Before it was known as Tai Seng Christian Church, the building was occupied by the Yio Chu Kang Gospel Hall, a church set up by Chew Puat Chwee, a philanthropic Chinese businessman.
A Benevolent Businessman
Chew Puat Chwee was a Hokkien migrant from Xiamen, China who had converted to Christianity. Through his business, Chop Hong Lee, he acquired wealth which he used for philanthropic work from as early as 1918. He co-founded the Chinese-medium Kong Yiong School located in Kovan. Chew’s wealth continued to grow, and he eventually became a successful landowner. He owned 10 shophouses and 40 attap houses in an area that would later become Chia Keng Village.
In 1930, he built the Yio Chu Kang Gospel Hall, a Brethren Church. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Chew was able to save the church, his family and clan members in Chia Keng Village from harassment by Japanese soldiers. He diplomatically offered the soldiers food and shelter, in exchange for the community’s immunity from persecution.
When the war ended, the main street in Chia Keng Village was named Lorong Hong Lee in commemoration of Chew’s business.
The Legacy Remains
Over time, Chew ceased his involvement in business activities to devote more time to his church activities, such as preaching the gospel in Mandarin. The properties he owned were eventually sold to private property developers in the late 1980s. Despite that, Chew’s legacy remained strong, and a new road in the area was named Hong Lee Place in honour of his shop.
In 1978, Chew’s other legacy, the Yio Chu Kang Gospel Hall, moved to a new location along Poh Huat Road at 242 Yio Chu Kang Road. The site is currently shared with the English congregation of the Yio Chu Kang Chapel.
Tai Seng Christian Church
In 1989, Tai Seng Christian Church took over the Yio Chu Kang Gospel Hall’s building at 140 Yio Chu Kang.
Tai Seng Christian Church humbly began in 1957 as a communal gathering, when the music of Sister Zhong Yi attracted people from the Tai Seng neighbourhood for evangelistic gatherings.
Today, the Tai Seng Christian Church sits amongst a row of low-rise residential and commercial buildings. A double-pitched roof adorns the church, a blue and white single-storey masonry building. Its classical architecture is reflected in the building’s symmetrical design. Two prominent gable end walls at the ends of the building are decorated with protruded column capitals. The church is also designed to adapt to Singapore’s tropical weather, with large overhangs for shelter and tall ceilings and windows topped by fixed ventilators.
A Church For The Community
As of 2020, the independent family church holds weekly bilingual services for its community members, as well as frequent community-building activities such as Christmas and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.
From Yio Chu Kang Gospel Hall to Tai Seng Christian Church, the building remains home to a church for the community.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of July 2020 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.