the younger generation.

New features include a fuller portrayal of Chinatown’s past, told through six galleries covering everyday life, multi-ethnicity, clan associations, nightlife, festivals and heritage businesses. Featured home interiors include those of writer Wu Si Jing’s father (Physician’s Family Cubicle), the Kong family, who lived at the centre’s location (Family of Eight Cubicle), a clog maker and a trishaw rider.

A new gallery looks at the young people involved in post-1960s Chinatown. For example, it tells how Lepark co-founder Carmen Low was inspired to revive her childhood community spirit. Also, Hock Lam Beef CEO Tina Tan shares personal recollections of the beef noodle company’s expansion from a business on foot to a chain with outlets islandwide and in China. Other personalities include Chung Shan Association youth wing vice-chairman Carmen Choy, and musicians Ming Fong and Ming Xian, custodians of the ancient performing art of nanyin.

There are multimedia projections, animations, ambient soundscapes and mood lighting, plus some exhibits include the scents of traditional Chinese medicine, opium, spices, hand-rolled cigarettes, and freshly brewed coffee.​

An interactive touchscreen helps visitors trace their Chinese surnames back to their roots, and perhaps uncover affiliations with important people of Singapore’s past.

In a video, the treasurer of Nagore Dagrah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre in Telok Ayer, Raj Mahomed, shares the heritage of the Indian Muslim community in Chinatown.

New modular spaces provide a platform for community activities, with the first exhibition a social campaign, My Father Tongue, presented by students of Wee Kim Wee School of Communications & Information.

As well as new visitor guides in English and Mandarin, the centre offers tours led by characters from Chinatown’s past. Located in Pagoda St, the centre is open daily.

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