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Revamped heritage centre takes visitors down memory lane in Chinatown

SINGAPORE — One of her fondest memories as a child is selling herbal tea at her great-grandfather’s traditional Chinese medicine hall in Chinatown during Chinese New Year.

SINGAPORE — One of her fondest memories as a child is selling herbal tea at her great-grandfather’s traditional Chinese medicine hall in Chinatown during Chinese New Year.

Ms Carmen Low, 28, co-founder of Lepark bar-restaurant, said: “We had a little herbal stall kiosk where we sold ‘liang cha’, and that was the most popular item during Chinese New Year. When I was younger and a little bit more ‘buay pai seh’ (a Hokkien term for being thick-skinned), I would stand on the table and shout out.”

Today (Jan 8), Ms Low is running a food and beverage outlet at the rooftop of People’s Park Complex in  Chinatown, where she also organises community events that have “a little bit of heritage and youth elements” in a bid to rebuild the shared community spaces and shared experiences that she had gone through for young people.

Her efforts make up one of the stories that are being showcased in the rejuvenated Chinatown Heritage Centre, which reopened its doors to visitors today after more than a year of renovations.

One of the new features of the centre, which occupies three, three-storey high shophouses on Pagoda Street, is a gallery filled with stories about a group of young Chinatown personalities, whose lives are entwined with the evolution of the neighbourhood.

Ms Low said: “Growing up in Chinatown, I really do have personal memories of this space. I realised that my fondest memories were experiences of communities of people coming together to do a certain activity, and that was how I envisioned Lepark to be. And that is why I wanted to start Lepark in Chinatown, rather than other places.”

To better bring alive the precinct’s heritage, the Chinatown Heritage Centre has enhanced the content and presentation style, offering a more comprehensive story narrative that goes beyond the 1960s, more in-depth collection of personal stories from the Chinatown community, as well as deeper exploration of Chinatown’s multi-ethnicity, clan associations, nightlife and heritage businesses.

For example, original interiors of the area’s shophouse tenants in the 1950s have been recreated, offering visitors a rare and personal glimpse into the lives of Chinatown’s early residents.

There will also be enhanced multi-sensory features in the form of soundscapes, multimedia content, interactive story panels, olfactory experience and mood lighting. For example, visitors will get a whiff of different scents, such as traditional Chinese medicine, in the newly refreshed Physician’s Family room exhibit.

The new-look Chinatown Heritage Centre is part of the Singapore Tourism Board’s overall enhancement efforts for the precinct, which includes the rejuvenation of Chinatown Food Street and launch of a free Wi-Fi service in Chinatown.

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