The ficus tree has been regarded as sacred since the kampong days of Toa Payoh. In that era, it was one of six shen shu (deity trees) that were prominent landmarks among villagers.
The tree stood steadfast despite efforts to clear the area during the redevelopment of Toa Payoh in the early 1960s. Efforts to remove the tree were always met with failure. The urban legend of the tree grew, and many from beyond the confines of Toa Payoh came to visit and pray at the tree.
After the failed attempts to shift the tree, a monk brought a statue of Guan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy) from China to the tree. The tree shrine became popular with residents of Toa Payoh and visitors from other parts of Singapore, with many praying for blessings, protection and other wishes here.
The six-storey tree was struck by lightning in 2013, and the shrine was reconstructed around its remains.