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Chinatown Heritage Centre
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Singapore Self-Guided Audio Tour
Ranked #29 of 805 things to do in Singapore
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: The colourful past of Chinatown comes alive within the walls of these three beautifully-restored shophouses on Pagoda Street, comfortably nestled in the midst of Singapore's bustling Chinatown district. Every nook and cranny in the Chinatown Heritage Centre pulsates with the memories of yesteryear, offering an experience like no other as one is transported to Chinatown in the budding years of Singapore's establishment as a seaport. From the desperate hopefulness of the many "Sinkheh" (new migrants) - risking life and limb to embark on an arduous journey from the various Chinese provinces to the promised land of Singapore - to the raw, seedy and underground practices of gambling dens and secret societies, be prepared to experience a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality as you step into the pages of Chinatown's history. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is the only place in Singapore that has recreated the original interiors of its shophouse tenants in the 1950s, offering visitors an honest, revealing glimpse into the lives of Chinatown's early residents.
Rural Belgium
Level Contributor
196 reviews
73 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 90 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 7, 2012

Lots of well presented displays with personal stories - in historic context - of Chinese people who came to - and helped build - Singapore. Fascinating place to spend a couple of hours, especially if you're caught in the rain or want a break from the souvenir stalls.

Visited August 2012
Thank Nossi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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493 reviews from our community

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Glasgow, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
81 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 58 helpful votes
“Fabulous little museum if you like to see things as they were! Great for a rainy day trip!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 1, 2012 via mobile

We went here on a very wet day for something to do indoors and weren't disappointed! There is a full size original Chinatown townhouse which I was fascinated by!

Thank lozkixass
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
102 reviews
87 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 417 helpful votes
“‘Sinkhehs’ to rooted Singaporeans – an epic journey”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 8, 2012

Inaugurated in mid 2002, the Chinatown Heritage Centre (CHC) located at 48, Pagoda Street does not seem to attract as many visitors as one might have thought. That is rather a pity, since CHC offers a poignant yet brutally honest look at Chinatown’s history – a journey back in time to when the undaunted ‘sinkheh’ (migrants) risked everything, their lives included, journeying from China to the promised land of Singapore.

Harking back to the 1950s, CHC has faithfully recreated the lives of these migrants who lived in the rented cubicles of shop houses. It offers unvarnished insight into the poverty, disease and abysmal living conditions, the frenzied search to try and find new roots in an alien land, of the migrants seeking relief from their hard lives in the four evils of opium smoking, prostitution, gambling and drinking.

CHC showcases the brighter side too of Chinatown as a place where festivals were celebrated with traditional revelry, the cuisine was unmatched and the nights came alive even as the days never ended. CHC takes you on a journey peppered with coolies, samsui women and rickshaw pullers, a saga that spans the initial hopelessness and despair to the fulfillment of no longer being sinkhehs but rooted Singaporeans. It is an uplifting story of trials, tribulations, hopes, joys and hard won success – of a brave, enterprising people who came to earn some money and return to their homeland but who then stayed and made this foreign land their home.

CHC is open daily from 9am to 8pm and the adult entry ticket is S$ 10. The simplest way to get here is by MRT – alighting at the Chinatown MRT station. CHC is housed in three restored shophouses, spread over three levels. The galleries and exhibits on each level offer silent, eloquent testimony to different periods of Chinatown’s history and the life and times of its residents.

Level 1 explains the harsh circumstances in their homeland that triggered the flow of migrants to Nanyang the promised land, where there was work to be found and food to eat. This section also describes the perilous journey from China to Si Lat Po (Singapore). Depending on the weather it could take weeks or even months to make the journey and many never made it through alive. This floor also has a reproduction of a tailor’s quarters including his workshop and the shop where he met his customers to conduct his business.

Level 2 with appropriately dimly lit galleries and exhibits speaks of the migrants’ arrival at Singapore followed by the squalor of their daily lives in the dismal, cramped rented cubicles of shophouses. The horrors of sharing insanely crowded living quarters, common toilets and kitchens. (This section includes a true to life recreation of cubicle living) It also describes how they sought kinship in clan associations (based on dialects, surnames, occupations, provinces of origin) in a bid to create a home away from home. It also tells the sad story of how many succumbed to the allure of the secret societies and fell prey to the four evils of brothels, opium smoking, drinking and gambling. The raw recreation of a seedy, dingy gambling and liquor den here makes cold fingers run down one’s spine.

Level 3 is a welcome contrast showcasing the bright and colourful “golden years” of Chinatown, where the days never ended and the nights were always young. This section highlights the food (including an authentic replica of a tea house), the culture and the festivals which kept Chinatown buzzing all day and all night. The noise and bustle of restaurants serving dim sum, hawkers peddling food served as the backdrop to the migrants settling down in their new home, once again embracing their age old beliefs, superstitions, ancestor worship. On a more sober note, on this level you can hear the life stories of a samsui woman, a hawker, a dessert seller, a seamstress and a tailor.


1. To get a more comprehensive picture of the galleries and exhibits on show, it is extremely useful to pick up a copy of the CHC Visitor Guide before you start your visit. You are expected to return this Visitor Guide once you are done with your visit.

2. Mobile phones are to be put on silent mode and are not to be used within CHC. Smoking, consumption of food and beverages is not allowed within CHC.

3. Flash photography within CHC is not permitted. Video with handheld cameras is allowed.

Visited March 2012
1 Thank TMenon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
69 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Real piece of history”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 25, 2012 via mobile

When we first went in I was not overly impressed but as we progressed through the museum and I understood what they were doing I was entranced.
The museum is not easy to spot as the entrance is in between cafes and stalls. The entrance fee is 10$ per person.

It is an original shop house and tells the story of the people who lived and worked there. Some of the stories are very moving and helped me appreciate how hard life was for most of the Chinese that came to Singapore.

There is a mixture of original artefacts and videos of people telling their stories.

Well worth a visit

Thank Stella M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Davao City, Philippines
Level Contributor
7 reviews
5 attraction reviews
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 23, 2012

All type of heritage do you want to see, from kicthen stuff, picture,clothes, jades,etc....

Thank analisa p
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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