Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chew Joo Chiat's second legacy

Joo Chiat, Singapore’s  First Heritage Town is fast becoming a tourist spot. There is a walking trail guide and map known as The Secret of Joo Chiat launched recently and supported by Singapore Tourism Board.

Joo Chiat a living legacy is the title of  a book by Lily Kong published in 2001. Many road names such as Joo Chiat Road, Joo Chiat Terrace, Joo Chiat Place,  Joo Chiat Lane, Joo Chiat Walk and Joo Chiat Avenue  are named after the late Chew Joo Chiat. In fact, he had the most roads named after him in Singapore. Buildings named after him were Joo Chiat Market, Joo Chiat Post Office and Joo Chiat Police Station. Joo Chiat Market had been demolished and replaced by Joo Chiat Complex. Joo Chiat Post Office site is now a drive way connecting Joo Chiat Road to a car park. Joo Chiat Police Station has ceased functioning. It will be a hotel soon but the building will be restored to its past glory.

The boundary of Joo Chiat District was reported in the Straits Times on 8 October 1948. It stretches  from Changi Road/Geylang Serai  junction to  Joo Chiat Road, Marine Parade Road, Telok Kurau Road, Changi Road and back to Geylang Serai to form a square.  Katong has no district then and  now. It encroached into Joo Chiat after the death of Chew Joo Chiat in 1926. 

Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple at Jalan Eunos is another legacy of Chew Joo Chiat. He owned most of the land at Kampong Eunos which was then a coconut plantation. His two coconut plantations at Joo Chiat and Kampong Eunos were adjoining, separated only by a narrow Changi Road in the early 1920s. After his death in 1926, the land at Kampong  Eunos was  divided among  his children. Chew Quee Neo, his youngest daughter inherited a parcel of  land facing Jalan Eunos MRT. 

In 1959 she donated her land to the Venerable Mahaweera, a young Buddhist monk to build a Buddhist temple. It was to fulfill her vow made earlier. In 1960 Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple was born with a humble beginning. A single storey worship hall was built and officially opened on 31st March 1961. 

In 1981 the temple started to erect a three storeys extension building. It was completed in 1983. 

                      Opening ceremony by Mr Devan Nair 

In July 1991 an old building was demolished to make way for a new shrine hall. It was completed in 1994.

                     Opening ceremony officiated by Dr Wee Kim Wee

Bangala Vihara Buddhist Temple had the honour of two former Presidents of Singapore to grace the two separate ceremonies. First was for the extension building on 23rd November 1983. Former President of Singapore Mr Devan Nair was the Guest of Honour who unveiled the Opening Commemorative Plaque. Next was the opening of the New Shrine Hall Building on 11th July 1999 by former Singapore President Dr Wee Kim Wee who unveiled the plaque.

Chew Joo Chiat second legacy through his daughter Chew Quee Neo has come a long way from its humble beginning. Today the temple has full facilities. There is a Shrine Hall, a multi-purpose Chew Quee Neo Hall, an administrative office, Rooms for
Sunday school,  kitchen cum dinning area, living quarters for monks, library etc. 

Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple has a colourful history. It celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2010 and it is looking forward for another 50 good years.