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Danson Cheong
Sunday, Oct 5, 2014

Singapore

A lane littered with memories of yesteryear

The Straits Times | Danson Cheong | Sunday, Oct 5, 2014

The shops are stacked to the rafters with old stuff.

You can find them tucked away in a corner of Turf Club Road, right behind pre-schools and eateries serving omakase burgers or vegan food in The Grandstand.

On a narrow two-way street are three antique shops housed in an old warehouse formerly used to store horse feed.

With racing horses having bolted for greener pastures, antique collectors have moved into the space and turned the street into a tunnel to yesteryear and a gold mine for treasure hunters.

The warehouse is on state land marked for eventual residential use, but the Urban Redevelopment Authority says there are no plans for the area for now.

Part junkyard, part antique store, the shops are filled with so many things that they almost spill out onto the lane.

"Here, not much is valuable; it's all junk," said Mr Cham Chin Hong gesturing to things like a pair of Chinese-style bronze horses in full flight, moss-covered lions usually found keeping watch at Chinese temples, and the headless bust of a woman.

Known in the area simply as Ah Cham, the 68-year-old and two other antique collectors moved here from areas like Little India about three years ago, drawn by the relatively cheap rent.

Mr Cham pays about S$1,000 a month for a space about the size of a tennis court, with ceilings around 3m high.

These old curiosity shops beckon with "store windows" framed by overhanging vines and moss-covered rafters.

Here, one finds a menagerie in plaster - a deer, rabbits, lions, even a brown trumpeting elephant. Popping up too are the odd Buddha head and smiling statues of Chinese deities Fu Lu Shou (Good Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity).

In another corner, an old carousel sits derelict and silent, its happy tunes gone - passing into memory like the children it used to entertain.

Stepping inside the store, Mr Cham opens an old wooden cabinet, revealing a collection of Qing dynasty porcelain - teacups, bowls, saucers and teapots, all in immaculate condition. "These are from Kangxi's era," he said, referring to the Qing emperor who lived from 1654 to 1722. The porcelain was salvaged from a Chinese shipwreck off Tanjung Pinang, in the Riau islands, he said.

Artefacts such as these were sold to him by fellow collectors and antique traders, he added.

Rattling off in Hokkien and Mandarin, Mr Cham explained how Qing dynasty porcelain is special, because of the heat of the kilns that bake it and the timbre the earthenware makes when given a gentle knock. But quality comes at a price.

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