Yio Chu Kang Road is a major road in the north of Singapore that connects Upper Thomson Road to Upper Serangoon Road.1 Associated with gambier and pepper plantations and kampongs in the 19th century, the road today reflects the urban development of 20th-century Singapore.
Chinese immigrants to Singapore had established themselves inland, along riverine settlements, by the 1840s. With the northern part of Singapore dotted with gambier and pepper plantations, Yio Chu Kang Road and its surroundings were soon settled by these early Chinese immigrants as well.2 Villages in the early 19th century, situated along the river’s mouth, were known as kangka or kangkar, meaning literally “river’s leg”.3
It is believed that the name “Yio Chu Kang” was derived from the early Chinese settlers’ practice of naming a riverside village after the family or clan that settled there or controlled it. Thus Yio Chu Kang was located in an area historically owned by a Yio (or Yeo) clan or family whose house (chu) was situated along the river (kang).4
The road had remained home to a few kampongs until the late 1980s, such as the Chia Keng Village and the Yio Chu Kang Village.5 A little distance off Yio Chu Kang Road, through Jalan Kayu, is an area where the first British Royal Air Force base was constructed outside the United Kingdom. Built in 1928, the detached houses at what is now the Seletar Airbase, now come under the purview of the Housing and Development Board.6
Beginning at Upper Thomson Road, Yio Chu Kang Road intersects with Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, and joins the Central Expressway (CTE) at the Yio Chu Kang Flyover. Its next major intersection is at the Ang Mo Kio Underpass, which connects with Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and Hougang Avenue 2.7 The one-kilometre underpass is a depressed road below Yio Chu Kang Road which opened in 1993. Built at a cost of S$12 million, it serves as a link with which to reach the CTE faster.8
Towards the Upper Serangoon Road end, Yio Chu Kang Road bifurcates into two roads, near the Serangoon Swimming Complex. One road connects to Upper Serangoon Road, while the other, Yio Chu Kang Link, leads to Serangoon Central where the Serangoon MRT station stands.9
Yio Chu Kang Road is home to public and private residences, religious buildings, schools as well as medical and community facilities.10 Private residential developments in the area began in the 1980s and continued into the ’90s.11
Religious buildings in the area include: the St Thomas Orthodox Syrian Church and the First Evangelical Reformed Church (at the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Yio Chu Kang Drive), Church of St Vincent de Paul and Masjid Al-Istiqamah (at the junction of Serangoon North Avenue 2 and Yio Chu Kang Road), Yio Chu Kang Chapel, Chuan Hoe Seventh-day Adventist Church, Assembly of Christians, Tai Seng Christian Church, and Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre.12 In 2005, the school for children with special needs, operated by the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA), moved into Lorong Napiri off Yio Chu Kang Road, as its old school building on Norris Road was beyond repair.13
Medical and community facilities along Yio Chu Kang Road include Econ Medicare Centre, Moonlight Home for the Aged & Handicapped, The Salvation Army-Gracehaven, MINDS (Napiri) Training and Development Centre, and Pertapis Children’s Home.14 The Bright Vision Hospital, run by the Singapore Buddhist Welfare Services, was built in 2004 along Lorong Napiri.15
A Japanese cemetery and memorial park is located off Yio Chu Kang Road, along Chuan Hoe Avenue, where the ashes of 10,000 Japanese who died here in World War II were buried alongside the ashes of more than 1,000 prewar Japanese settlers here. Founded in 1891, the place served primarily as a Japanese burial ground until 1947, and was converted into a memorial park in 1987.16
In 2014, the construction of Lentor Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Station officially began. It is built along Lentor Drive, and stretches across to the adjoining Yio Chu Kang Road. Part of the Thomson-East Coast Line, the station is slated to be completed in 2021.17
Thulaja Ratnala Naidu
1. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 81 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); StreetDirectory.com, Yio Chu Kang Road, map, accessed 27 August 2020.
2. Oral History Department, Singapore, A Pictorial History of Nee Soon Community (Singapore: The grassroots organisations of Nee Soon Constituency, National Archives, Oral History Department, 1987). (Call no. RSING 959.57 PIC-[HIS])
3. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 406. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 79.
5. Lim Kwan Kwan, “Village Fire-Fighters Gone But Memories Linger On,” Straits Times, 3 August 1984, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 81.
7. StreetDirectory.com, “Yio Chu Kang Road.”
8. “$12M Underpass Opens to Ease Peak-Hour Jams,” Straits Times, 11 October 1993, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
9. StreetDirectory.com, “Yio Chu Kang Road.”
10. StreetDirectory.com, “Yio Chu Kang Road.”
11. Sam Ran, “Yio Chu Kang Starts Afresh,” Straits Times, 10 August 1984, 1; Lilian Ang, “400 Ha at Yio Chu Kang Area Slated for Private Housing,” Business Times, 26 July 1994, 13; “21,700 New Homes for Upper Thomson and Yio Chu Kang,” Straits Times, 26 July 1994, 40. (From NewspaperSG)
12. StreetDirectory.com, “Yio Chu Kang Road.”
13. Ho Ai Lee, “Place Where Special-Needs Kids Learn to Cope,” Straits Times, 29 October 2005, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
14. StreetDirectory.com, “Yio Chu Kang Road.”
15. “Community Hospital Takes in Terminally Ill,” Straits Times, 25 November 2004, H5. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Lam Pin Foo, “Japanese Settlers Were Here Before the War,” Straits Times, 25 February 1998, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Daryl Chin, “4 Thomson Line Contracts Awarded,” Straits Times, 19 October 2013, 2; Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, “Work Starts on 2 New MRT Stations,” Straits Times, 7 September 2014, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Toh Ting Wei, “Parliament: Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 2 to Be Delayed by 3 Months, Will Open in First Quarter of Next Year,” Straits Times, 5 September 2020.
The information in this article is valid as at September 2020 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.
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