Tiong Bahru – Bird Corner

We took a walk around Tiong Bahru to find quite a few interesting sights, and the bird corner is the first in this series of posts about places of interest we visited along the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail. For many years, this junction was a well-known landmark due to the presence of a prominent bird corner beside a coffee shop called Wah Heng. The owner of Wah Heng had observed that a pet bird shop across the road was very popular with visitors, as the proprietor had placed many birdcages outside his shop, which drew crowds who wanted to see or hear the birds.

Hence, some time in the early 1980s, the boss of Wah Heng installed a metal structure outside his coffee shop to allow bird owners to hang their birdcages while they sipped coffee and chatted. As a result, many people patronised Wah Heng to show off their pets, relax and enjoy the birdsong. American jazz flautist Herbie Mann (1930-2003) even made a special visit here to serenade the birds when he visited Singapore in 1984. The original bird corner was closed in 2003 during renovations to convert the block of flats where Wah Heng was into a hotel. In 2008, the owners of the hotel decided to reopen the structure for hanging birdcages.

Across the road, beside the former pet bird shop, was a small Chinese temple popularly known as Hu Lu Miao or literally, Gourd Temple. This odd name arose as a red gourd-shaped furnace used for burning joss offerings stood just outside the temple. The actual name of the shrine was Weizhen Miao, which literally means the Temple of Awe. The temple was said to have been founded in 1909 by migrants from Nan’an, a county in Fujian, China. The site of the temple and pet bird shop is now occupied by a hotel.

Photo taken in September 2003 before demolition by 11096888@N07.

Did You Know? Tiong Bahru residents used to refer to this block of flats as “Hong Oak”, meaning Red Homes, as they were made of unplastered brick. It is not clear when exactly Tiong Bahru Road was named, but in the 19th century, the road ran through a large Chinese cemetery that stretched all the way to Leng Kee Road at its western end. Tiong means ‘to die’ in Hokkien, while bahru means ‘new’ in Malay, so Tiong Bahru originally referred to a ‘new cemetery’, which was built after an old cemetery called Teong Lama (lama means ‘old’ in Malay) at the site of the Singapore General Hospital was fully occupied. Seng Poh Road was named after Tan Seng Poh (1830- 1879), a Perak-born Teochew merchant who had a huge mansion in Loke Yew Street off Hill Street. Text taken from information baord on site.

Location Coordinates: N 01° 17.127 E 103° 50.030

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