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Yangtze Scribbler

Who is the Yangtze Scribbler? What is the meaning of these scribbles?

Watch "Yangtze Scribbler" by Tan Pin Pin

Compiled from documentation on my blog over the years:
Mar 2012 - Yangtze Scribbler on Victoria Lane
April 2012 - Looking for the Yangtze Scribbler
June 2012 - Yangtze Scribbler on Queen Street
May 2013 - Yangtze Scribbler on Victoria Street
March 2016 - Yangtze Strangers
In 2010, I came across a series of symbols in the stairwell leading up to the Yangtze Cinema - a small cinema in Pearl Centre that largely showed R-rated films. These symbols were quite particular - they all had sets of numbers on them, and always had a drawing of a couple and seemed to be encircled by a phallic symbol. At the time, I was fascinated by these symbols and took many pictures documenting these strange symbols. Being at that place always feels intense, like intruding into some other world that I don't belong to.
Stairwell of Yangtze Cinema, 29 July 2010
Two years later, I was taking an unexpected detour through the muslim cemetery which was very muddy, so I had to stop behind the bus stop to clean my shoes. When I looked up, I saw the same symbol written there in marker. It must have been recent, as the bus stops in Singapore are routinely cleaned.

Victoria Street Bus stop, 13 Nov 2011

Victoria Street Bus stop, 3 Feb 2012
I'm not really interested in any of the other tagging or graffiti that I see on the streets in Singapore - most of the 'graffiti' here just doesn't seem 'authentic' to me. Strict punishment for vandalism in Singapore means that it doesn't happen very often, and even if it does, its rarity here means that it immediately looks like it was something - a cool trend, a style - that had been copied over from another country. I don't like it when graffiti seems to be trying very hard to make some sort of pointed statement, and less about simply sending a coded message between people. For me, these faint marker symbols are way more intriguing than any other graffiti on the streets.

Electrical Box (March 20, 2012)
Even more chillingly, a year later, I was walking past an electrical box next to the muslim cemetery one day, when for some reason I was drawn to look behind it. It was facing the cemetery and such a peaceful scene, that I imagined that it was the spot I'd imagine you'd hide a secret message. Shockingly, there was the symbol again. Its location meant that the person who had drawn it would have been squeezing themselves in a tight space between the muslim cemetery behind it and the electrical box.

Behind the Electrical Box (March 20, 2012)
Since then I've found the symbol in different spots around the Queen Street / Bugis / Victoria Street area - which was an area that I frequented when I was living at Rowell Road.
Victoria Street, Facing the main road, May 9, 2013
Queen Street, 14 June 2012
Seeing the same symbols outside of the Yangtze was the thing that elevated these symbols from "secret language" to grand mystery. This year, I visited the Yangtze for the last time, before it was to close for good in Feb 2016. Yet I still haven't found the scribbler, or found out the meaning of the symbol! And once the Yangtze Cinema is demolished and disappears from memory, the original reference that I used to refer these signs by will cease to exist.
Yangtze Stairwell, August 7, 2015
When I went back there for the last time, I was reminded what attracted me to the place and the symbols in the beginning. When I am there in the stairwell, I get a paradoxical sense of feeling physically repelled - which, in my mind, makes me want to investigate it further. The stairwell makes me feel like I am intruding into a space which someone has already claimed as their own; the walls engraved with scribbles, handprints and furniture for one to sit on. Like the extreme vertigo I often experience when walking on large rocks or steep natural terrains, this inexplicable sensation of being physically repelled (or perhaps, having been socialised to keep a distance and maintain a sense of privacy) is what excites me and attracts me to return to and look closer at the signs.
Yangtze Stairwell, August 7, 2015