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Tan Teng Niah

Tan Teng Niah

Tan Teng Niah is a historic Singapore building known for being the last remaining Chinese villa in Little India.

A visit to this institution tells the story of olden days when Chinese settlers first came to Singapore and operated humble businesses in this area.

Tan Teng Niah, Building & Former Residence, Address & Fee, Singapore

The villa’s origins date back to 1900, and it’s named after a towkay; the name assigned to respected Chinese businessmen. Tan Teng Niah was known in his community; he owned small sugarcane dessert factories in Serangoon Road, and behind the house, he had a rubber smoke operation which is used for the sugarcane furnace.

Visitors come to see Tan Teng Niah’s former residence, which has been well-maintained over the years. Many of its old elements are no longer there, such as the entrance porch and the carriage gates. In the 1980s, the house underwent restoration, and in 1991 the project was granted the Singapore Institute of Architects Honourable Mention.

What you can still see today are the pintu pagar, Malay for swinging half doors, which have intricate carvings. The front room of the villa has breathtaking wall scrolls, while a gilded nameplate with Chinese calligraphy that reads Siew Song, or elegant pine in Mandarin, is still evident.

For the Chinese, pine resembles endurance and denotes their aspirations in life. It is believed that Tan Teng Niah built this villa for his wife and that these inscriptions were for her. The vibrantly coloured facade and its stunning interiors all make this a worthwhile visit, and a peek into the early days of Little India.

The building is a stone’s throw away from the Little India MRT Station. It’s located at 37 Kerbau Road in Rochor.

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