More Than Just a Corridor: The History of the Five Foot Way

by Gan Siang Hong

pavement library 1952a_sm.jpg
image credit: Thimbuktu

When designing Singapore’s town plan, Sir Stamford Raffles introduced many changes to Singapore’s architectural landscape. One significant feature he included was the five feet wide corridor that lined the fronts of shophouses, commonly known as the five foot way.

Five_foot_way_in_Chinatown_Singapore_-_20121017-e1483005518749.jpg
image credit: Mothership

The five foot way served many purposes. It provided shelter from the sun and rain, a safe path for pedestrians, and a space for vendors to do business. A unique trend soon emerged from the existence of the five foot way: the five foot way libraries.

In the 1950s, the five foot way libraries were the best source of books for many avid readers of Chinese literature. The libraries had a wide selection of books, from tales of romance to adventure stories. For those who could not read, there was also an assortment of comic books available. To rent a book cost only a few cents, and would provide hours of entertainment for adults and children alike.

Screenshot (24).png
image credit: The Long and Winding Road

The five foot ways were more than just corridors; they grew to become hubs for social and cultural activities (much like the void decks of today), and they hold fond memories for many Singaporeans.

To commemorate the spirit of the five foot way, the Chinatown Business Association has organised the Five Foot Way Festival, to be held on the weekend of 23 – 24 March.

As part of the event, Asiapac Books will be opening our very own Pop-up Five Foot Way Library featuring our favourite vintage and new comic books! Grab a stool and travel back in time to Chinatown’s early days of roadside libraries and storytellers. Make sure to play our old-school Tikam-Tikam Books game with attractive prizes to be won.

Do come early to reserve a good spot for the Street Storytelling performances on Saturday(2PM) and Sunday(3PM)!

five foot way library

Pop-up Five Foot Way Library
Saturday 23 March: 11AM-9PM
Sunday 24 March: 11AM-9PM

storytelling

Street Storytelling 讲古
Chinese legends narrated in English
Saturday 23 March: 2-230PM
Sunday 24 March: 3-30PM

We’ll see you there!

 

Advertisements

Heroines of the Past, Celebrated Today: International Women’s Day 2019

by Gan Siang Hong

Women-Day-960x540.png
AAJ News, 2018

Today, we commemorate a very special occasion: International Women’s Day. Even Google has changed its homepage to feature quotes from prominent female figures. Among these quotes, there is one by the Indian Olympic boxer Mary Kom that is particularly powerful. She addresses all womankind and declares, “Do not say you are weak, because you are a woman.”

mary-kom-660_083112023428.jpeg
India Today, 2018

Indeed, the only true limits are the ones one sets for oneself, and Mary Kom asserts that a woman can achieve as much as any man. There have been many women who share Mary Kom’s mindset, playing significant roles in shaping history and society. To understand more about these heroines, we explore two of our graphic novel titles featuring women as prominent characters.

9789812297082
Asiapac Books, 2018

Hua Mulan: Legendary Woman Warrior tells of a story that has been related across countless generations, and is widely known across the world today. In the stead of her old and sickly father, Mulan joined the army and fought for her country. She became an iconic legend not just because of her achievements, but also because of her strong values. What she lacked in physical strength and endurance, she more than made up for with rigorous training and a sharp intellect. Never giving up and always putting her family and country before herself, Mulan is the embodiment of heroism that men and women should all aspire to.

9789812295934.jpg

The second book is titled A Dream of Red Mansions, a comic book adaptation of the profound literary masterpiece that took China by storm in the 18th century. Through the bold, expressive style of Seraphina Lum’s art, we experience life in the shoes of the various members of the Jia Clan, a wealthy Chinese family. What is particularly intriguing is the fact that the family is a matriarchy, where women have the bigger say.

hong_lou_meng.jpeg
the Beijinger, 2017

As the story progresses, we witness many of these women struggle with relationships, loss, family feuds, and ultimately forge their own path in life. Throughout various hardships, the characters display an admirable strength of will to remain true to themselves and their beliefs. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say that the book is a veritable testament to the inner strength of women, and a celebration of their contribution to society.

tumblr_inline_po0pguMFER1qztudz_400.jpg
Untappd, 2019

Women have just as big a role in our society as men, regardless of the era. It is only right that we give them due credit for all that they have done, and perhaps try to understand better the struggles they face. For this purpose, look no further than Hua Mulan: Legendary Woman Warrior and A Dream of Red Mansions: the perfect reads for International Women’s Day.