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COPYRIGHT. 1926. BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, WASHINGTON D. C.. IN THE UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN
SINGAPORE, CROSSROADS OF THE EAST The World's Greatest Mart for Rubber and Tin Was in Recent Times a Pirate-haunted,
Tiger-infested Jungle Isle
BY FREDERICK SIMPICH
AUTHOR OF "THE GEOGRAPHY OF OUR FOREIGN TRADE," "THE STORY OF THE RUHR," "A MEXICAN LAND OF CANAAN," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
INGAPORE, the Lion City, Cross
roads of the East! Every time you open a tin can or have a blow-out you make business for Singapore, for it boasts the biggest tin smelters in the world and three-fourths of all our rubber comes out of Malaya.
And, in all the swift, significant changes wrought by white men in the East, no one event stands out more conspicuously than the rapid rise of Singapore. From a jungle isle, where tigers ate men at night, to a magnificent city, tenth among the ports of the world, in less than a century! A boom-town record this might be, even in new America, but striking indeed when one thinks of the remote geographic position of Singapore and the many centuries which other oriental cities have taken in the building.
Its place on the map, its strategic position here at the crossroads of the East, forced it to a growth at once unique and astonishing. Last year nearly 10,000 ships cut the cobalt-blue seas of the Malacca Strait, tying up the trade of Singapore with Europe, Africa, and India, with Australia, China, Japan, and the Americas.
And how Singapore came to be a city is one of the latter-day romances of the
Orient- -a romance linked with the name of Raffles, that adventurous Englishman whose career has gone down in the annals of the East with that of Albuquerque, of Chinese Gordon and Warren Hastings.
A JUNGLE ISLAND A CENTURY AGO
Away back in history, before even the days of Marco Polo, the Malays had founded their powerful States and set up an empire on their peninsula. Then came the Portuguese and laid waste to the strongholds of the sultans, leaving colonists whose descendants, bearing long, aristocratic names oddly out of place among Malay cognomens, are still found throughout the Indies.
After the Portuguese came the Dutch, sweeping from Malacca to Manila, only to be followed later by the British, who, with their genius for colonization, are here to this day.
It was this British adventure, about a hundred years ago, that lured Stamford Raffles, born at sea, into this restless region of the then unknown East. And Fate willed that he should found this great Singapore.
Singapore was not conquered like Hindustan, nor acquired as a ready-made
Burton Holmes from Galloway
"THE LION CITY'S" TEEMING HARBOR AND WATERFRONT, AS SEEN FROM THE AMERICAN CONSULATE
Within little more than a century, a tiny fishing village on a jungle isle, tiger-infested and pirate-haunted, metamorphosed itself into a metropolis
Several thousand Chinese, some of whom never set foot on land, use these boats not only as a means of livelihood, but as a place of living. In A mat canopy or awning usually covers the middle part of the them are all the impedimenta of a home, including the chickens and a dog and cat. sampan, which is propelled by a long, single oar projecting from the stern.
A SKETCH MAP SHOWING THE STRATEGIC GEOGRAPHIC POSITION OF SINGAPORE The tenth port of the world owes its prosperity primarily to its key position at the crossroads of the East. In the upper right corner is a more detailed map of the Malay Peninsula.
colony, like Hongkong; it was simply bought as New York was, and settled, when Sir Stamford Raffles selected it as an outpost for British traders on the China route and purchased it for the East India Company from the Sultan of Johore. It was a jungle-covered island then, peopled by a few score savage Malay fisherfolk hovering along its mangrove-swamp shallows, dreading the tigers and pythons and cut off from all the outside world.
NOW A CITY OF MARBLE BUILDINGS
Now it is a wonder city, with marble bank buildings of singular beauty and great stone law courts and government edifices and Christian churches-all in striking contrast to the ornamental Malay mosques, the carved temples of the Hindus, and the fantastic joss houses of the Chinese.
Through the thick jungle, where once led only the elephant paths, wide, level roads have now been built, and the hoarse squawk of the motor horn has drowned
Across to the Johore mainland a great granite causeway has been thrown, and on up through the Malay Peninsula the railways have been driven, till now Bangkok, a thousand miles away in Siam, is tied up by rail with Singapore,* and on to the northwest the rails are stretching out to Rangoon, to India, to the Persian frontier, soon to Bagdad, perhaps, and then on to Paris-the path of flying men from London to Sydney.†
Where once the choking jungle crowded men back-a jungle so thick that a man swimming in a stream could hardly land. because vines and plants hugged so close to the water's edge-broad fields have now been cleared, and Malaya plantations are among the richest in the world.
Forty-five years ago a few Pará rubber plants smuggled out of Brazil fruited here. To-day, three-fourths of the world's
*See "Hunting the Chaulmoogra Tree," by Joseph F. Rock, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for March, 1922.
† See "From London to Australia by Aëroplane," by Sir Ross Smith, K. B. E., in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for March,
Young Malays in dugout canoes paddle out to meet the Singapore steamers, and shriek and wave for the passengers to toss money into the water. They bail the canoes with a sweep of the foot, keeping regular time to the paddle's dip (see, also, text, page 248).
rubber comes from this region. And in this magic development Americans have played a leading rôle.
This Malay Peninsula, stretching hundreds of miles from the Siamese frontier down toward the Equator, forms a vast humid region of dense forests of jungle, wild elephants, snakes, and naked people, rice fields, rubber plantations, and tin mines. Few American tourists see it; those visiting the Orient usually turn back at Hongkong or Manila, and the average traveler from Europe goes no farther than Egypt or the Holy Land. Only the round-the-world tripper sees Malaya, and he usually gets a glimpse only of Singa
pore or Penang during his few hours.
AT THE END OF THE MELTING POT
Singapore, built on a tiny green isle of the same name, which lies just off the end of the peninsula and nearly on the Equator, is the capital of the British crown colony commonly called the Straits. Settlements. This colony embraces the Province Wellesley, the Dindings and Malacca on the mainland, and the islands of Penang and Singapore.
The Federated Malay States, on the peninsula, comprise the States of Perak,