Tengah Means “Centre”, But That’s Not Why The Region Is Named Tengah


Tengah Region, Not So Central After All

With plans to develop a “Forest Town” the size of Bishan in Tengah, the spotlight has been cast on the largely subdued district. Unbeknownst to us, Tengah is surprisingly an area with rich history.

Located within the Western region of Singapore, Tengah is sandwiched by Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok, Jurong East and Jurong West.

“Tengah” is an Indonesian and Malay word that means “central”, “centre” or “middle” but as you’ve already realized, Tengah isn’t at the centre of Singapore. To understand how Tengah’s name came about, we’d need to learn more about its history first.

Chu Kang And Kang Chu

Back in the 1850s, large farming concessions based around a river were known as chu kang. Our present day Tengah was once a chu kang — a name given to gambir and pepper farms, a core cash crop grown in Singapore.


Each chu kang was spearheaded by a kang chu, which literally means “Master of the River” in Teochew and refers to the local chief who commanded all proceedings in his area such as collecting rent and taxes, overseeing opium trade and alcohol transactions. Kang chus also oversaw vices like prostitution and gambling.

Issued by the Temenggong of Johore, prospective kang chus were granted a title deed called Surat Sungei, which empowered one to open up (usually forested) lands and cultivate areas along the river.

In 1853, a man was bestowed with a surat sungei, enabling him the right to farm a land that was alongside a then unnamed tributary of the Kranji River.

The man, Teng Ah Tong, became a kang chu and people referred to him as Teng-Ah. His concession became Teng Chu Kang and as time passed, the unnamed tributary of the Kranji Riveralso took on the name of its kang chu and acquired the name Teng-Ah River, before becoming just Tengah.


Claim To Fame

Tengah’s rise to prominence was largely due to RAF Tengah — a pivotal airfield that the British Royal Air Force constructed in the mid 1930s in face of foreign threats.

The military airfield was built where the Tengah farms used to be, thus inheriting the name Tengah Airfield.


Presently, it is known as Tengah Airbase and is used by the Republic of Singapore Airforce.


Tengah New Town

Source, Source

The new proposed plans will see Tengah New Town integrated with lush greenery and the neighbouring Jurong Innovation District.

Apart from enabling residents to get up close and personal with nature, Tengah New Town further promotes “going green” by featuring the country’s first car-free town centre, reported Today.


Residents can also mingle with one another in a forest-like environment.


Ultimately, the Housing Development Board (HDB) aims to revamp Tengah into a close-knit evergreen forest town that is sustainable.

Provisions for walking and cycling will be ubiquitous allowing residents to move around with ease.

Tengah Forest Town

It is exciting just thinking about how fresh and tranquil the new Forest Town will be like when the first batch of flats are released in 2018.

But let’s not forget about the rich culture and history that encompasses the Tengah region.

Featured Image from Google Maps.




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