Johor Kaki Travels for Food

johorkaki@gmail based in Singapore, travels to Johor, Malacca, Riau & worldwide for food

Singapore River Fengshui. Belly of the Carp & Dragon Gate 鲤鱼跳龙门


When you look at a map of Singapore River, you will see the shape of a fish with Boat Quay looking like the bulging belly of a fertile female carp. 
Image courtesy of Flickr.

The carp has long been a symbol of perseverance, good fortune and prosperity in Chinese culture. In particular, the "belly of the carp" is considered an auspicious land form in Fengshui (Chinese geomancy).

Boat Quay of Singapore River looks like the "belly of the carp" as the fish heads towards the sea (on the right of map).

The Chinese word for fish 鱼 sounds very similar to the word for wealth 裕 and also abundance 余 (in wealth and offspring). The bulbous belly of an egg laden carp is also a symbol of fertility.

Favourable Fengshui was one of the factors that attracted Chinese merchants to set up in Raffles' port of Singapore established in 1819. The tax free privileges as well as active recruitment by Raffles and Farquhar were also persuasive. (Image of Boat Quay in 1860 courtesy of NAS.)

The Rongjiang River at Swatow or Shantou city in Chaoshan district of Guangdong province also has the shape of the "belly of the carp". Many Teochew pioneers in Singapore came from Swatow in the 1850s to 1930s.

As the carp has a long lifespan, it is also a symbol of longevity. The carp is also a swift and lively fish which represents zest for life, energy and vitality. (Image courtesy of Pxfuel.)

The pioneer Chinese merchants that established in Singapore had faith in the long term development of the port and city. (Image of Boat Quay in 1910 courtesy of NAS.)

Luojiang River at Quanzhou of Fujian province also looks like the "belly of the carp". Many Hokkien pioneers of Singapore came from Quanzhou, the major port city of Fujian.

The prominent shimmering scales of the carp are associated with scales on the mythical dragon. (Image courtesy of Flickr.)

The boats at Boat Quay are like scales of the carp and dragon making Singapore River doubly auspicious. (Image of Boat Quay in 1950 courtesy of NAS.)

According to Chinese legend, when a carp jumps over the Dragon Gate, it will transform into a dragon. The carp passes through many obstacles (e.g. opposing currents, predators etc) to reach the Dragon Gate. The Dragon Gate is high but after many failed attempts, the carp leaped over the gate through sheer fighting spirit and became a dragon. 
(Image courtesy of Pxfuel.)


Fengshui practitioners see Cavenagh Bridge at the mouth of Singapore River as the dragon gate in the "Carp jumps over the Dragon Gate" 鲤鱼跳龙门 formation. It symbolises overcoming adversity with ambition, courage and perseverance to achieve success against all odds.

Cavenagh Bridge which opened to traffic in 1869 was originally named Edinburg Bridge but renamed Cavenagh Bridge in honour of Major General Orfeur Cavenagh, Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1859 to 1867. (Image of Cavenagh Bridge in 1900 courtesy of NAS.)

Cavenagh Bridge was planned as a draw bridge which can be raised to allow boats to pass between Singapore harbour and Boat Quay. However, the draw bridge was inoperable due to technical problems.

At that time, Singapore River was served by tongkang and twakow (right of picture). Tongkang operated by Indian Chulia boatmen had tall masts while twakow operated by Hokkien or Teochew boatmen had no mast. As a result of Cavenagh Bridge's inoperable draw bridge, tongkang boats could not ply Singapore River leaving the lighterage work to the twakow. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia & NAS.)

The Carp leaped over the Dragon Gate by twakow boats going under the Cavenagh Bridge. During high tide, twakow boatmen often deliberately flooded the cargo hold to lower the boat in the water so that it can pass under Cavenagh Bridge. (Image courtesy of NAS.)


So, despite the barrier of Cavenagh Bridge (Dragon Gate), Boat Quay (Belly of the Carp) and Singapore River (Carp) continued to prosper.


1 comment:

  1. The S'pore river mouth has been sealed off by Marina Barrage, an idea spanned by the late LKY. ITE!


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