Joo Chiat Road

Joo Chiat Road is an arterial road and a residential conservation area in the eastern part of Singapore, and is located between Geylang Serai and Marine Parade Road.

Joo Chiat
Name transcription(s)
 • Chinese如切
Rúqiè (Pinyin)
Jû-chhiat (Hokkien POJ)
 • MalayJoo Chiat
 • Tamilஜூ சியாட்
Jū ciyāṭ (Transliteration)
Conserved shophouses lining Joo Chiat Road

It is mainly bounded by conserved shophouses that are colourfully painted on both sides of the road. The stretch of road is either designated as a single directional or a single lane road in one direction.


Before 1917, Joo Chiat Road was known as the Confederate Estate Road. At that time, most of the land in the area belonged to the Little family. The road name changed after Chew Joo Chiat (Chinese: 周如切; pinyin: Zhōu Rúqiè; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chiu Jû-chhiat), a famous prominent ethnic Chinese businessman of Peranakan descent who became the owner of most of the land in the area around Joo Chiat Road. Chew bought land from the Alsagoff family as well as the Little family to plant spices, such as nutmeg, gambier and pepper which were in great demand by Europeans. In 1903, Chew added more land to his plantation by purchasing more than an acre of land for $35,000/- from Henry William Crane. Later, he turned all his land into coconut plantations when copra became a cash crop. His foresight and business acumen made him a wealthy land owner. In 1913, he bought at auction 5 freehold building allotments fronting the Confederate Estate Road to further increase his land holding. In early 1917 Joo Chiat Road was still a cart track going through Chew's plantation, and as such it was a private road maintained by him. Transportation of local produce was by bullock carts. Joo Chiat area was then under the jurisdiction of the Rural Board. When the Municipal Limit extended into Joo Chiat Road, the Municipality wanted to construct a road for motor vehicles from Geylang Serai to the beach. There was no land acquisition law in force at that time, so the Municipality offered to buy the stretch of Chew's land (the Confederate Estate Road) to construct a road for motor vehicles. Chew saw the benefit of a transport infrastructure going through his land, and bequeathed the road to the authority without compensation. For his generosity, the road was named after him: Joo Chiat Road. As more people moved into area around Joo Chiat Road, especially along East Coast Road, there was a big demand for housing. Chew divided his land into building lots and sold them to developers to build houses. Subsequent establishment of some of Singapore’s earliest season houses and holiday bungalows[1] resulted in Joo Chiat becoming a wealthy and upper middle class suburb with a relaxing and scenic locale. Today, Joo Chiat Road is best known for its colourful rows of traditional Peranakan shophouses, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, that line the narrow street. Joo Chiat’s development began with attendant amenities and an electric tramway was built between the Joo Chiat-Changi Market and Tanjong Pagar.

During Chew Joo Chiat's lifetime, Katong area was confined mainly along Meyer Road from Tanjong Katong Road towards Katong Park. In Joo Chiat area, Katong did not exist then. From 1926 onward to World War II saw an influx of Straits Chinese into Joo Chiat when their traditional enclave, Telok Ayer, became overcrowded. Schools were also established in the area: Telok Kurau English Primary School in 1923 and Saint Patrick's School in 1933. New roads linked the area to the city. In 1932, the Roman Catholic Holy Family Church was completed, attracting to the area a predominantly Catholic Eurasian community. Chew Joo Chiat was known as King of Katong after his death on 5 February 1926. Madam Chew Quee Neo, who was the daughter of Chew Joo Chiat donated a piece of land to built a Theravada Buddhist temple known as "Mangala Vihara" in 1959 which is cater for the Peranakan Buddhist community.[2]

Seaview Hotel and the Singapore Swimming Club were also opened in the 1930s, providing the area's wealthier residents with leisure facilities. With the development of Joo Chiat into a small town, the East Coast – stretching from Mountbatten to Siglap – was no longer solely a weekend retreat for the Europeans and rich Chinese and Eurasians who owned the luxurious seaside bungalows there.

Post-war to 1966Edit

Joo Chiat area can be thought of as a ‘linear activity corridor’ linking Geylang, Katong and Marine Parade.[3] The area used to house comfort ladies during the Japanese occupation and after the war, it became an active retail and entertainment hub in the 1950s and 1960s, with popular supermarket Tay Buan Guan, Red House Katong Bakery and food specialties such as Katong Laksa. Changi Market (now Joo Chiat Complex) at Joo Chiat Road became an important trading centre for Malays from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. They traded in food, flowers and spices, which remain a major part of the area's economy today. The development of Geylang Serai in the 60s also prompted the government to build mosques and theatres in Joo Chiat. There were other amenities for the community living there including a police station, schools and health centre.

1967- 1975Edit

As Singapore’s population grew and people started to move out from the overcrowded city centre, Joo Chiat’s community increased. 4 more schools were built along with a community centre. Joo Chiat continued to be the entertainment hub with Galaxy theatre and the addition of 2 more shopping centres.

1976 – 1984Edit

East Coast reclamation started in 1966 and lasted for two decades until 1985. Its reclamation changed the physical landscape of the area with the modification of the coastline, landscape and even the removal of Katong jetty. Coupled with new high rise housing estate in East Coast, Joo Chiat slowly lost its distinct identity amid this de-territorialisation process.[4]

The late 70s and early 80s also saw more road changes where adjacent streets were linked up to ease commute. Taj Cinema, adjacent to the markets, was also renamed by Shaw to Singapura theatre. However, Singapura theatre lost its attractiveness with the rise of cinematography and eventually shut down in 1985.

1985 - 1995Edit

In 1993, the area around Joo Chiat Road was gazetted as a conservation district. As a result, shophouses and bungalows reflecting the typical architectural styles of the turn of the twentieth century have been preserved, as well as many unique and straits eclectic style Chinese shophouses which give the area its true flavour. The area is also known for eateries specialising in Peranakan delicacies.

As the Kampongs in Geylang made way for HDBs, a museum to showcase the life of Malays was proposed in the 70s. This museum, Geylang Serai Malay Village, was completed in 1989 and located at the start of Joo Chiat Road. The period also saw many more buildings for retail purposes such as Galaxy Complex, Katong Mall, Roxy Square and Paramount Shopping Centre.

1996 - 2007Edit

Brothels in central region were removed by the government from 1959 onwards and these brothels have shifted to Geylang. The spread of sex industry from Geylang to the surrounding area created a profound effect on the type of business in Joo Chiat in the 90s and early 2000s. More bars are found along the street and along with it, budget hotels that offer rooms by the hours. This negatively affected the identity of Joo Chiat as well as causing great inconvenience to the residents there. Moreover, during the late 90s and early 2000s, more schools and churches were built at the outskirts of Joo Chiat area, presumably for the larger community there.


In 2011, the vicinity surrounding Joo Chiat Road was declared Singapore's first Heritage Town. It is chosen, in part, because of strong efforts to promote its Peranakan culture.


The Joo Chiat Single Member Constituency is a ward in the Singapore Parliament. The Member of Parliament for Joo Chiat is Charles Chong after 2011 general elections when the then incumbent Chan Soo Sen retired from politics. However, Joo Chiat ward is now not consisting of Joo Chiat area but of Siglap. For the General Election 2015, Joo Chiat constituency ceased to exist and it has been absorbed by Marine Parade GRC.


There are famous eateries which contribute to Joo Chiat’s popularity as a dining spot. There are various Vietnamese, Chinese and western restaurants,[5] a multicultural food enclave, not just a Peranakan enclave. The restaurants and various eateries along the street are of varied cuisines but perhaps one particular cuisine stood out - Vietnamese. Joo Chiat has been known for being a “Little Vietnam”.[6] There is cluster of Vietnamese restaurants, as well as Vietnamese grocery store, which were opened to serve the Vietnamese community in Singapore.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Shaw, Brian. J., & Ismail, R. (2006). Ethnoscapes, entertainment and ’eritage in the global city: Segmented spaces in Singapore’s Joo Chiat Road. GeoJournal, 66(3), 187-198. doi:10.1007/s10708-006-9029-9
  2. ^ "Mdm Chew Quee Neo". Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  3. ^ Shaw, Brian. J., & Ismail, R. (2006). Ethnoscapes, entertainment and ’eritage in the global city: Segmented spaces in Singapore’s Joo Chiat Road. GeoJournal, 66(3), 187-198. doi:10.1007/s10708-006-9029-9
  4. ^ Shaw, Brian. J., & Ismail, R. (2006). Ethnoscapes, entertainment and ’eritage in the global city: Segmented spaces in Singapore’s Joo Chiat Road. GeoJournal, 66(3), 187-198. doi:10.1007/s10708-006-9029-9
  5. ^ Ng, N. (2015, July 15). 15 Delicious Eats in Joo Chiat. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Ling, C. (2010, July 27). Two sides of Little Vietnam in Singapore. Retrieved from
  • National Heritage Board (2002), Singapore's 100 Historic Places, Archipelago Press, ISBN 981-4068-23-3

External linksEdit