It was one of those days that I allowed my mind to wander away from my 3.5 inch world (read: smartphone screen). As I stepped out of the MRT cabin, I happened to see the Chinese words “四美”. (Simei happens to be the English transliteration of those two words).
And after a 30-minute train ride, I wasn’t really focused on anything else. Stepping out onto the platform, I fixed my gaze on the station signage and only one thought went through my head:
“Why’s this place named so?”
My curiosity piqued, and as the fine weather that day meant a short detour was in order, I wandered around a bit. After all, I was a good half hour early to visit a friend at the nearby Changi General Hospital. As I made my way past block 101, I noticed the distinctively Chinese pavilion and wooden fences along the corridor.
Seeing them, my memory was jolted as I recalled a picture a colleague had shown to me – an art installation of the ‘Four Beauties’ of Simei based on the four legendary beauties of ancient Chinese culture, and that was when I put two and two together!
The Four Beauties of Simei, back in 1987
The Four Beauties
That art installation is no longer available today. Nonetheless, all was not lost. I found paintings of them – all four beauties!
Xi Shi resides in Simei Street 1. As the legend goes, fish would swim and sink away from the surface of the water when she appears.
Diao Chan at Simei Street 2 was said to cause the moon to shy away.
Yang Gui Fei at Simei Street 3 – she supposedly put all flowers to shame.
Wang Zhao Jun’s beauty was said to cause birds to fall from the skies – she sits pretty at Simei Street 4.
During my walkabout, I came across Mr Ann, an ex-painter in his 80s. He explained to me in some detail the reason for the portraits being at their respective locations. Apparently, it follows a certain symmetry in the way the portraits are placed. In fact, there are two copies of each portrait at different blocks along the same street. I’ll resist the urge to reveal where they are, and ask you to tell us where they are instead!
Mr Ann and his 7-year old Jack Russel terrier greet a neighbour
Apart from the four beauties, there are other touches about Simei that its residents love. For Mr Ann, it’s the peace and quiet and the convenience. “I’m pretty happy living here. Because it is a small town, everything is just a short 10-minute walk away. Very convenient!”
For a time, Simei Streets 1 to 4 were supposedly meant to be named after the legendary four beauties of ancient China. Do you know of other local history and stories behind road names in your estate? Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
By Daniel Lim
Nov 1, 2012