Yishun New Town



Yishun New Town is bounded by Sungei Simpang Kiri to the north, the proposed Admiralty Road East Extension to the east, Seletar Expressway to the south and Sembawang Road to the west.1 The town is named after Lim Nee Soon, a prominent businessman in colonial Singapore.2 The Yishun planning area is made up of nine sub-zones: Yishun Central, Northland, Yishun East, Yishun South, Lower Seletar Reservoir, Springleaf, Nee Soon, Khatib and Yishun West.3

History
Yishun was part of territories inhabited by the indigenous nomadic boat-dwellers known as Orang Seletar – descendants of the orang laut or “sea people” who lived in boats and made a living as fishermen.4 On maps drawn at the time, the area stretching from Seletar River (Sungei Seletar) to Sungei Sembawang was marked as “Seletar”.5  “Yishun” is the hanyu pinyin of “Nee Soon”. Lim Nee Soon (b. 12 November 1879, Singapore–d. 20 March 1936, Shanghai, China)6 was a prominent industrialist who made his fortune by establishing rubber and pineapple plantations in the area.7 Prior to that, the area around the Seletar River was a flourishing gambier and pepper stronghold. These crops declined in popularity at the end of the 19th century, when most of the planters shifted to Johor.8


The growth of estates under Lim’s ownership started when as a young man of 24, he bought land around the Seletar River and leased freehold land from the government for cultivation. At the peak of his career, Lim owned 12 rubber plantations in Singapore and seven in Malaya. In Singapore, his rubber estates could be found in Jurong, Choa Chu Kang, Seletar, Mandai, Sembawang and Thomson.9

Lim was also known as a caring landlord who took good care of the villagers working for him.10 The Nee Soon district developed into an extended settlement as Chinese immigrants who were hired as labourers in the rubber plantations settled down in the area, forming villages and paying a token amount for the land they rented from him.11 These include Mandai Tekong Village, Nee Soon Village, Hup Choon Kek Village, Heng Leh Pah Village,  Bah Soon Pah Village and Chye Kay Village.12 For his contributions to the development of villages in the Nee Soon district as well as pioneering efforts in the rubber industry, the British colonial government renamed the Jia Chui Kang Village Nee Soon Village in 1930.13

To supplement their livelihood, the villagers cultivated vegetables and fruit, and took up pig and poultry farming.14 They also ventured into fishery production near Sungei Simpang, Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Sungei Seletar.15 Fishery production, along with improved farming techniques, contributed to the growth and rise in prosperity of Nee Soon district. In 1979, pig farming was halted following the government's directive to restrict pig farms to Ponggol and Lim Chu Kang.16

The town’s development
The Yishun New Town Project was initiated in 1976 to develop the areas that once made up the Nee Soon district. The initial allocation of 907 ha of land for public housing and industrial development was later increased to over 919 ha. Construction work began in 1977, prior to which some resettlement of the villages had taken place. Most of the residents of Chye Kay Village were moved to Ang Mo Kio, while those who were engaged in rearing aquarium fish were relocated at Tampines. By October 1981, 1,151 families and 48 non-residential cases had been resettled. Another 1,000 families and 80 non-residential cases were scheduled to be resettled in 1983.17

When Yishun New Town was first formed, it was bounded by Admiralty Road, Yishun Avenue 1 and Sembawang Road. Yishun Ring Road lies close to the heart of this new development as a circle road linking almost all other roads in the new town.18 The town was designed with convenience in mind. Schools, markets, religious buildings, community buildings, shopping malls and recreational facilities are located within easy reach of residents.19

There are 10 primary and nine secondary schools, and a junior college in Yishun New Town.20 The Masjid Darul Makmur, located at the junction of Yishun Ring Road and Yishun Avenue 2, was officially opened on 23 July 1987. A temple complex, also built in 1987, is home to two Chinese temples – the Chu Sheng Tong Temple and the Hua Sua Keng Temple. The Sree Maha Mariamman Temple for Hindu devotees was established in 1942 at the junction of Upper Thomson Road and Mandai Road.  The temple was relocated at the junction of Yishun Avenue 3 and Yishun Ring Road during the course of redevelopment works in 1996.21 On 27 August 1995, two Sikh temples at Sembawang and Jalan Kayu were merged to form the Gurdwara Sahib Yishun (Yishun Sikh Temple), which was built on a 1,317-square-metre site at Yishun Ring Road.22

Yishun Bus Interchange, constructed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), was officially opened on 23 August 1987 and handed over to Trans Island Bus Services Ltd (TIBS) on the same day. As part of the North-South Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line, Khatib and Yishun MRT stations began operations in 1989.23

Yishun Town Park (now known as Yishun Park), a 17-hectare pentagon-shaped site flanked by Yishun Avenue 4, Yishun Central, Yishun Avenue 11 and Yishun Ring Road, was officially unveiled in 1995. Built on the grounds of an old rubber estate, the park houses a variety of tropical fruit trees and natural vegetation, and is equipped with amenities such as children’s playgrounds, fitness corners, multi-purpose courts and an amphitheatre.24

In 1993, shopkeepers, merchants and tradesmen at Yishun Ring Road pooled their resources and upgraded their commercial units into a shopping area which they named Chong Pang City. It is made up of 125 shops, a cooked food centre and wet market stalls, and it stands out with its aesthetically designed pedestrian malls and archways.25

In 1996, the government announced plans to upgrade facilities in Yishun to include better hawker stalls and shopping precincts, and provide new amenities such as a library, a new student service centre and more parking lots for heavy vehicles.26 In the same year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced the government's plans to sell land in the area for the construction of low and medium-rise private houses with panoramic views of the Lower Seletar Reservoir and nearby golf clubs. Land was reserved for the development of about 21,250 housing units. About 1,000 new housing units were built by the end of the 1990s at two locations: north of the junction of Yishun Avenue 2 and Yishun Ring Road and along Sembawang Road before the intersection with Gambas Avenue.27

Announcement of another facelift to the town was announced in July 2008. New amenities include the Yishun-Sembawang Heritage Trail and Heritage Garden, and the Family Bay and Rowers’ Bay at Lower Seletar Reservoir, which opened in 2009 and 2010 respectively.28 Yishun Park as well as the parks at Neighbourhoods 6 and 8 were upgraded to include facilities like children’s playgrounds, jogging paths, shelters and elderly fitness corners.29  Around 1,350 Build-to-Order flats, Design, Build and Sell Scheme flats and rental units  were made available by 2011. The Yishun integrated transport hub, targeted for completion in 2019, will include an air-conditioned bus interchange with an underpass link to Yishun MRT station.30

The 550-bed Khoo Teck Puat Hospital at 90 Yishun Central made headlines when it opened in 2010. Described as both “a hospital in a garden” and “a garden in a hospital”, the landscaping, gardens and green spaces on the hospital grounds provide a healing environment for patients as well as help to reduce heat and humidity.31

In January 2016, Yishun was designated as the first “dementia-friendly” town due to its large elderly population. Led by the KTPH and Lien Foundation, about 2,000 of Yishun’s residents from students to frontline staff in hospitals and businesses to members of religious institutions were given training on how to spot, interact and help those with dementia. Dementia guides were also distributed to households and businesses.32



Authors

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja & Noorainn Aziz



References
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Yishun planning area: Planning report 1996. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING q711.4095957 SIN)
2. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 407. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Yishun planning area: Planning report 1996. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING q711.4095957 SIN); Tan, S. (1999). Home, work, play. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 172. (Call no.: RSING 307.1216095957 TAN)
4. Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. (1998). Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 153. (Call no.: RSING 915.9504 PMS-[TRA]); Gomes, A. G. (2007). Modernity and Malaysia: Settling the Menraq forest nomads. London; New York: Routledge, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 306.095951 GOM)
5. Tan, C. H., & Karthigesu, T. (2010). Yishun Sembawang: A heritage trail. Singapore: National Heritage Board. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
6. Death. (1936, March 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Who’s who in Malaya, 1925. (1925) [Microfilm no.: NL 6705]. Singapore: [s. n.], p. 120.
7. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 407. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
8. Singapore: Days of old. (1992). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Publishing, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS]); Tan, C. H., & Karthigesu, T. (2010). Yishun Sembawang: A heritage trail. Singapore: National Heritage Board. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
9. Singapore: Days of old. (1992). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Publishing, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
10. Tan, B. H. (1987, November 24). Man behind old Nee Soon villageThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore: Days of old. (1992). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Publishing, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
11. Tan, B. H. (1987, November 24). Man behind old Nee Soon villageThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore: Days of old. (1992). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Publishing, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, p. 60. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS])
12. Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, pp. 28, 52–81. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (Ed.) (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 650. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU).
13. Tan, B. H. (1987, November 24). Man behind old Nee Soon villageThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore: Days of old. (1992). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Publishing, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
14. Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, p. 63. (Call no.: 959.57 PIC-[HIS])
15. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Yishun planning area: Planning report 1996. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING q711.4095957 SIN)
16. Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, pp. 62–76. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS])
17. Singapore. Parliament. Official reportsParliamentary debates (Hansard). (1981, October 23). Yishun New Town (Development) (Vol. 41, col. 259). Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Parliament of Singapore website: https://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00058235-ZZ&currentPubID=00069427-ZZ&topicKey=00069427-ZZ.00058235-ZZ_1%2Bid021_19811023_S0007_T00411-oral-answer%2B
18. Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, pp. 161–163, 178. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS]); Waller, E. (2001). Landscape planning in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore University Press, p. 91. (Call no. RSING q307.12095957 WAL)
19. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Yishun planning area: Planning report 1996. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING q711.4095957 SIN)
20. School Information Service. (2016). School directory. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Ministry of Education website: http://sis.moe.gov.sg/SchoolDirectory.aspx
21. Tan, C. H., & Karthigesu, T. (2010). Yishun Sembawang: A heritage trail. Singapore: National Heritage Board. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS]); Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, pp. 58, 174. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS])
22. Two Sikh temples merge into one in Yishun. (1995, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 39; New Sikh temple to replace 2 in Yishun. (1993, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Nee Soon Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee. (1987). A pictorial history of Nee Soon Community. Singapore: The Grassroots Organisations of Nee Soon Constituency & National Archives: Oral History Department, pp. 177–179. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS])
24. Nature park in the heart of Yishun within 2 years. (1992, November 30). The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, C. H., & Karthigesu, T. (2010). Yishun Sembawang: A heritage trail. Singapore: National Heritage Board. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS]); National Parks Board. (2016). Yishun Park. Retrieved 2016, December 15 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/yishun-park
25. Siow, M. (1993, May 30). Yishun shops band to build their own ‘shopping mall’. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Fernandez, W. (1996, April 22). New facilities for Yishun, says MahThe Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. URA to sell Yishun land for ‘homes with a view’. (1996, January 31). The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Land Authority. (2016). One Historical Map. Retrieved from One Historical Map website: https://ohm.onemap.sg/#/index/main
28. Tan, D. W. (2010, June 27). Makeover for Lower Seletar Reservoir. The Straits Times, p. 6; Yishun-Sembawang. (2011, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Enriching my Yishun: Remaking our heartland plans come to fruition. (2013, June 28). Targeted News Service. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
30. Lim, A. (2015, February 28). Yishun transport hub to open in 2019. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

31. Hetty Musfirah. (2010, November 16). We will need to actively push healthcare foreward: MM Lee. Today, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. (2016). Explore KTPH: A healing environment.  Retrieved 2016, December 15 from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital website: https://www.ktph.com.sg/main/explore_ktph_pages/232/a_healing_environment; Tan, C. H., & Karthigesu, T. (2010). Yishun Sembawang: A heritage trail. Singapore: National Heritage Board. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TAN-[HIS])
32. Tai, J. (2016, January 21). Yishun set to be first ‘dementia-friendly’ town: 2,000 people trained so far in community support project. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/




The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
 

Subject
Streets and Places
Urbanization--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Geography>>Population>>Urban Planning
Street names--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Urban planning