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  • Writer's picturelionheartlanders

The Transformation of Tan Teng Niah's House: Then and Now

Updated: Apr 17

House of Tan Teng Niah (Credit Geo)
House of Tan Teng Niah (Credit Geo)

In the heart of Little India, Tan Teng Niah's House stands as a testament to historical grandeur. This iconic building, with its vibrant history, serves as a captivating narrative of a bygone era. The intricate tales woven into its architectural fabric unfold as a rich tapestry of cultural significance. This blog post delves into the significance of Tan Teng Niah's House, an architectural gem that has withstood the test of time. Its walls echo with stories of the past, and through meticulous restoration, it embarks on a transformative journey, blending the historical with the contemporary.

Offering a glimpse into its past, we unravel the layers of its history. Beyond being a physical structure, the house symbolizes a dynamic cultural heritage, a living testament to the diversity that defines Little India. As we navigate through the nooks and crannies of this historical edifice, we embark on a journey that transcends time. We invite you to witness the evolution of Tan Teng Niah's House: a journey from the echoes of older years to the vibrant present.

Address: 37 Kerbau Road, Singapore 219168

Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily

House of Tan Teng Niah: Then

Nestled in the heart of Little India, Singapore, the House of Tan Teng Niah stands as a captivating testament to historical grandeur. This distinguished building, recognized as the last surviving Chinese villa in Little India, unfolds a fascinating narrative of cultural richness and architectural significance. Constructed in 1900 by the visionary towkay Tan Teng Niah, this iconic structure boasts eight rooms and a distinctive Five-foot way.

The house of Tan Teng Niah has eight rooms. The second storey overhangs the first to create a five-foot way (five feet wide covered pedestrian walkway) where there was once an entrance portico. On both sides of the house, there used to be carriage gates leading into a courtyard. The house was restored and conserved in the 1980s for commercial use, and the restoration project was awarded the Singapore Institute of Architects Honourable Mention in 1991.

Legend has it that Tan Teng Niah built this house for his wife, creating a residence that seamlessly blends cultural elements with personal sentiment. The building underwent a meticulous restoration and conservation process in the 1980s, ensuring its preservation for future generations. Listed on the Little India Heritage Trail, the House of Tan Teng Niah not only stands as a physical embodiment of historical architecture but also serves as a living testament to the enduring legacy of a bygone era.

House of Tan Teng Niah Then (Credit
House of Tan Teng Niah Then (Credit

House of Tan Teng Niah: Now

While the house’s historical background is interesting, the key to its popularity among locals and visitors is its current appearance. The exterior is painted in a rainbow riot of vivid colors, with every element and each individual slat, molding, panel, and pilaster in a different hue than its neighbor. Further embellishments beyond the psychedelic color-palette include gilded Chinese calligraphy, intricate floral lunettes, and a bamboo-tiled roof.

The house is now used as a commercial space, and recent tenants have included a pharmacy and a business training school. Quite the ordinary activities, within one of the most extraordinary buildings in Singapore.

Architectural Heritage

The House of Tan Teng Niah is a living canvas of architectural splendor. The entrance, adorned with swinging wooden half doors, intricately carved with fascinating carvings, beckons visitors into a world where history and design coalesce. The roof, a mosaic of tiles reminiscent of traditional Chinese architecture, crowns the building, offering both protection and a visual spectacle. The interplay of colors and patterns creates an arresting sight that captivates onlookers. Below this tiled canopy, floral lunettes grace the windows, adding a touch of elegance to the façade.

Marvel at the entrance door, a masterpiece embellished with a gilded Chinese calligraphy inscription. This inscription, bearing the phrase "Siew Song," adds a layer of cultural richness, hinting at the aspirations and sentiments of Tan Teng Niah. The architectural heritage of Tan Teng Niah's House is a testimony to the fusion of cultural influences. The swinging doors, tiled roof, floral lunettes, and calligraphy form a symphony that echoes the multicultural identity of Little India. Each detail, meticulously preserved, tells a story that transcends time, providing a glimpse into the design philosophies that shaped the house's unique identity.

Beyond its role as an architectural marvel, Tan Teng Niah's House stands as a living testament to cultural richness. As the cultural landscape has evolved, this dynamic entity has adapted, ensuring that its historical essence remains an integral part of Singapore's vibrant heritage.

Colourful House of Tan Teng Niah (Credit 123RF)
Colourful House of Tan Teng Niah (Credit 123RF)


In conclusion, Tan Teng Niah's House stands not just as a historical relic but as a beacon of future cultural heritage. Its vibrant transformation, meticulously preserving architectural marvels and cultural influences, encapsulates the essence of Singapore's rich history. The house not only narrates tales of the past but also embraces the evolving cultural landscape, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity. As visitors explore its swinging doors, tiled roof, and ornate carvings, they embark on a journey through time, witnessing the harmonious fusion of architectural brilliance and cultural diversity. Tan Teng Niah's House remains a testament to the importance of preserving historical landmarks, ensuring that the tapestry of cultural heritage continues to thrive for generations to come.

Curious to learn more? If you're interested in unraveling the history and exploring the origins of House of Tan Teng Niah and the Indian community while doing on-site activities and exciting treasure hunt, our Little India Adventure Trail is made for you. Join our tour to gain deeper insights into the cultural tapestry of Little India.

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