Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Tanglin Halt flats & a 1-dollar note

The Tanglin Halt flats
A 1-dollar note

Iconic landmarks in Singapore have been commonly used as the back designs of the former and current Singapore currency notes. Examples are the Supreme Court Building, Clifford Pier, Victoria Theatre, The Istana, Benjamin Sheares Bridges and Changi Airport, which have all been used as motifs in the previous Orchid, Bird and Ship series.

The dollar notes’ motif designs sometimes also tell a Singapore’s history. For instance, the back of the Orchid Series’ 1-dollar note, released in mid-1967, features the Tanglin Halt flats, which were built in 1962.

Fondly known as chup lau chu (“10-storey building” in Hokkien), these early HDB flats had existed for more than 50 years but eventually could not stand the test of time. Most of its tenants had moved out since 2008, and the vacant blocks will be demolished by end of 2015.

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We have become so accustomed to cash exchanges in our daily grind that we no longer pay our dollar bills a second look. The next time you fish out the green five-dollar bill from your wallet, do spare a few seconds to examine it. While the front design features the first President of Singapore Encik Yusof bin Ishak as do all bills from the Portrait series, the back design theme is Garden City with a Tembusu tree of a long outstretched low-lying branch.

This is our 5-Dollar Tembusu tree. It is not just a default artist’s illustration. As a matter of fact it is a feature of Singapore’s most famous Tembusu tree. Located near the Tanglin entrance of the Botanic Gardens, it is believed to have existed long before the gardens was officially laid out in 1859. That puts the tree at close to two centuries old!

With its low lying branch to sit on and boundless green backdrop, this old Tembusu has long been a popular site for family portraits and outdoor wedding photo shoots. The tree has been inducted into the Heritage Trees of Singapore, which was launched in 2001 to identify and safeguard mature trees that serve as important green landmarks in our natural heritage.

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The artist of the $50 note

Take a $50 bill and look at the back of it.

Do you see a pair of gibbons swinging through vines?

Most Singaporeans will have missed the painting by the late Chen Wen Hsi, one of Singapore's pioneer artists.

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It might be the root of all evil, but money can also be a thing of beauty. We take a look at some of the most remarkable banknotes from around the world:

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