Saturday, May 30, 2015Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chinese and Japanese gardens: Now and then

Published on May 5, 2014 3:36 PM

The iconic Chinese and Japanese gardens in Jurong, which opened in the 1970s, are getting a makeover. Starting from the end of this year, they will undergo a year-long redecoration and refurbishment project.

We look at the history of the attraction which was popular with locals and visitors in its heyday, and how it has changed over the years - through a short explainer and a series of photos which date back to the 1970s.

When did the gardens open?

The Chinese Garden, which opened to the public in 1975, was built by the Jurong Town Corporation with the aim of bringing greenery to the increasingly industrialised Jurong. It was built on one of three small islands created by damming the Jurong River. A well-known Taiwanese architect, Professor Yu Yuen-Chen, was in charge of designing the garden which cost $5 million to build.

The 13.5-ha garden was designed and built based on classical northern Chinese imperial architectural style. Some of the key features of the garden, such as the 13-Arch Rainbow Bridge, followed the style of structures found in Beijing's Summer Palace. The seven-storey pagoda, known as the Ru Yun Ta or "Cloud Piercing Pagoda", was inspired by the Linggu Temple Pagoda in Nanjing, China.

The Japanese Garden, which is linked to the Chinese Garden by the “White Rainbow Bridge”, opened to the public in 1973. Created by Professor Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, the 13-ha garden was modelled on the gardening techniques of Japan, and featured ponds, arched bridges, artificial hills and stone lanterns. The $3 million garden was the largest of its kind outside Japan at the time of its opening.

Who visits the gardens?

During the early days, the gardens were popular with tourists and Singaporean families on outings, especially during special occasions like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. The attraction was also the go-to place for couples taking wedding photos because of its picturesque backdrop. But the place has become less popular over the years because of competition from newer, bigger attractions.

How has the place changed over the years?

The Chinese garden underwent several facelifts over the years.
In 1992, a $5 million Suzhou-style bonsai garden was added to it.
In 2001, as part of its revitalisation plans for the garden, JTC removed the garden's entrance fees and extended opening hours to 10pm. In 2002, a Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum was opened.
The JTC is now planning a year-long redecoration and refurbishment project for the two gardens, which will include architectural repairs, electrical and repainting works, starting from the year end.

Source: Singapore Infopedia, Singapore Tourism Board