Stamford Raffles Five Foot Way: Wu Jia Ji

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exploringsingapore is exclusive ExplorerSG mini series where we reveal some of the lesser-known places, facts and history of Singapore.

The 5-foot way (also known as wu jiao ji in Mandarin and kaki lima in Malay), referring to the covered walkways in many parts of Asia, is an unique architectural feature established by Sir Stamford Raffles.

In his Town Plan of 1822, “ a still further accommodation will be afforded to the public by requiring that each house should have a verandah of certain depth, open at all times as a continued and covered passage on each side of the street”

The walkways soon became a sheltered space for mobile vendors (known as five-foot way traders) such as cobblers, tailors, barbers and fortune tellers. This led to the Verandah Riots in the 1880s, a clash between the British government seeking to enforce the public use of the walkway, and the locals defending their rights to use the space.

Almost 200 years later, the 5-foot-way remains as an important part of our everyday lives, albeit many may not know the unassuming yet significant role it has played in the history of Singapore.

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