Category Archives: Resources

Ah Ku and Karayuki-San: Prostitution in Singapore 1870–1940

First published in 1993, Ah Ku and Karayuki-San explores the life of prostitutes in pre-war Singapore. Together with James F. Warren’s other book, Rickshaw Coolie: A People’s History of Singapore 1880–1940, both books ventured into the social histories of Singapore’s past that has long been neglected by official discourse and by other historians of Singapore.

In Ah Ku and Karayuki-San, Warren studied the lives of two groups of prostitutes, the Ah Ku, which refers to Chinese (mostly Cantonese) prostitutes, and the Karayuki-san, the Japanese prostitutes. Using an impressive array of sources such as newspapers, oral histories, photos, newspapers, police and government documents and particularly, the coroner’s reports, Warren traced the life, or rather, the tragic deaths of these prostitutes. He divides the book into two sections: “Brothel Prostitution in Singapore” focuses on the institutions of prostitution and the city of Singapore, with chapters on migration, patriarchy, hierarchy, procurement, followed by a section “Ah Ku and Karayuki-San”, which focused on the individuals, bringing forth the life stories of the prostitutes who worked in Singapore. In the latter section, the chapters include the life-cycle of prostitutes and the concept of a brothel ‘family’.

This book represents an important attempt to write an ‘alternative’ history of Singapore, where the testimonies and narratives of the subaltern, the invisible and the powerless has a place in Singapore history despite the hegemonic dominance of a history writing that only records for posterity, those who are articulate and powerful.

More importantly, Warren reminds us of the human cost and the underside of Singapore’s economic success. Vice was part and parcel of Singapore’s histories, and as students of history, we should be sensitive to sacrifices made by people who got the short end of the straw of life.





Photo of a newly-arrived karayuki-san circa 1900s, from p. 209 of the book.




Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940 by James F. Warren [Call no. HQ 255.12 War 2003]. See

Rickshaw Coolie: A People’s History of Singapore (1880-1940) by James F. Warren [Call no. HD8039 Ric.W 2003]. See



Han Ming Guang.

History Resource Librarian

NUS Libraries 110C team

Highlights from NUS Libraries’ collection – Singapore’s landscape transformation and urban planning

For anyone who has lived in Singapore for any number of years, it is difficult not to have an opinion of the relentless change in the physical landscape. There are 3 ‘must-read’ books if you want to understand the rationale that lies behind Singapore’s landscape transformation and urban planning. The first two books are Urban Planning in Singapore: Transformation of a City (1999) by Ole Dale, and The Politics of Urban Development in Singapore by Robert Gamer (1972). Both books will give you a historical perspective of the early days of urban planning during the ‘self-rule’ years (1958–63) and the period immediately after Independence (1963–80).

Ole Dale traces the work of urban planners in Singapore from the colonial period to post independence. A newly-elected government of an aspiring new nation faced pressing and complex issues as there were a large number of squatters in the city because jobs and employment opportunities were concentrated along the Singapore River. Living conditions in Chinatown and central areas such as Beach Road and along the Kallang River were overcrowded and unsanitary. In addition, these places were fertile for vice activities involving drugs, robbery and gambling. Not surprisingly, public housing and building infrastructure to connect the ‘New Towns’ dominated the planner’s agenda for more than 25 years.

There was also the difficult job of convincing society of the government’s intentions to improve living and working conditions in the effort to ‘modernise’ Singapore, as demonstrated in Gamer’s case study of Kallang River Basin in the second book. Resettlement of a significant number of people is never popular or easy thing to do at any time, and on more than one occasion, the government had to backtrack or slow certain plans in order to deal with the citizenry’s accusation of the government’s discrimination and hidden agenda.


p46(2008) e


The third book, Singapore: an atlas of perpetual territorial transformation by Rodolphe de Koninck, Julie Drolet and Marc Girard (2008) provides a visual view of the effect of state planning from the self-rule years until 2006. Despite the slim volume, the geographer’s perspective of land use and landscape transformation due to human activity is profound and goes beyond the physical boundary of the Singapore city state.

From the 1960s, urban planning was primarily used by governments around the world to control and regulate the land use in its cities and urban areas. In Singapore, an island-nation of 720 km2 (increasing every year due to reclamation), urban planning was employed extensively during the nation-building years to expedite the singular goal of modernising the city, promote the nation’s economic competitiveness and international image to attract investment capital. And it succeeded beyond all expectations.

Urban Planning in Singapore: Transformation of a city [call no. HT169.12 Dal], The Politics of Urban Development in Singapore [call no. HT175.12 Gam], and Singapore: an atlas of perpetual territorial transformation [call no. G8040 Kon 2008] can be found in the Singapore-Malaysia collection in Central Library.


Winnifred Wong

SDE Resource Librarian

NUS Libraries 110C team

Sonnets from the Singlish

What’s a good book to kick off a social media campaign in celebration of NUS’ 110th anniversary? Well, finding one is akin to locating a needle in a haystack for a variety of reasons. One, you’re simply spoilt for choice. Two, I feel obliged to pick a book that highlights the English Language and Literature collection (ELL) since I am the resource librarian for this area after all, and three, I am still overwhelmed by the number of possibilities.


A little book of 44 poems, Sonnets from the Singlish written by local poet Joshua Ip, is entirely about Singapore. If you were born and bred in this country, you should recognize Ip’s anecdotes within his witty sonnets. It is a good book to represent the ELL collection because you could study the language used in the poems, analyze the iambic pentameter in the sonnets, or as Ip suggests, perform a reading of the poems using a Singaporean accent.


Don’t expect to read 44 poems written in Singlish, or 44 Singlish sonnets. In fact, Ip has described the book as “riffing off Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese (also 44 sonnets).” But Ip does better. He mixes pop culture — mostly local, and some international with a local twist — while discussing local issues, and subtly expressing his opinions about local affairs; matters that are often uniquely Singaporean.


I found myself turning the pages to catch on as many of Ip’s references as possible, and sometimes try to guess what exactly he is referring to in the poetry. One of my favorite poems is how he has transformed all four books of Twilight into a four-part horror poem about a female jiangshi, the vampire or zombie in Chinese folklore. Here is an excerpt tickled me:


i write your name upon the yellow charm

and press it to your forehead with a kiss –


come, we move by night. i dare not stop

till dawn. we have a thousand miles to hop.


I was able to catch some other references in his book, namely the local ice-cream man (not the owner of the fancy ice-cream franchise at the mall, but the guy ringing his bell at his mobile cart), gambling, BGR (boy-girl relationships), traffic conditions, online gaming, government scholars, wedding banquets, and of course, a token sonnet written entirely in Singlish just to satisfy readers’ expectation.


For those who are not local, fret not! Ip has kindly provided notes on the Singlish or colloquial terms he has used in his work.



Sonnets from the Singlish (call no. is PL5150 Ip.S 2012) is available at the Central Library at the main shelf and the Singapore-Malaysia collection.


Raven Sim

ELL Resource Librarian

NUS Libraries 110C team

The oldest Japanese Bible

The oldest Japanese Bible Yohane no fukuin den (约翰福音之传, John Gospel) was translated by the British missionaries Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (1803 -1851)between 1835-1836. He did the translation with the assistance of three Japanese sailors, namely Iwakichi, Hisakichi & Otokichi . The translation work was completed in Macau and was published in Singapore by the Mission Press in 1837.


Besides Yohane no fukuin den , Gützlaff also translated Yohane jo chu ge sho (约翰福音上中下书, Letters by John).  Both books were published in Singapore in 1837.  It is said that 1690 copies of Yohane no fukuin den were printed then, but there are only 16 copies extant to date.  On the other hand, 2 copies of Yohane jo chu ge sho remain extant, one of which is kept in the British Library collection, while the other is in Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.


The title Gyutsurafu yaku seisho (ギュツラフ訳聖書, Gützlaff translated Bible) is currently kept in the NUS Chinese Library Rare Book Collection. The title consists of 3 volumes which are Yohane no fukuin den, Yohane jo chu ge sho and commentary by Takaya Michio and Akiyama Norie.  This set was published as a limited edition (limited to 300 sets) by Tokyo Shinban Shuppansha in 1976.

CommentaryJohn GospelLetters by John

7 Things Freshmen Should Know But Usually Don’t

1. Your library pin is your smartcard pin

You probably know your NUSNET ID, since without it, you can’t access your NUS email as well as the all-important IVLE. But a surprising number of students don’t know their library PINs, which is the smartcard PIN issued during matriculation. The library PIN is needed for checking your loan record, renewing books and borrowing books using the self-service machines, among other things. You can retrieve it here.


2. RBR books can be borrowed overnight

Reserve Books/Readings (RBR) are highly sought after because they are recommended readings for various modules and can be borrowed only for 2 hours. However, few students know that they can borrow the an RBR book overnight just before the library closes and return it within one hour of the library’s opening the next day. For details look here.


3. Most books have a grace period

You probably know that the loan period for books is 14 days for undergraduates and 28 days for honours & graduate students. But did you know there is a grace period and that fines don’t start until the 4th day after the due date? Be careful to read the fine print (6. Rate of fines), as the grace period doesn’t apply to RBR books, 7-day loan books, bound journals and other materials.


4. You cannot renew an item if there is already a hold

Sure, you may know that you can renew books three times online, and you may even know how much extension a renewal gives. But what you may not know is that you cannot renew an item once there is a hold on it. That’s why it is a bad idea to bring books overseas for a long vacation as you cannot count on being able to renew the loan.


5. The proxy bookmarklet is your other friend

Google may be your friend, but what happens if it shows a journal article that requires you to pay? Instead of replicating your search in the catalogue, save time by using the proxy bookmarklet to access the article directly! Do note that the proxy bookmarklet only works on journals that the library subscribes to.

Using Google Scholar or PubMed instead? We have you covered as well. Also check out other useful search plugins that will allow you to access NUS Libraries resources seamlessly no matter where you are.


6. There are easier ways to cite and do referencing

We have quick guides to assist in referencing for various styles. But there are many ways to auto-enerate citations quickly. These range from using build-in functions in the library search engines, databases and Google Scholar, to using standalone citation builders you can find online. You can also consider learning how to use a full blown reference manager like EndNote (you can install this for free as a student or staff of NUS by following instructions in our EndNote guide), as these help you auto-insert citations into your Word documents.



7. Librarians have expertise and are here to help you

While librarians can’t do your homework, we can help you find books, papers and data sets relevant to your research and assignments. In addition, some of us are skilled in patent searching, use of reference managers, bibliometrics and may also have subject specific expertise. Contact your resource librarian today, or come for our orientations sessions to learn about using the library effectively for your assignments!


Tay Chee Hsien Aaron
Central Library

Eight Things You May Not Know About the Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library

Do You Know…?


…That the Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library (HSSML) has a seating capacity of more than 800? (Huat ah!) That makes us the third largest NUS library, after Central Library and Science Library.


…That HSSML has 12 discussion rooms open to all NUS students? They vary in size from small cozy rooms that seat about 4 people, to larger ones that can easily seat 12 to 15 people. (Big small bao ka liao!) Book them online via our Library Portal.


…That we have 8 study carrels for individual study purposes? (Again! Huat ah!) They are the row of small rooms on the second level. The carrels are open to all students, although priority of use goes to Business School students, especially graduate students. Borrow the carrel keys at the Loans Desk for 4 hours at a time.


…That we have a good collection of books on useful skills such as:

  • Managing personal finances
  • Resume/CV writing
  • Improving your IQ and EQ
  • Leading and managing people
  • Time management
  • Learning and studying skills


…That we not only have network computers, photocopiers and network printers, we also have colour printers that can print up to A3 size (great for poster sessions and presentations), and a scanner as well? Check out our Infocommons on the first level.


…That we have not 1 but 2 rooms for quiet study? The 3rd level Quiet Room is a “No-Click Zone” so students are advised not to use their laptops, mobile phones or other electronic devices there, ensuring a peaceful environment. Two sides of the room are floor-to-ceiling windows, so there is plenty of natural light. The 2nd level Quiet Room is tucked in a corner, away from the main reading area, and special carrel tables with high sides and front give students additional privacy. (Silence is golden.…)


…What this huge machine on the third floor does?

biz 1



This is an industrial sized dehumidifier. It keeps the air inside the library dry so that our books do not suffer from mildew and fungus. (Water may mean fortune in fengshui, but water in the library means we lose a fortune!)


…That we have a Hon Sui Sen Room? Mr Hon was one of our early Finance Ministers, and the library, auditorium, Conference Room on the third level, and even the small road between the Mochtar Riady Building and the Shaw Alumni House are all named in memory of him.


There you go, 8 facts you may not have known about Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library. While we primarily serve the students and staff of the Business School, we do have a plethora of resources that are useful to all NUS students and staff. Come visit us today!


— The Little Teapot

Online guide to music resources

Need resources in music for your assignment? Help is close at hand 24/7 with the music libguide .

Navigate your way with Library Tips to get started on how to use the library catalogue to find music scores and media materials. Search directly the appropriate Databases such as Oxford Music Online, Classical Scores Library, Naxos Music Library and Naxos Video Library.

You can also browse new music titles, other subjects of interest or create new titles alerts. If you use IE browser, you can select the “Add to Favourites Bar”. While setting up in IE browser, the shortcut will appear on your browser’s favourites bar. If there are newly published titles for the discipline selected, the shortcut bar will be displayed in bold. You can then click on the bar to retrieve a drop-down menu of the recently published titles.

Wish to explore Contemporary Repertoire to perform? Or perhaps need specific contemporary repertoire for Percussion, Piano, String or Brass?

Start with this libguide, whether you are new or looking for specific materials for your research.

P.S. If you are doing research on Singaporean composers, Music Library also has a growing collection of works by well-known and emerging local composers.

music mar 2014

Shh… We had a date with MKT1003 students in HSSML

Are you curious about what librarians in Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library have been doing recently?  Let’s take a look at what’s been happening at HSSML Training Room (3rd floor).


This screen looks familiar. It looks like a database interface! Yes, this is a popular business database – Business Source Premier! Students are sitting up and listening attentively. They are eagerly learning how to search for journal articles and company profiles such as for Apple Inc. But, where are our librarians?



There they are! Meet our instructors for this session, Kah Wei and Kash ($$$). Kash is waiting for the students to apply their own searches in the databases taught while Kah Wei is assisting them.



That hand belongs to Kash, one of our friendly librarians who is explaining the function of using truncation in Business Source Premier. In the example above, strateg* retrieves a variation of word such as strategy, strategies, strategic, etc. He then combined “market* strateg*” to bring together the different possible variations on the words market and strategy. Awesome!



The librarians also taught another key business database: Passport (aka. GMID, Euromonitor). In the picture below, Linyu is showing students how to navigate Passport. She pointed out relevant resources derived from one starting point: a “Beer in Singapore”. She also showed company profiles such as a profile on “Asia Pacific Breweries”. Last but not least, she encouraged students to look at consumer lifestyles reports.

Students who attended the session gave great feedback. Many suggested we should continue conducting this tutorial in the future. Thank you for all your comments, MKT1003 students. The Librarians enjoyed their “date” with you!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Our Emails are:





~Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library

Tips for your Honors Thesis (edited repost)

Not sure where to start for your Honors thesis? (Or any other research projects/assignments) Here are 6 tips from your friendly librarians:


1. Start off with a broad literature review for your area of interest

Everyone knows what a literature review is, right? If you only have a vague idea, watch this video by NCSU. Back? Good. The video talks about review articles, which are articles that summarise past papers in a given area. Sounds mighty useful, doesn’t it? But how does one find them? Refer to this guide on finding review articles.

Can’t find enough relevant articles? Some options:


2. Manage your references and citations with EndNote

Citing and proper referencing can be a chore. While you can use some of the methods listed here to make it easier, if you are reading and citing a lot, we highly recommend learning how to use a reference manager. NUS Libraries supports use of EndNote, a reference manager that allows you to pull in references from databases such as Scopus, ScienceDirect, and JSTOR, then cite them in your preferred citation style with a single click.

Attend one of our upcoming training sessions or check out the materials from our past sessions at your own convenience.


3. Check that you have the required software and data

If you are working in a field that requires statistical data or specialised software such as statistics software, do ensure that you have access to such items. Having problems finding statistical data? Refer to some of our library guides or the following tips.


4. Set up search alerts

So the review article you found gave you a good idea of the state of art in the research area. You’ve followed up leads with tons of reading, scoped out the area and produced a top class literature review linking and summarizing the work done while showing off your knowledge of the issues. Still, your work is not yet done. To avoid missing out on the latest published material after you finish your search, set up search alerts to keep up with the latest developments.

You can set up alerts:

  • based on keywords from the library catalogue for new additions to the library catalogue
  • from individual databases such as Scopus, Web of Science
  • from Google Scholar, using Google Scholar Alerts  to access paid articles via our subscriptions.
  • for your RSS feed reader using FindMore@NUSL
  • at your favourite journal’s homepage (not available for all journals). You can also use the free JournalTOCs feature to setup alerts together with the proxy bookmarklet to access paid articles via our subscriptions.

For more advice on tracking relevant research see the following article.


5. Know the library services you can access as an honours or graduate student

For honors and graduate students, we provide you with additional services to aid your research, which include the following:

  • Document Delivery Service. Sometimes an article you need may not be available via our subscriptions. You can request that the library obtain the article for you, but do take note of the conditions that apply. For more details, see this.
  • Interlibrary loan (graduate students only). Sometimes you may want a book that none of the seven libraries have. We may purchase the book if it is still in print, or borrow it from other libraries. Check out the interlibrary loan service.


6. Consult a resource librarian

Confused by any of the above steps or need further help? You can consult a resource librarian in charge of your subject area for more specialized help.


New Chemistry Databases

NUS Libraries has recently added the following six databases from the Royal Society of Chemistry to its electronic resources.  These are abstracts & index databases.  If a link to the full text of the publication is not provided in the database, search the Library catalogue, LINC, to see if the required journal issue or publication is available either in print or in online version.  For more tips on this, please refer to the FAQ: How do I check if the full text of journal articles are available?


1. Analytical Abstracts

Use this database for literature on the latest techniques and applications in the analytical sciences. It contains abstracts from over 100 publications from 1980 until the latest update. The database’s specialised indexing system comprises 3 types of index fields:

– Analyte: The substance that has been identified or determined such as drugs, food additives, pesticides, nanoparticles.  You can search for a particular element, compound or CAS number (e.g. paracetamol [103-90-2]).

– Matrix: The sample or medium in which the analyte has been measured, e.g. soil, lead alloys, blood plasma.

Technique: The methods used for analysis, apparatus or a field of study, e.g. HPLC, mass spectra, fluorescence, proteomic analysis.

(See sample records)


2. Catalysts & Catalysed Reactions

Use the database for graphical abstracts of new developments in catalysis research, including homogeneous, heterogeneous and biocatalysis with emphasis on current growth areas such as chiral catalysts, polymerisation catalysts, enzymatic catalysts and clean catalytic methods.  The database is updated monthly with approximately 200 new graphical abstracts selected from dozens of key primary journals, and are indexed by Products, Reactants, Catalysts, Catalyst Type and Reaction Type.  (See sample records)


3. Chemical Hazards in Industry
Use this database for information on safety and health hazards surrounding chemicals encountered in the chemical and related industries.  It is updated monthly with over 250 items.  (See sample records)


4. Laboratory Hazards Bulletin
Use the database for key information scanned from primary scientific and trade literature worldwide on hazards encountered in different types of laboratories, including R&D, analytical and hospital laboratories.  Topic coverage includes hazardous waste management, occupational monitoring and safety legislation. (See sample records)


5. Methods in Organic Synthesis
Use the database for graphical abstracts of key current developments in organic synthesis.  It provides informative reaction schemes, and covers new reactions and new methods.  Updated monthly with approximately 200 new reaction schemes which are categorised by five indexes: Author, Product, Reaction, Reactant and Reagent.  (See sample records)


6. Natural Product Updates
Use the database for graphical abstracts of latest developments in natural product chemistry.  Updated monthly with around 200 new graphical abstracts selected from dozen key primary journals, it includes structure diagrams, trivial and taxonomic names, molecular formulae, physical and biological properties.  (See sample records)


Science Library