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  Straits Times Forum Online 2 May 06
Save 100-year-old Bodhi tree: Will the authorities be swayed by non-economic arguments?

Letter from Tan Swee Ann

Straits Times Forum Online 27 Apr 06
Save both the Bodhi tree and the temple

Letter from Ng Chin Guan

The Straits Times 21 Apr 06
100-year-old tree may save temple
by Arti Mulchand

OFFICIALS from the Jin Long Si Temple, which sits on a hill behind the coming Circle Line Bartley station, are hoping the sacred Bodhi tree on its site will be the answer to their prayers.

The 65-year-old temple and its tree sit on land slated for residential development and will soon be acquired by the Government. The officials' appeals over the past three years to spare the temple and its tree have been futile.

They are now pinning their hopes on heritage tree expert Wong Yew Kwan, the first Commissioner for Parks and Recreation, who says the tree should be preserved. He estimates that at 30.5m in height and with a girth of 8.5m, the tree is larger than the conserved Bodhi tree at Pearl's Hill City Park, and is possibly over 100 years old.

He said the temple and the tree's roots are so intertwined that saving one means having to save the other, and that 'any land development at the tree's location has a high likelihood of causing soil movement and undue stress to the tree roots'.

The Bodhi tree is considered sacred as Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment while sitting under one.

The most recent joint reply by the ministries of Law and National Development, dated March 23, says the National Parks Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority will 'assess and consider the merit' of keeping the tree.

But the temple may have to go. The acquisition order is not being withdrawn.

Since 2003, the Government has maintained that land acquisition around new MRT stations was to make the best use of land in land-scarce Singapore, and told Jin Long Si's representatives that it was already being generous. The temple has been offered an alternative site in Punggol as well as compensation.

But it is not about money, says Madam Yen Chee Fun, 72, the daughter of the late Mr Wan Guan Lin, who built the temple. Her father had told her the land was 'not to be sold for any purpose, no matter how poor the family may become'.

Straits Times Forum Online 27 Apr 06
Save both the Bodhi tree and the temple

Letter from Ng Chin Guan

I REFER to the article, '100-year-old tree may save temple' (ST, April 21). The sacred Bodhi tree located in the premises of the Jin Long Si Temple is possibly over 100 years old and has a girth of 8.5m and a height of 30m. It is larger than the conserved heritage Bodhi tree (with a girth of 6.2m) located at Pearl's Hill City Park.

I applaud the authorities for spending $200,000 to save a mature Angsana tree in Braddell Road from being chopped down due to road works last year. It will be less of a hassle and possibly cost nothing to retain the Bodhi tree. Besides, the tree is well taken care of by the temple's devotees and it appears to be in full bloom and evergreen.

However, because the temple and the tree's roots are so intertwined, it would be sensible to preserve the tree as well as the temple. The temple has been serving the public with free meals daily as well as providing spiritual and emotional support to its devotees for the past 65 years. In addition, it provides a venue for social interaction and community service.

I urge the authorities to declare the Bodhi tree a heritage tree and assess the temple's history, culture and architectural structure to see if it could be classified as a monument.

Once the Circle Line's Bartley Station opens, more visitors would be drawn to the temple and its Bodhi tree, potentially turning the site into a tourist attraction.

Straits Times Forum Online 2 May 06
Save 100-year-old Bodhi tree: Will the authorities be swayed by non-economic arguments?

Letter from Tan Swee Ann

I agree with Mr Ng Chin Guan that the Bodhi tree and Jin Long Si temple off Bartley Road are worth saving (ST, April 27).

It is indeed rare to discover a 100-year-old Bodhi tree in urban Singapore. I say 'discover' because if not for the news report '100-year-old tree may save temple' ( ST, April 21 ), thousands of Singaporeans may not know there exists in our country an ancient tree that has an interesting history as well as a mystical appeal.

It is an amazing story, the tree's religious significance and its history with a temple erected many generations ago. It's like something you only read about in a Chinese period novel or a place in a distant country in another time.

In development-mad Singapore where the value of real estate takes precedence over everything else, will the relevant authorities be swayed by non-economic considerations?

I am not very optimistic.

Nevertheless I appeal to the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the land office to reconsider their development plans for this area. Please save this precious treasure for Singaporeans and our future generations. Even if they cannot agree to preserve it, at least leave it alone for another 10 or 20 years so that many more Singaporeans can appreciate and enjoy the majesty of the tree and the temple.

It would be a waste if the authorities decide otherwise. I am sure many Singaporeans share my sentiments on this.

Photo of the tree shared by Timothy on the nature-singapore list
Related articles on Heritage Trees of Singapore
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