by Chou Sing Chou Foundation


Bookstores often carry the little-known literary aspirations of the owners. Admired by many but understood by few – this tricky situation is what the bookstores in the 21st century find themselves in. However, the seemingly sluggish bookstore industry was once an important catalyst for the vitality in the Lion City and, indeed, the entire Southeast Asia. Bookstores stood along North Bridge Road in early Xiao Po like a forest of rosewood trees, providing booklovers with fountains of knowledge in the sweltering heat of Nanyang. Far from being mirages in a desert, these bookstores occupy significant places in the map of Singapore’s cultural history.

Scattered across the island state, these bookstores help to build Singapore’s cultural foundation while leaving footprints from their historical interactions with places like Shanghai and Hong Kong through links in society, business, culture and education. These footprints form a portrait of the crossing of paths of the literati, the bookstores and the readers.

1. The content of this book is divided into five sections: 
a. Bookstore Genesis 
b. Bookstore Chronicle 
c. Bookstore Stories 
d. Bookstore Memories 
e. Bookstore Listing

2. Bookstore Chronicle: The 135 years of Singapore’s bookstore industry are divided into four distinct periods, namely, The Pioneer Era (1881-1920), The Era of Localism (1921-1950), The Golden Era (1951-1970), and The Modern Era (1971-2016).

3. Bookstore Stories: A collation of the stories of 50 bookstores, including the five major Chinese bookstores and the four major English bookstores, along with numerous other bookstores spread out across Singapore. These bookstores are divided into five regions of Xiao Po, Da Po, Western Singapore, Northern Singapore, and Eastern Singapore, and are organised according to their founding years in chronological order. Each region is further divided into four smaller areas (making a total of 20 areas), in order to provide readers with a detailed picture of the distribution of the bookstores on the island state. In addition, as photographs of some of the older bookstores were virtually non-existent, our illustrators were given the task to artistically recreate the possible look of these bookstores.

4. Bookstore Memories: Prominent figures, both local and international, from different walks of life were invited to share their stories of visiting bookstores and reading.

5. Bookstore Listing: An extensive list of approximately 500 bookstores that have staked their presence in Singapore through the years. Although we have made every effort to ensure the completeness of the information, practical limitations like a lack of archival information means that this list is by no means exhaustive.

This book is Chou Sing Chu Foundation’s contribution to a better understanding of the Singapore bookstore industry.


The Chinese version of this book could be found here. 



Passage of time: Singapore Bookstore Stories 1881-2016

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