A Slow Ride Into the Past: The Chinese Trishaw Industry in Singapore, 1942-1983



Publication Details

Lim, J. (2013). A Slow Ride Into the Past: The Chinese Trishaw Industry in Singapore, 1942-1983. Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Publishing.

Additional Publication Information

The trishaw was introducted to Singapore after the surrender of the British in 1942. After the end of the war, the trishaw continued to be a popular mode of transport as it was cheap and the service was seen to be personalised. The trishaw industry was dominated by two Chinese minority dialect groups and their ubiquitous presence was at time perceived as a threat to local government. In the 1940s and 1950s. By the time Singapore achieved independence in 1965, however, the trishaw was regarded as backward, and public perception of the trishaw riders had also changed. As the island nation embarked on a programme of economic modernisation, the trishaws were increasingly squeezed out. Through the use of travelogues, government records, trishaw associaitons' records and oral history interviews, this book studies the personal experiences of those involved in the trishaw industry and the role loace and naitonal governments play in its rise and decline.


Social historians today are expanding the analytical and methodological boundaries of history by exploring the everyday lives of people from the lower echelons of society. Attention has shifted to ordinary people who have played a significant developmental role in history, often through hard manual work, but whose societal contribution has often been overshadowed by that of the dominant elite. In the contemporary historiography of Singapore, one finds many written works on prominent merchants. These are important figures that, by virtue of their wealth, status and power, have shaped the political and economic development of modern Singapore.

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