Singapore's Chinatown is an ethnic neighbourhood featuring distinctly Chinese cultural elements and a historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population.
Chinatown is located within the larger district of Outram. As the largest ethnic group in Singapore is Chinese, Chinatown is considerably less of an enclave than it once was.
The name Chinatown was used by the British while the locals went by these names: In Chinese, Singapore's Chinatown is known as Niu che shui (bullock cart water) as a result of the fact that, because of its location, Chinatown's water supply was principally transported by animal-driven carts in the 19th century. The name is also echoed in the Malay name, Kreta Ayer, with the same meaning.
The street architecture of Chinatown's buildings, the shophouses especially, combine different elements of baroque architecture and Victorian architecture and do not have a single classification. Many of them were built in the style of painted ladies, and have been restored in that fashion. These styles result in a variety of different colours of which pastel is most dominant. Trengganu Street, Pagoda Street and Temple Street are such examples of this architecture, as well as development in Upper Cross Street and the houses in Club Street.
The architectural character of many of the terraces in Chinatown is much more Italianate in style than those of, for instance Emerald Hill or Petain Road. Windows often appear as mere slits with narrow timber jalousies (often with adjustable slats). Fanlights over the windows are usually quite decorative and the pilasters and balconies and even the plasterwork and colours seem to be Mediterranean in flavour. The style was probably introduced by those early Chinese immigrants (both China-born and Straits-born) who had knowledge of the Portuguese architecture of Macau, Malacca and Goa. The Chettiars and Tamils from Southern India would also have been familiar with the European architecture there, although it is difficult to imagine how these people would have had a particularly strong influence on building in Chinatown.