In 1920, the Kulai District was originally known as Gui Lai that means "Turtle Arrival". According to hereditary history, Kulai gets its name based on the advent of the rainy season where both sides of Kulai river will surely be flooded.

    As a result, dozens of turtles will appear on the cliffs and move towards the town. This flood event also caused the Hainan community to call him Gui Lai. The proof of Gui Lai's name can be seen on the record on a stone written in Chinese at Kulai Railway Station. Because of the difficulty writing Gui Lai's words in Chinese, the name has been switched to Kulai, and it continues to this day. Kulai also said to be named in conjuction with the flood events that struck around the 1980s. Kulai River on that time was very important as it was the center of daily activities of the surrounding peole who relied on plant activity.

     Apart from that, there was another historical version which states that Kulai got his name from the story of a Tengku who came to Kulai to collect taxes and hunt. Every time he visited, he had been called by the locals as "Tengku Lai" which means "Tengku Arrival". According to some other historical sources, there were two people involved in the opening of Kulai namely Yoke Fong and Tahir Tendeh. Tahir Tendeh was a former Sultan of Johor troops who had escaped from serving the Sultan. However, the Sultan of Johor eventually gave a piece of land of six acres to Tahir for planting. The land grant, effective for 9,999 years, was still stored in Baitulmal Johor. At the same time, Tan Yoke Fong (administrator of that area, also known as Gan Zhu) opened Xin Jie Chang (New Town). He was one of the earliest to come to Kulai.