Beauty World

Opened in 1947, Beauty World was a popular market and shopping destination in Singapore during the 1960s. Located at the junction between Upper Bukit Timah Road and Jalan Jurong Kechil, the market comprised over a hundred stalls that sold all kinds of daily necessities such as fresh produce, household items, textiles and stationery. Beauty World was also a venue for getai performances and Hungry Ghost Festival celebrations. In 1962, the market expanded with the addition of the Beauty World Town. After suffering from several bouts of fire, the building was earmarked for redevelopment. Most of the stallholders were later relocated to the newly built Beauty World Centre located opposite its original site.

Da Dong Ya Amusement Park
Prior to the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), the vicinity of Beauty World was rural land occupied by attap houses as well as rubber, mangosteen and pineapple plantations.1 The area was badly destroyed by bombs during the Japanese invasion.2

In the early months of the Japanese Occupation, two Hokchia businessmen, Yuan and Yan, sought permission from the Japanese authorities to run an amusement park.3 It was located at the seventh milestone along Upper Bukit Timah Road, bounded by Chun Tin Road and Jalan Jurong Kechil.4 The entertainment centre was known as Da Dong Ya (大东亚; Greater East Asia), referring to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere imperialist propaganda during the war.5

The park had stages for wayang and getai, a dance hall, coffee parlours, a cinema that screened Japanese and old Chinese films, entertainment for children, food stalls and a large gambling hall.6 The stage was sometimes used by the Japanese for rallies to garner local support for the Japanese government.7 However, most of the patrons visited the park for its food and gambling stalls.8 At the time, gambling, as a form of recreation, was used to divert the people’s attention from the sufferings during the Occupation years. The gambling games offered at the park included fan-tan, dominoes and the popular “12-character lottery”.9 The park operated from 6 pm until 11 pm, and was frequented by locals as well as Japanese soldiers and their families.10 Each entry cost 20 cents in Japanese military yen (commonly known as “banana currency”).11 

Beauty World
After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the amusement park declined in popularity and fell into disrepair.12 The proprietor, Giam Kok Eng, successfully sought permission from the British authorities to convert the amusement park into a market, and the Beauty World Market opened in July 1947.13 The name “Beauty World” was a reference to its prior existence as an amusement park; at the time, a number of entertainment parks were named different “worlds” such as Happy World, New World and Great World.14 

The marketplace was a hotchpotch of zinc and attap shacks, gambling dens, and stalls selling a wide variety of items such as food, textiles, radio and television sets, cosmetics, books, flowers, hardware, sports equipment, antiques, woodcarvings, curios and accessories. The market also had stages for shows.15

In 1962, the market expanded with the addition of Beauty World Town.16 The town had stores selling clothes, shoes, textiles, books, bed linens, household appliances, cosmetics, jewellery, music recordings, sundry, Chinese medicine, and hair styling services among others. In addition, there was a fresh market, which opened till the late afternoon, selling meat, fish and vegetables.17 To represent the interests of the tenants and shopkeepers of the town, the Beauty World Town Shopkeeper Association Singapore was formed on 7 January 1967.18

Beauty World Centre
Beauty World suffered from several bouts of fire, including two major incidents on 20 April 1975 and 7 August 1977.19 Due to the traffic, health, fire, electrical and drainage hazards posed by the park, the government acquired the land for redevelopment in 1975.20 By the mid-’70s, talks had been underway to relocate the tenants and shopkeepers to a nearby site.21 In January 1984, the new Beauty World Centre, a S$45-million residential-cum-retail building, was completed across the road from its old site.22 Most of the tenants and shopkeepers resettled there.23 Next to Beauty World Centre is the privately developed Beauty World Plaza, also a shopping centre-cum-residential development that was completed two years earlier in 1982.24 
In 1989, ownership of Beauty World Centre transferred from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to Pidemco Holdings – a newly formed subsidiary company under URA.25 A decade later, Pidemco sold the shopping centre for nearly S$80 million to 194 individual buyers through the Beauty World Centre Merchants Association.26

Beauty World MRT station
On 27 December 2015, the Beauty World MRT station opened as part of the new Downtown Line 2.27 

Gracie Lee

1Singapore Beauty World Town Shopkeepers’ Association 新加坡美世界市场商店联合会, Mei shijie shichang shangdian lianha hui qingzhu chengli shi'er zhounian jinian tekan 1967–1978美世界市场商店联合会庆祝成立十二周年纪念特刊1967–1978 [The Beauty World Town Shopkeeper Assn. Singapore 12th anniversary souvenir magazine 1967–1978] (Singapore: [The Market Store Association], 1979), 101 (Call no. Chinese RSING 381.45658870095957 SIN); Ivan Lim, “The Changing Face of Bukit Timah,” New Nation, 7 September 1971, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Singapore Beauty World Town Shopkeepers’ Association, Mei shijie shichang shangdian lianha hui qingzhu chengli shi'er zhounian jinian tekan 1967–1978, 101.
3. November Tan Peng Ting, Bukit Timah: A Heritage Trail (Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2007), 12 (Call no. RSING 915.957 TAN-[TRA]); Singapore Beauty World Town Shopkeepers’ Association, Mei shijie shichang shangdian lianha hui qingzhu chengli shi'er zhounian jinian tekan 1967–1978, 101.
4. “Mei shijie de cangsang shi” 美世界的沧桑史 [The vicissitudes of life in the beautiful world], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 8 January 1984, 7; “Bukit Timah’s New Complexes,” Singapore Monitor, 21 March 1985, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Peter Holden, “At Home in the Worlds: Community and Consumption in Urban Singapore,” in Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, ed. Ryan Bishop, John Phillips, and Wei-Wei Yeo (London: Routledge, 2004), 79, 87. (Call no. RSING 307.1216095957 BEY)
6. Tan Wah Meng, oral history interview by Low Lay Leng, 13 September 1983, transcript and MP3 audio, 29:32, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000306), 197; “Mei shijie de cangsang shi.”
7. Tan Ngiap Mong, oral history interview by Goh Lai Lay, 3 July 1983, transcript and MP3 audio, 26:57, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000282), 72.
8. Lim Chok Fui, oral history interview by Chua Ser Koon, 21 August 1981, transcript and MP3 audio, 27:52, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 0001000), 39.
9. Tan Wah Meng, oral history interview, 3 July 1983 – 197 – 16.
10. Tan Ngiap Mong, oral history interview by Goh Lai Lay, 18 July 1983, transcript and MP3 audio, 27:43, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000282), 77–78.
11. Singapore Beauty World Town Shopkeepers’ Association, Mei shijie shichang shangdian lianha hui qingzhu chengli shi'er zhounian jinian tekan 1967–1978, 101.
12. Tan, Bukit Timah, 12.
13. “Mei shijie de cangsang shi”; Tan, Bukit Timah, 12.
14. Tan, Bukit Timah, 12.
15. Bukit Timah Constituency, 50 Best Kept Secrets in Bukit Timah: An Insider’s Guide (Singapore: Epigram for Bukit Timah Constituency, 2005), 47. (Call no. RSING 307.76095957 FIF)
16. Tan, Bukit Timah, 12.
17. Sonny Yap, “End of This World,” New Nation, 5 May 1977, 10–11; Sonny Yap, “We Don’t Want to Be Split Up, Say the Stallholders,” New Nation, 5 May 1977, 10–11. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Singapore Beauty World Town Shopkeepers’ Association, Mei shijie shichang shangdian lianha hui qingzhu chengli shi'er zhounian jinian tekan 1967–1978, 102.
19. N. G. Kutty, “$200,000 Loss as 9 Shops Go Up in Flames,” Straits Times, 21 April 1975, 13; “$400,000 Loss in Beauty World Fire,” Straits Times, 9 August 1977, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Shop Owners and Hawkers Move into New Centre,” Straits Times, 2 January 1984, 8; Teo Lian Huay, “URA Hopes the New Building Will Keep the Atmosphere,” Straits Times, 1 January 1984, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Yap, “End of This World.” 
22. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Annual Report 1983–1984 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1984), 7 (Call no. RCLOS 354.5957091 URASAR-[AR]); Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Annual Report 1982–1983 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1983), 22. (Call no. RCLOS 354.5957091 URASAR-[AR]);
23. “Shop Owners and Hawkers Move”; Teo, “New Building Will Keep the Atmosphere.”
24. “Page 32 Advertisements Column 7,” Straits Times, 24 November 1982, 32; Jackie Sam, “Farewell, Beauty World,” Singapore Monitor, 11 December 1983, 45; Jane Chiapoco, “Reawakening a Sleeping Beauty,” Today, 8 July 2006, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Bukit Timah Constituency, 50 Best Kept Secrets in Bukit Timah, 47.
26. “Pidemco Land Sells Beauty World Centre for S$80m,” Business Times, 4 June 1998, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Bukit Timah Constituency, 50 Best Kept Secrets in Bukit Timah, 47.
27. X. H. Koh and Zhaki Abdullah, “Eatery Boom Near Beauty World Station with Downtown Line 2,” Straits Times, 20 January 2016. (From Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

Further resources
Business Still Slow at Beauty World, Say resettled Shopkeepers,” Singapore Monitor, 22 February 1984, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

Christina Tseng, “Beauty World’s Final Days,” Straits Times, 8 May 1984, 15. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of 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.

Amusement parks--Singapore
Trade and industry