Toa Payoh's 'god tree': Fallen, but not forgotten

Toa Payoh's 'god tree': Fallen, but not forgotten

SINGAPORE - As modern Singapore grew around it, the towering ficus tree stood firm.

For four decades, it bore witness to the prayers and dreams of devotees who worshipped at a Buddhist shrine at its foot.

That was until last week, when a storm brought the six-storey landmark in Toa Payoh Central crashing to the ground.

For worshippers drawn to its Goddess of Mercy statue and four-faced Buddha, the collapse of the great tree seemed to signal the end of an era.

But the area's residents are not ready to let go just yet.

Toa Payoh Central Merchants' Association told The Straits Times that it plans to erect a new shrine by Chinese New Year, with the remaining parts of the ficus as its backdrop.

"We will rebuild the shrine so residents here can continue to be protected by the gods," said vice-chairman Lim Kok Siong, 66.

Regarded by believers as a "shen shu" - or "god tree" in Mandarin - the ficus was said to be more than a century old. The mighty tree pre-dated Toa Payoh New Town itself, on which work began in 1965.

Its shrine, known as Ci Ern Ge, was added soon after the town was built.

Now, only a part of the trunk is left after the tree toppled during the storm - damaging cars but causing no injuries.

The Housing Board and Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council are helping to stabilise the tree's remains.

On Wednesday, residents continued to linger at the spot where it fell, some out of sheer habit and others to trade tales and memories.

They shared stories of how the tree stood the test of time, weathering the occasional thunderstorm and dodging the developer's axe.

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