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May 18, 2010

Mosquito bites leg? You are wrong..

Sorry folks, I know I have not been updating..but had a good chat with Singapore's very own historian painter Marcus Lim and he corrected my (and a lot of people) misconception of the term "Mang Ga Ka"(referring to the Balestier area, including Bendemeer area).

That's what Marcus said: 
The name actually means "under the jackfruit tree". The Balestier area used to be home to Whampoa (Mr. Hoo Ah Kay) who owns Nam Seng Garden (南生花园) and it is in that villa where many fruit trees, especially jackfruit trees, were grown.

In the old days, the locals who are mostly illiterate would use physical landmarks as place names, thus this place (referring to Balestier/Bendemeer area) is named after that.
As explained by Marcus, "Mang ga" refers to jackfruit, so "Mang Ga ka" means "under the jackfruit tree" ("ka" means leg, so it has the connotation of below the jackfruit tree). This cleared my misconception of the term after so many years...argh..stop thinking Bendemeer/Balestier area is a place where people get bitten by mosquitoes ok..

Picture by Marcus of where the location of Whampoa Gardens is, later on identified as Bendemeer House:


  1. An updated explanation by Marcus:

    MangKa, is actually a twisted version of the malay description of the fruit, known as Nang Ka. For some reason, local Chinese have adapted their own version of the Malay word - as with many other malay words like Pasar (巴刹)

    As for the 'Ka', it usually refers to the foot of something, other than the actual meaning of 'leg'.
    And Tek Ka, is literally 'under the bamboo' - a raw description of the area between New Hampshire, Race Course and Bukit Timah Road; literally where LTA building is.

    Based on old records, that area used to be a bamboo grove, which feeds the cattle and cane industry along Belilios area. So again, these local Chinese aptly named the place with the sighting of the grove.

  2. Further elaboration by Raymond Goh, Singapore Paranormal Investigator (SPI):

    The 脚 encompasses 3 meanings like place, under and foot.

    In this case, even though it may be 下 Ha , people still would call it Ka 脚

    For example:

    Here you can see the earliest road in our region

    You can see the Chinese words 港下 Kang Ha is pronounced as Kang Ka since the early 19th century as reflected in this road sign [sorry cant attach pic here].

    That is people already associated Ka with the phrase (the area under the ...)
    Pic from Johor Chinese History Museum which is located at Tan Hiok Nee Street

    Kangka Tebrau or Tan Chu Kang (named in honor of first Kangchu Tan Kai Soon) was opened for
    gambier and pepper plantation in 1844. A chinese community developed thereafter with Jalan Kangka Kechil as its main road. This wooden road sign, the oldest of its kind in JB, indicate Jalan Kangka Kechil in Chinese, Jami and Romanized Malay, had been in the vicinity for more than a century.


    Another example,

    Tek Kia Kha 竹仔脚 (foot of small bamboos) - refer to Kandang Kerbau and Selegie Road

    From Wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Tekka_Centre

    Etymology and history
    The case of Tekka Centre is often used to illustrate the complexities of Chinese language romanisation in Singapore. The market was originally known as Kandang Kerbau (or just KK), Malay for "buffalo pens", referring to the slaughterhouses operating in the area until the 1920s, and the name still lives on in the nearby Kandang Kerbau Women's and Children's Hospital, Kandang Kerbau Police Station and the Kandang Kerbau Post Office. In Hokkien, the market was known as Tek Kia Kha, literally meaning "foot of the small bamboos", as bamboo plants once grew on the banks of the Rochor Canal.

    The original market was built in 1915, and was located across the street between Hastings Road and Sungei Road. When it was torn down in 1982 and relocated at its present site, the new multi-use complex was named Zhujiao Centre (竹脚中心), the pinyin version of Tek Kia. However, to locals, especially non-Chinese, the new word Zhujiao was both hard to read and pronounce and bore no resemblance to Tekka. Eventually, the complex was officially renamed Tekka Centre in 2000 as it better reflected the history of the place. The market was closed for a significant renovation in 2008, reopening in 2009.

    ------------ --

    Another example 脚仔 (Ka Kia) - literally Foot Child-but in Hokkien means my followers under me