Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

October 2011

ST News
Oct 30, 2011

Guardian of graves

Tomb explorer puts database online to connect descendants with forgotten kin

Mr Goh (above) does not charge a fee for helping to connect families to their lost relatives' graves, though he collects a nominal fee for tours of Bukit Brown. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Using social media, an expert guide of Bukit Brown is leading a digital revolution to put and organise information about the cemetery online.

Since the Government announced plans to cut a road through the burial grounds this year, Mr Raymond Goh, 47, has doubled efforts to preserve the memories of those who call Bukit Brown home.

This year, he set up bukitbrown.org - a kind of blog and e-database of the buried dead in Bukit Brown.

On it, the health-care company director scans and posts old newspaper clippings of obituaries and photographs, in the hope of connecting families with their long-dead kin.

Many of these documents are retrieved from the National Archives.

The process is a laborious one. Mr Goh often relies on scraps of clues - such as the deceased's birth date, or plot number - to piece together the history of someone.

To many then, Mr Goh is not just a guide, but has become a guardian to the area's forgotten graves.

Mr Goh began exploring the burial grounds in 2006, out of an interest for Singapore history.

He has not only helped connect families to their lost relatives' graves, but has also uncovered the tombstones of several pioneers, including Mr Gan Eng Seng, a businessman who founded Gan Eng Seng School, and helped to build Thong Chai Medical Institution and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Mr Goh does not collect any fees for his detective work, though he does charge a nominal fee to guide weekend tours in Bukit Brown.

He said helping to keep the memories of Singapore's early settlers alive was his reward.

'These people helped build Singapore. Some gave money to build schools, and hospitals. I just want to give something back to them.'

After five years of exploring Bukit Brown, the father of three teenage children knows the sprawling grounds like his own home. He visits every weekend. Sometimes, he pays tomb keepers to take care of abandoned tombstones; often, he scrubs them himself.

In a recent entry on his website, Mr Goh posted photographs and information about a Mr Kam Peng Huat, who died in 1941.

Mr Kam is one of several thousand who will give up their resting place for the new road by the end of next year.

Mr Goh wrote: 'He has five sons and five daughters. I am sure Kam Peng Huat has a very big family of grand- and great-grandchildren now.

'Some of their little ones may want to know more about their great-grandparents. But his lease in Bukit Brown has run out.

'Many stories remain to be told, many roots remain to be found. Can we give him a new lease of life?'

In a way, Mr Goh already has.

ST News

Oct 30, 2011

special report
View from the top

The first time map-maker Mok Ly Yng saw Bukit Brown was - of course - on a map

Mr Mok (above) produced a series of 3-D images of Bukit Brown using geographical data points and posted the images on a Facebook page for the cemetery. -- ST PHOTO: TED CHEN

Like most first-timers to Bukit Brown, Mr Mok Ly Yng's reaction on seeing the Chinese cemetery's gently undulating hills, was 'wow, what a wonderful view'.

Except, he wasn't physically there. He was at home.

The 'view' he was referring to, was a three-dimensional (3-D) screen image he had produced using geographical data points, rendered in commercial-grade mapping technology.

Mr Mok, 44, has one of the most uncommon jobs in Singapore - he is a freelance geographic information system (GIS) mapping consultant. Or, a map-maker.

As a long-time map enthusiast who has been a member of the National Geographic Society since 1982, Mr Mok's interest in Bukit Brown Cemetery was triggered after he came across some global positioning system (GPS) points posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Bukit Brown last month.

The GPS points were recorded by a netizen who had recently gone on a tour of the cemetery. 'I was interested in the details of his records, so I messaged him to ask if he would pass me the data.'

After that, the map-maker was hooked - as he probably knew he would be, he said.

But his interest in Bukit Brown was not simply map-related.The former Ministry of Defence (Mapping Agency) employee was feeling reflective as he had recently moved out of his Holland Village home.

'Did you know that Holland Village used to be a cemetery, too?' he said. 'Very hilly here, you see.'

Back in his room, Mr Mok dove into his library of maps and retrieved a topographical map sheet he had previously purchased from the British Library in London that showed the 3-D contours of the Bukit Brown site.

Using that data, along with other information about the area he was able to download from the Internet, he produced a series of 3-D images of Bukit Brown, which he later posted on the cemetery's Facebook page.

He also sent them to Dr Hui Yew-Foong, an anthropologist who is leading a team to document the graves.

Mr Mok said it took him three days to finish the images. He added that what he produced was very basic - a 'miniature preview' of what mapping technology can do.

Even so, to Bukit Brown's Facebook fans, what a wonderful view indeed.

ST News
Oct 30, 2011

special report
Hope springs eternal
Nature lover Ho Hua Chew still optimistic the Govt may change its mind about Bukit Brown

If Dr Ho Hua Chew, a bird specialist of more than 30 years, were a bird himself, he might be a white dove.

Like the symbol of eternal hope and peace, Dr Ho is still holding out that the Government may change its mind about redeveloping Bukit Brown.

'We should not take it as a done deal,' the veteran conservationist, who is in his 60s, told The Sunday Times.

'The Government now is more open, and I am more hopeful. There is room for more exploration and feedback.'

Dr Ho is a long-time member of the Nature Society (Singapore), having served as its president, conservation committee chairman, and now, its vice-chairman. He joined the group in 1971.

Like other heritage lovers, the former philosophy lecturer has expressed serious reservations about planned roadworks that will cut into the hilly, largely untouched, tree-strewn habitat.

But as other groups resign themselves to the inevitable, Dr Ho remains optimistic.

'Look at what happened with Chek Jawa,' he said.

In 2001, following a petition by nature groups to save Tanjung Chek Jawa, a beach at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin that is home to rare marine creatures, the Government, in a move that surprised even the conservationists themselves, called off its plans to reclaim the area.

Dr Ho's love affair with Bukit Brown began in the early 1990s, when he first moved to the Thomson area. He would go bird-watching there, and take strolls.

'I go and enjoy a charming spot here and there. It's quite nice.'

This year, he wrote an essay on the ecological importance of Bukit Brown's natural habitat, following fears that the cemetery would yield to redevelopment plans.

He spoke of the area's 85 bird species, a few of them already endangered. The lush greenery, he said, would also help reduce carbon dioxide, ambient temperature and flooding in Singapore.

Dr Ho said he will work with other nature and heritage groups to persuade the Government to retain Bukit Brown as a cemetery-park.

'I hope they will take a holistic, comprehensive, broad view of the situation.'

He added: 'Because Bukit Brown is not just ecologically important, it's also such a beautiful place.'

ST News
Oct 30, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

Earlier failure to save two other cemeteries has not deterred Dr Irving Chan-Johnson

Dr Irving Chan-Johnson (above) has fought losing battles to save two other cemeteries from exhumation but is not about to give up on Bukit Brown.

After an online petition he started in June to save Bukit Brown fizzled with fewer than 1,000 signatures, Dr Irving Chan-Johnson now hopes an Ivy League polish will put life back into the cause.

'I am mailing it to my friends so it gets more international recognition, since I feel the issues we are dealing with are critical to humanity,' said the Harvard University graduate.

'This is a critical time in the history of the cemetery as the state has already made its stand pretty clear,' said Dr Johnson, 40, a Singaporean. 'The petition does not call for a compromise.'

The assistant professor of South-east Asian studies at the National University of Singapore has good reason to put his fists up - he's already had his heart broken twice.

The first was in 2008, when Bidadari Cemetery was exhumed; then, in 2009, when the Teochew Kwong Hou Sua cemetery in Woodlands Road followed.

To Dr Johnson, Singapore's burial grounds play an integral role in an individual's sense of nationhood.

In a letter published in The Straits Times Forum page in 2008, he wrote of Kwong Hou Sua's impending closure: 'Since independence, Singapore and its people have been on a constant quest to define a national identity.

'An integral part of any national identity is historical awareness.'

With the destruction of each cemetery, goes one slice of national history, he said.

To create greater awareness of Bukit Brown's historical significance, the anthropologist is also organising a symposium with the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society on Nov 19.

It will feature heritage experts, including those currently working to document Bukit Brown's graves before next year's exhumation exercise.

'Hopefully, it will force the authorities to rethink their development plans,' he said. 'I want to point out to the state via the petition, that heritage management and definition are not the sole property of national governments.'

ST News
Oct 30, 2011

21st century cemetery

Engineer Victor Yue's vision - scan a tombstone with your smartphone and get information about the grave
Through the use of mobile technology, Mr Yue hopes some of the Chinese messages inscribed on the tombs in Bukit Brown can be preserved, and shared with everyone. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Graveyards are hardly the place to use a mobile phone, but Mr Victor Yue hopes that will be the case for Bukit Brown Cemetery - and soon.

The telecommunications engineer wants to bring mobile technology to the cemetery's old tombstones - a QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone, will download information about the deceased, or link to videos or photographs online about the grave.

Short for Quick Response, a QR code is a small, square, black-and-white barcode that can store data, or link to online content.

It is already being used in some cemeteries in the United States and New Zealand, but Mr Yue said he was inspired by a recent trip to Japan, where he saw the codes used with retail goods and publicity posters.

'They were everywhere. Since then, I've wondered how to use this techno-logy in Singapore.'

The codes are especially useful in Bukit Brown, said Mr Yue, 59, because most of the inscriptions on tombstones there are carved in Chinese script.

With online content about the graves put together by other Bukit Brown lovers, the codes can work as a guide to decipher what is written on the tombs for people who do not understand the language.

'If you don't know Chinese, you can't read; how are you supposed to know more?'

It was this same question that inspired Mr Yue's other hobby.

He is the moderator of an online Taoist e-list forum group, taoism-singapore, which, since its launch in 2004, has found a community of Chinese heritage lovers who speak mainly English.

The group's some 500 members post photographs, ask questions, and those in the know help to decode them.

Mr Yue said that, through the QR codes, some Chinese messages inscribed on the tombs in Bukit Brown can be preserved, and shared with everyone.

Many of them exhort their descendants to lead moral lives. 'They teach values like filial piety and Confucian ethics,' he said.

'These messages are our heritage. They are part of who we are today.'

ST News
Oct 30, 2011

special report
Bukit Brown battle 2.0
Race against time to preserve the cemetery the high-tech way

By Yen Feng

The clock is ticking.

By this time next year, parts of Bukit Brown will be unrecognisable. Its thick undergrowth, and thousands of tombs that nest in the cemetery's leafy hilltops, will be gone. In a few years, the hills will go too.

State-funded efforts to document graves in Bukit Brown - the final resting place of many of Singapore's pioneers dating back to the 1890s - will begin next month. But its admirers are not standing idly by.

After the Government recently announced plans to build a road that will tear into nearly a quarter of the 86ha site, a number of amateur historians have devised new ways - beyond pen and paper - to preserve the history of Bukit Brown, using cutting-edge technology.

These methods employ social media, such as Facebook and blogs, mobile phone technology, and 3-D imaging software that can not only store information about the tombs on the Internet, but also pinpoint their locations via satellite, and even re-create a virtual environment that allows users to 'visit' Bukit Brown on their computers from anywhere in the world.

The handful of innovators are joined by a growing chorus of people, including activists of the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society, who have since come out to protest against the Government's plans to build a

dual, four-lane road into Bukit Brown to relieve congestion along the Pan-Island Expressway and Lornie Road.

The news last month followed a May announcement that the area had been gazetted for housing development.

Both times, the announcements were met with a rare show of public resistance.

Letters poured in to The Straits Times Forum Page: While some supported the Government's foresight in urban planning, the majority argued that Bukit Brown, with its rich history and biodiversity, should remain untouched for conservation reasons.

Even though the Government made public its plans to redevelop Bukit Brown in its 1991 Concept Plan, interest groups said the site was still zoned as 'cemetery' under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan as recently as 2008.

They were galvanised to speak up after they felt the authorities had not consulted them on the site's heritage value before it announced plans last month to build a road there.

The Singapore Heritage Society said the public anxiety displayed in recent months over the loss of the cemetery suggests Singapore's nation-building project has been fruitful.

Recent news of the road plans has driven people to the cemetery's hoary hills.

Mr Raymond Goh, 47, a Singapore history buff regarded by many academics to be an expert guide in Bukit Brown, said weekly sign-ups for his guided tours alone have increased from 20 to 200 in just the last month.

Next month, even more people are expected to fan across the area, bearing equipment to document information about the tombs that will make way for the new road.

Paid workers will be led by anthropologist Hui Yew-Foong of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, who has been tasked with recording the tombs' details for study and safe-keeping by the Government.

This documentation of Bukit Brown's graves is believed to be the first such project funded by the authorities, and the most extensive yet in redevelopment land works.

The Government hopes to document some 10,000 tombs - about 10 per cent of known tombs in the entire Bukit Brown area - though the Land Transport Authority said the number of affected graves may be closer to 5,000.

If this sounds like a lot of work - it is. Last week, Dr Hui said it may be a challenge to find enough skilled workers to do the job in time.

The bulldozers are coming in September next year. He has just under a year to beat the clock.

Digital life

That is one reason some heritage buffs have taken to doing a bit of sleuthing on their own.

Uneasy over concerns that the stipulated timeframe will not be enough to make a thorough record of Bukit Brown's history, they are bringing to the conservation effort additional firepower in the form of time and professional expertise.

Some of these projects are already under way, while others are still in the planning stages, said the projects' leaders, who share their ideas over Facebook, and whose day jobs range from engineers to teachers to map-makers.

For instance, a blog and e-database set up by Mr Goh earlier this year to document photographs, personal stories and old newspaper clippings about the buried dead in Bukit Brown have attracted thousands of visitors; on a Facebook page, lively discussions carry on, with members posting comments several times a day.

And if Mr Liew Kai Khuin, 38, has his way, the academic in media and cultural studies would re-create the entire Bukit Brown universe online.

Think multi-player Web games like Second Life, where users interact virtually in a 3-D environment, said Mr Liew, adding that a virtual Bukit Brown could include information about the graves and their locations for educational purposes.

He added: 'Many of the tombstones' designs come from a previous era that may be lost on the current generation. Such futuristic digital portals can actually help them to link to the past.'

Present tense

There are more present worries, however.

It is likely that whatever form these high-tech ideas take, in reality, just like Dr Hui, they face constraints in terms of time and resources available, said Mr Yue. And the challenge is greater if they mean to cover the entire Bukit Brown site, he added.

Heritage groups have asked the Government to push back its deadline set for March, because they want more time to ensure each grave is thoroughly documented.

Asked whether other alternatives had been considered, the land authorities said the decision was made through a 'rigorous and established planning process' that included evaluating different options, and consultation with other state agencies.

It also said the rest of the land would not be developed for another decade or longer.

But at least a couple of conservationists are still hoping that the Government may yet be persuaded to leave Bukit Brown untouched.

As for the others, they will be stepping up efforts to save what they can. Remember: tick-tock, tick-tock.

 ST Editorial
Oct 28, 2011

Of grandparents and grandchildren

ONCE, in the 1960s, 'Mr HDB' - former Cabinet Minister Lim Kim San, credited with initiating Singapore's public housing success - faced a difficult task. He had to justify the Government's acquisition of graveyards to build houses. A delegation of old people visited him and pleaded that their ancestors were buried there. Mr Lim asked them: 'Do you want me to look after our dead grandparents or do you want me to look after your grandchildren?' His logic prevailed.

That generational logic is at work in all countries where the practical needs of today have to be balanced against the no less real attachment to the resting places of the departed. In land-scarce Singapore, however, yesterday and today jostle so closely for space that the tension between them is palp-able.

So it is with Bukit Brown cemetery. The Government's arguments for building a road through a part of the cemetery are sound. But it will affect about 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves at the cemetery. These graves are not only a part of family histories; given the historical nature of the cemetery, the graves are collectively a part of Singapore's heritage. Here, then, is a case of development literally cutting a path through history. Its costs involve intangibles of history and identity which, by their very nature, cannot be quantified. Yet a decision had to be taken, and it has been.

What is interesting is its implementation. The Government is reaching out to representatives of key stakeholder groups such as the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, the Peranakan Association of Singapore, the Singapore Heritage Society and academics. Its intention is to document the graves before they are exhumed and capture for future generations a sense of the cemetery as a social space invested richly with memories and rituals. This way, although the graves will lose their physical location, they will retain some of their social meaning.

How successful this effort is will have ramifications beyond Bukit Brown. As with the demolition of the old National Library building and the closure of Tanjong Pagar railway station, Singaporeans have revealed once again their love of heritage as an essential part of their ownership of Singapore. Change cannot be avoided, but it can be handled. What is required is a robust two-way engagement between the state and society. Genuine participation, and transparency in the decision-making that follows, will do much to make change acceptable.

The New Paper,
Oct 28, 2011

Debate over plans to build dual four-lane road through Bukit Brown cemetery goes to classroom. -TNP

Teh Jen Lee

THE debate over the Government's development plans for Bukit Brown Cemetery has moved on to the campus.

It is now being used as a teaching tool in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Last week, about 40 of the school's masters students in a class on public administration in theory and practice were assigned to analyse the Bukit Brown issue and write a 2,000-word policy memo by Nov 13.

The memo would advise the Land Transport Authority (LTA), one of the key agencies that announced the redevelopment plan last month, on how to move forward.

Assistant Professor Ora-orn Poocharoen, who has been teaching at the school for four years, assigned her students after she went on a tour of the cemetery on Oct 16. She was invited on the tour by Ms Claire Leow, a senior manager in the school's research support unit.

Said Dr Poocharoen: "The assignment fits into the topic that I've been covering in class on public values and public participation. It forces my students to be aware of the issue and to have an opinion about it."

Her students, many of whom are mid-career civil servants from other countries, have also studied the case of Beijing's hutongs (traditional neighbourhoods and alleyways) being demolished to ease traffic congestion in the 1990s.

Govt reiterates construction of road to start in 2013

On Monday, Singapore authorities reiterated that construction of a dual four-lane road through the cemetery will start in 2013.

The road is meant to ease traffic along Lornie Road and serve future housing estates that will be built in the area in 10 to 15 years' time.

The authorities added they have partnered stakeholders to set up a framework to document the 5,000 graves (5 per cent of the cemetery's 100,000 graves) that will be affected by the road.

Singaporean Fazlin Abdullah, 35, who is taking the class as part of her master's degree in public administration, said the assignment is a good opportunity to apply the theories she has learnt.

"Our previous assignments have also been along this line. However, this time around we are watching it unfold in real time. Although the memo we will be writing will be treated as hypothetical, it will be an exercise for us to prepare ourselves on how we can improve our analytical skills and prepare for policy cases in future."

Ms Leow said the Bukit Brown debate is a "live example" of the different factors involved in national-level decision-making. These include the value of heritage, the accuracy of projected development needs and the process of stakeholder consultation.

Above: Ms Claire Leow (front row, extreme left), on a self-guided tour with some locals and Australians at Bukit Brown Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Suki Singh.

She said greater transparency is needed so people can assess how the decision was made.

For example, she questions whether the 20 to 30 per cent increase in traffic demand along Lornie Road, which LTA projects will happen by 2020, takes into account the new Circle Line and upcoming Downtown Line in the area.

She said: "There are so many things we don't know, it's hard for members of the public to be convinced that this is right to do."

She recommends that the Government lay out the problems of traffic and housing so that both laymen and experts can come up with alternatives. The lessons learnt through this exercise can also be applied to future policy decisions in education, health or other areas.

She added: "Such engagement also contributes to nation-building and a sense of identity."

Photo: AFP

Dr Terence Chong, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, hopes to see more public engagement over Bukit Brown in the form of volunteers helping with the grave-documenting process.

He said: "Bemoaning the intrusion of the road into the cemetery is not enough. Citizens can be pro-active by looking for their ancestors there or using the area for leisure activities like walking or sketching.

"This will make Bukit Brown a meaningful part of our everyday consciousness and lives, and not some abstract idea of heritage.


ST News

Oct 27, 2011
Race to record Bukit Brown graves

Search for qualified people willing to help will be a challenge

By Huang Lijie

THE task to document some 5,000 graves at Bukit Brown cemetery by next March is likely to be an uphill one.

While government funds will be made available, finding enough people qualified and willing to take on the project will be a challenge, said stakeholders such as culture and heritage associations.

The Government confirmed on Monday that it will proceed with plans to build a new road through the cemetery, which is filled with graves of pioneers. The road is needed to ease traffic in Lor-nie Road and to serve future housing projects.

Construction of the dual four-lane road will begin in the first quarter of 2013 and end by 2016. About 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves at the cemetery, which dates back to the 1890s, will be exhumed for the roadworks.

The Government said it is committed to properly recording the area's rich history. Dr Hui Yew-Foong, 39, an anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, will be leading a working committee to do the job.

He estimates it will take 600 man days to record the affected graves.

If 10 people work full-time five days a week, the task will be completed in three months.

Formal recruitment of documentarians has not begun because the working committee is being formed. But Dr Hui said he has tapped on his personal network and that of friends to sound out potential candidates.

He said: 'We have between 10 and 15 people who have said they are willing, but mostly on a part-time basis.' He added that it may be hard to find 10 full-time workers because of the demands of the job and its short-term contract.

They will get training but must be able to read the simplified Chinese script or, better yet, the traditional Chinese one to decipher tombstone inscriptions.

They need to have an eye for details such as inscriptions of the name, birth place and genealogy of the deceased as well as tomb sculpture and fengshui markers. Those doing field work also need to be able to take photos to capture details of the graves, and be physically fit.

Dr Hui added: 'We are also limited to the semi-employed or unemployed because what we offer is a few months' work and those employed full-time may not give up their jobs to do this.'

However, Mr Raymond Goh, 47, regional director of a health-care firm and a passionate tomb explorer, said: 'If you pay them well, there will always be people who will come forward.'

The Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority said the Government will fund the documentation but declined to state the sum as details are being worked out.

The Straits Times understands that preliminary talks have placed the amount in the range of $250,000 and it will be used to buy equipment and hire documentarians.

Dr Hui said he may turn to stakeholders such as the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and Peranakan Association to help spread the word and rally volunteers. When contacted, the three associations said they would encourage their members to sign up.

A spokesman for the SHS noted that criteria such as the ability to read Chinese and being physically fit may not be met by many of its more than 200 members.

Regardless of the number of documentarians he can get, Dr Hui said he will begin work once contractors start clearing undergrowth and identifying the graves next month.

Next March was set as the deadline by the authorities to coincide with the release of a registry of affected graves to notify the next of kin. Families who want to carry out private exhumations could do so between then and the fourth quarter of next year, when public exhumation begins.

Ideally, the graves should be documented before any exhumation begins and the tombs are destroyed.

Documenting the graves is just one aspect of recording the cemetery's heritage. Its history, people's memories of it and the rituals carried out there will have to be captured via the oral accounts of people who visit the place.

The exhumation will also have to be documented and it includes the recording of rituals associated with exhumation and reburial.

Documentation of the graves will be done by hand and digital photos, while video recordings may be used to document other aspects such as people's memories and the exhumation process. The records will be kept with the authorities and the intention is to make them available for research and study.

Dr Hui said the aim is to complete documenting the cemetery by the end of next year, though meeting the March deadline for the graves is his chief priority. On a possibility that the deadline may not be met, he said there would be no choice but to 'keep going' and to give priority to graves that will be exhumed first.

The authorities did not comment on whether the deadline could be postponed but said they are fully committed to the project and details are being worked out.

The SHS spokesman said: 'If it looks like the work cannot be completed by March and if the extra time needed is not too long, we hope the authorities will be flexible and continue to be as supportive.'

Aside from the upcoming road, the area south of Bukit Brown around the Police Academy will be developed for public housing in about 10 to 15 years.

The rest of Bukit Brown is also slated for housing but it was reported this will not take place until 2030 or 2040.


ST Forum

Oct 26, 2011

Making way for the future is nice but...

I LIVE in Canada now, but my thoughts are often on Singapore. The remains of my ancestors Tan Kim Ching, who was the son of Tan Tock Seng (and who donated a large portion of the funds to complete the Tan Tock Seng Hospital, after the death of Tan Tock Seng, who made the original contribution), and Tan Boo Liat, (grandson of Tan Kim Ching) are buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

The remains of the parents and grandparents of another ancestor, Dr Lim Boon Keng, my great-grandfather, are also buried there. My siblings and other family members continue to discover graves of other relatives whose inscriptions fill in previously unknown elements of our family tree.

If I, merely one person, can find such significance in Bukit Brown, consider how many others in Singapore and overseas would also recognise ancestors, famous or otherwise, buried there.

More than offering mere sentimentality, these graves are a monument to these illustrious pioneers of Singapore, and offer a rich repository of data for scholarly research into Singapore's history.

Looking to the future is nice, but if we don't reflect on from whence we came, it makes our onward trajectory considerably less well-framed.

Roads are insatiable. Within a few years' time it will be realised that this little fix was inadequate to make the road system work well, and another road will have to be built somewhere else.

Meanwhile, part of Singapore's heritage and an invaluable source of genealogical and historical data for scholars will be lost forever. Don't do it.

Lim Su Chong

Alberta, Canada

ST News

Oct 25, 2011

Road across Bt Brown cemetery to go ahead
Govt will properly record the history of affected graves

By Royston Sim

The graves at Bukit Brown will be documented by a working committee. The deadline for the documentation work is March next year. These graves will be exhumed in the fourth quarter of next year. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

THE Government made clear yesterday that it is going ahead to build a new road that will cut through Bukit Brown cemetery, but it will commit resources to properly record the area's rich history.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin gave the assurance at a meeting yesterday with more than 10 representatives from stakeholders, such as the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, Peranakan Association and Singapore Heritage Society.

Mr Tan said the new road is necessary to ease growing traffic needs on the Outer Ring Road system, a network of major roads around the city.

'We are aware of the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and its links to the history of our country,' he said. 'We have sought to explore various possibilities for the road but there were no easy choices.'

The existing Lornie Road - next to the cemetery - is insufficient to cope with this growing demand, he pointed out.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced last month that a dual four-lane road will be built by 2016. About 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves will be exhumed.

The Singapore Heritage Society clarified last week that it was not consulted in the decision- making process.

During the two-hour meeting, Mr Tan explained how the LTA had considered other options which were deemed unsuitable.

Widening Lornie Road further would require acquisition of private land and the removal of mature trees which could damage MacRitchie nature reserve, he said.

Another option is to build a viaduct over Lornie Road, but that would raise the question of where to divert existing traffic to.

Building a tunnel or viaduct through Bukit Brown would affect even more graves than a surface road, he said.

Mr Tan, however, assured stakeholders that the Government will properly record the history and memories of the affected graves.

An advisory committee comprising representatives from key stakeholders and government agencies, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and LTA, has been formed.

Dr Hui Yew-Foong, an anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, will lead a working committee to carry out the actual documentation work. He was involved in the project to document 3,000 graves at the Kwong Hou Sua Teochew Cemetery.

The deadline for documentation of graves is March next year. These graves will be exhumed in the fourth quarter of next year.

Construction of the new road will begin in the first quarter of 2013.

In a statement, the URA stressed that aside from the upcoming road, development in Bukit Brown will not be immediate.

The area south of Bukit Brown around the Police Academy will be developed for public housing in about 10 to 15 years, said a URA spokesman.

The entire area will be developed for housing further in the future. The Straits Times understands that this will not take place till 2030 or 2040.

A Singapore Heritage Society spokesman welcomed the explanation. She said: 'This is really what we wanted to hear all along. It gives us a clearer picture of what's going on. The Government will need to convince everyone this is the best solution.'

The Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and the Peranakan Association said they support efforts to document the history and heritage of the site.


Today Online 25 Oct 11;

 The Land Transport Authority's plan to open a major road through Bukit Brown Cemetery, which is of eco-heritage value, has raised debates between conservationists and developmentalists.

 One sees the more intangible but longer term cultivation of a collective sense of identity and belonging; the other, the short-term but lucrative demands for growth and prosperity, particularly for this land near expensive residences along Bukit Timah Road.

 As the population expands, the contestations for land use will become more pressing, and this debate is crucial in determining the liveability of Singapore for future generations.

 While I am heartened by the Government's commitment to "a city within a garden", I am unsure how this can be realised in practice. The approach to Bukit Brown Cemetery seems instead to be turning the country into gardens within the city.

 Perhaps, we need a radical rethink of land use in light of the current limitations, and I suggest that Singapore does away completely with golf courses.

 According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, 22 golf courses and three temporary golf sites occupied 88 per cent of the 1,600 hectares of land used for sports and recreation in 2000, or 2.2 per cent of total land area.

 To underline the exclusive nature of golfing here, the premium Singapore Island Country Club has four 18-hole courses, a nine-hole course and two driving ranges that stretch from Adam Road to the boundaries of Peirce Reservoir.

 All these facilities and land, enjoyed by about 18,000 members.

 Although golf courses are located in constrained areas near water catchment zones, military training grounds or flight paths, not only do they occupy huge tracts of land, they are economically unproductive, socially exclusive and environmentally damaging.

 If Singapore's policies are based on pragmatism and inclusiveness, golfing should not be considered a practical activity here. Golfers should go to neighbouring countries for their sport.

 Given the increasing congestion in public parks like MacRitchie Reservoir and East Coast Park, it is unacceptable that a privileged few have exclusive access to large plots of land in a tiny country with a burgeoning population.

 In 1991, plans to convert parts of Peirce Reservoir into an 18-hole golf course were shelved after the Nature Society convinced the authorities of the rich wildlife in the vicinity.

 This scenic area has remained a public space and diverse natural habitat that all can enjoy. On similar grounds, if there must be redevelopment in the Lornie Road area, one of SICC's golf courses, rather than the cemetery, should make way.

 The recent parliamentary debates put greater priority on cultivating Singapore's soul and on developing a more active citizenry interacting with a more open Government in an inclusive society, as the Prime Minister spelt out when he assumed premiership in 2004.

 Singaporeans should ask themselves to choose between saving an exclusive golf course or a culturally, ecologically and historically rich site like Bukit Brown Cemetery, if they are keen on nurturing this Singapore Soul. This is not a difficult choice, even for the wealthy, if we are thinking of wealth and happiness for all Singaporeans for generations.

Liew Kai Khiun

The writer is an assistant professor at a local university.

CNA, 24 Oct 2011

MND aware of Bukit Brown cemetery's rich heritage

SINGAPORE : The Ministry of National Development (MND) has said it is aware of the rich heritage of the Bukit Brown cemetery and is working with civic groups to document graves that will be affected by planned developments.

Plans for a new road running through the old cemetery have drawn some criticism for its lack of sensitivity to the area's history.

The Singapore Heritage Society has also said it was not consulted on the plans.

A ministry statement said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) have been working with partners like the Heritage Society, and that discussions have been going on for months.

An advisory committee will guide the process of documenting over 5,000 graves - or 5 per cent of over 100,000 graves - affected by the new road.

It will record the history of the graves, as well as burial rituals.

Documentation work begins this month and will take over a year to complete.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "We are aware of the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and its links to the history of our country. We have sought to explore various possibilities for the road but there were no easy choices.

"Once the decision was taken on the road, we began discussing with key stakeholders. We aim to properly capture the history and memories of the affected graves and to do this before the planned road development begins."

The new road is part of planned redevelopments for the Bukit Brown area, first outlined in a 1991 report.

It requires about 5 per cent of the over 100,000 graves in the area to be exhumed.

Mr Tan met with the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, The Peranakan Association and the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), as well as academics and grave experts on Monday to discuss the documentation framework.

Commenting on the plans, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and The Peranakan Association said that while they support the move to document the graves, they would prefer the area to be conserved.

The Hokkien Huay Kuan hopes that the area to be affected is kept to a minimum, and called for iconic tombs to be relocated.

The SHS called on interested Singaporeans to step forward and be part of the process.

"There is room for further collaboration and consultation on plans for Bukit Brown Cemetery and the SHS looks forward to being an integral part of the decision-making process," it added.

- CNA/ms 

Oct 24, 2011

Money cannot buy heritage

ALTHOUGH I am not a descendant of a pioneer whose grave is at Bukit Brown, I fully agreed with Ms Chew I-Jin ('Keep Bukit Brown graves: Descendants'; last Wednesday).

Why should the Government clear this historical area just to make it convenient for vehicle owners or sell the land for money to build more condominiums?

There are not many historical sites in Singapore where we can honour our ancestors who made Singapore what it is today, and money cannot buy back all these places if we clear them now.

Our children will not even have a chance to see what is a real graveyard in future.

Peggy Tan (Ms)

ST Forum

Oct 24, 2011

A young nation needs its historical sites

I APPLAUD Ms Chew I-Jin and her fellow signatories for appealing to the authorities to preserve the graves at Bukit Brown ('Keep Bukit Brown graves: Descendants', Oct 19).

Her appeal merits consideration.

The graves belong to pioneers who are well known to Singaporeans today because streets and places are named after them: Boon Lay, Boon Tat, Koon Seng, Hong Lim, Joo Chiat and Chong Pang. These are not just names. They are pioneer luminaries who are a very integral part of our short history.

As a young nation, we are short of historical sites or stories to form a strong foundation for national reference by future generations.

These graves appear to be those of the who's who of the last century and can really provide us with the teaching materials to enrich our social and moral education.

The aesthetics and architecture of these tombs are too beautiful and precious to be just bulldozed away. They are very precious as we would not find such craftsmanship anywhere else. It would be unthinkable if such structures of historical and heritage significance were to be wiped out just like any other building.

I strongly urge the authorities to heed the compelling appeal by Ms Chew and other signatories.

Albert Tye

ST Forum, Oct 24, 2011

Bukit Brown can be Singapore's Arlington

BALANCING the needs of development against conservation has always been a delicate act in this small island that is our home ('Keep Bukit Brown graves: Descendants'; last Wednesday).

However, our home is also our country and a country needs its memories.

Without Singapore's history and the stories of its leaders and pioneers - what they lived, fought and died for - the country will have no heritage and no soul - no spiritual sustenance. It will be much like the situation of an unfortunate rich man with Alzheimer's disease.

Our survival as a nation depends much on our spirit.

Bukit Brown is the most significant and important cemetery left, filled with memorial gravestones of many of our pioneers and ancestors. The gravestones themselves are sculptural works of art and tablets of rich history.

This estate is adjacent to MacRitchie Reservoir and part of this land can be considered as catchment area.

Can we not keep most of this estate as a memorial and heritage park, much like the Arlington Cemetery in the United States, for citizens who served Singapore with honour?

It can also be used for recreation while the rest can still be used for some development, as roads or homes.

The Conservation Advisory Panel visited this estate in 2009 and was told then that the consideration of the site would be left for the future generation.

Each time I drive under the Fort Canning tunnel, I wonder if the destruction of our old National Library building was worth it.

Once an important heritage site like this is lost, it can never be regained. Can we really afford to lose this priceless part of our history?

Dr James Khoo

FORUM NOTE: The writer was chairman of the Conservation Advisory Panel from 2002 to 2010 and the founding chairman of the Asian Civilisations Museum. He is also a former member of the National Heritage Board.

The documentation will not just include the graves, but also the social history, memories and rituals associated with the cemetery and the exhumation process. -AsiaOne

 Mon, Oct 24, 2011

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be working with various parties to document graves at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the Government is aware of Bukit Brown's rich heritage and its links to Singapore's history.

"We have sought to explore various possibilities for the road but there were no easy choices. Once the decision was taken on the road, we began discussing with key stakeholders.

"We aim to properly capture the history and memories of the affected graves and to do this before the planned road development begins," he said.

There are plans for a dual four-lane road to be built from early 2013 to link motorists travelling between Thomson Road, Adam Road and the Pan-Island Expressway.

This is part of redevelopment plans for the Bukit Brown area, The New Paper reported on Monday.

It is estimated that the new road will affect about 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves currently sited in the Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Mr Tan was speaking at a meeting with representatives from the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, The Peranakan Association of Singapore, Singapore Heritage Society, academics and grave experts.

According to a statement jointly issued by URA and LTA, a framework will be established to guide the documentation of these graves to capture the history and heritage of the graves affected by the new road.

An Advisory Committee, comprising representatives from the key stakeholder groups, as well as representatives from key government agencies such as URA, LTA and the National Heritage Board will guide and provide advice to the documentation process.

A Working Committee led by Dr Hui Yew-Foong, Fellow and Coordinator of the Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, will carry out the actual documentation work.

The documentation will not just include the graves, but also the social history, memories and rituals associated with the cemetery and the exhumation process.

 ST Blogs, October 22, 2011

Ng Tze Yong

I have only been to Bukit Brown Cemetery twice. Once, when I got lost on a bicycle. And the second time, last Sunday, when my wife and I signed up for a tour with the Asia Paranormal Investigators (API) on a whim.

Oh, I thought, it would be such a yuppie thing to do, to explore a forest of ancient graves threatened by modernisation and all things evil. What a memorable Sunday it would make, to stand up and be counted, to break the monotony of daily living and join hands against the capitalists, the condo-lovers, the unsentimental.

A 50-strong crowd of families, bushwalker-types and expats had already gathered when we arrived at 9am. The API guide handed out maps and notes on the genealogy of the pioneers buried there, and touched on the finer points of Chinese grave design in the 1800s.

It was shaping out to be a quaint morning of intellect pursuit. Definitely something to lament about to friends over a latte at Dempsey.

We spent the next hour combing through lush undergrowth, exploring the more notable graves among Bukit Brown’s 100,000.

I soaked in the sublime beauty of moss on weathered headstones and vines on stone phoenixes. I snapped away on my iPhone, and thought how cool it would be to post them up on Facebook.

Amid the mass of seemingly forgotten graves, I also wondered, sometimes aloud: Where are the descendents?

And then, I stopped dead in my tracks, as a distant memory slipped back into my mind.

One hot morning several years ago, I was with a group of relatives when, as an afterthought, we drove into a lane off Lornie Road. A short but strenuous walk brought us to a grave that was almost hidden in the shadow of a lone tree under the harsh sunlight.

Chen Wu Yun, it read. My great grandfather.

I knew next to nothing about him. Nobody told me, and I didn’t ask.

I don’t remember much of that day, or what we did. I didn’t even know what the place was called.

But for some reason, I could remember what the spot looked like, and we set out to find it.

As we left the group, I called my brother. Ask Papa to write down great grandfather’s name in traditional Chinese characters, photograph it, and Whatsapp it over, I said.

A while later, we found the grave as I remembered it, slightly unkempt, in a field behind a row of terrace houses.

I held up my iPhone next to the headstone, and compared my father’s handwriting with the eroded etchings.

Chen Wu Yun, it read. You could still see it.

'Cool,'  I said. And then, I started doing what I had been doing the whole morning, admiring the sublime beauty of vines and moss...

Until I heard my wife muttering to herself behind me.

'Oi, what are you doing?' I asked.

'Introducing myself,'  she said.


For the second time that morning, I stopped in my tracks.

Following a short but wide-ranging chastisement from the wife that touched on issues such as my lack of filial piety and general blockheadedness, I came to my senses.

I began to pay my respects, but stopped almost as soon as I started.

'Erm,' I asked my wife, 'How should I address him?' (Answer: Ah Zoh, Hokkien for great grandparent)

And then, in all seriousness: 'Can speak English or not?' (Answer: Cannot)

'Ah Zoh,' I began in Mandarin, and in my heart, 'I am Tze Yong, Chwee Lian’s grandson... '

My family had foresight. My great grandfather had been put to rest beside what must have been only a sapling 70 years ago. The sapling had grown well, and its tall branches now shielded Ah Zoh from rain and sun.

I whipped out my iPhone again. But this time, instead of taking psuedo-artistic photos, I took a maximum-zoom, full-frontal shot of the photo on the headstone, something I hadn’t dared to do all morning for fear of repercussions.

I SMSed the photo to my father, who showed it to my grandmother. She got on the phone and, as she listened to me describe the grave, said in a mix of jest and regret: 'Yah lah, they haven’t been going... '

They? She said it as if she was referring to outsiders. But I knew I was one of them.

That evening, as I recounted the morning's events to my father over dinner at the Ion Orchard food court, the stories started trickling out.

Like how my great grandfather died on the second day of the Japanese air raids when he refused to retreat into a bomb shelter already jam-packed with women and children.

Like how he died in his house alongside his son and daughter-in-law, who was found sitting on the floor, arms still wrapped around her baby daughter, barely a year old.

And like how that little girl, whose back was pierced with shrapnel, fought for her life for several months in a hospital before succumbing.

My grandmother was 11 then. I tried to imagine how life changed for her, when she emerged from the bomb shelter.

That morning, while on the phone with my grandmother at the grave, I promised to rent a car one weekend and take her back to visit.

She had stopped visiting after her second daughter, who was single and accompanied her everywhere, including to Bukit Brown, died of cancer in 2008.

Grandma was excited. I told her we should get a contractor to clear the undergrowth. Maybe get rid of the giant black ants and pile of wet, rotting leaves. Tear away some of the vines.

And after all that is done, find out if Ah Zoh would need to make way for the new highway.


Article printed from The Straits Times Blogs : http://blogs.straitstimes.com

URL to article : http://blogs.straitstimes.com/2011/10/22/my-piece-of-bukit-brown/ 

ST News
Oct 21, 2011

Bukit Brown: Heritage group 'not consulted'

Society says it linked LTA, URA to experts only after being told of decision to build road there

By Royston Sim

THE Singapore Heritage Society made clear yesterday that it was informed - but not consulted - about a decision by the authorities to build a 2km road in Bukit Brown.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) last month revealed plans for a dual four-lane road in the area. About 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves in Bukit Brown Cemetery will have to be exhumed.

In a statement, the society clarified that its only collaboration with the LTA and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) was to connect the agencies with experts on Chinese cemetery documentation - after it was informed about the road.

The LTA and URA had previously said they would work with the society and relevant stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements of the cemetery.

'There hasn't been an opportunity for any kind of consultation process,' said Assistant Professor Chua Ai Lin, an executive member of the society.

She noted, however, that the society will meet the URA next Monday.

In a joint statement yesterday, the URA and LTA said the cemetery was zoned for residential use under Concept Plan 1991 and it had been public knowledge since that the long-term plan was to use the area to meet housing needs. The statement added that to support that plan, basic infrastructure such as roads will need to be built. The new road, which will help relieve jams in Lornie Road, will also serve future housing developments in the area.

Noting that the authorities are aware of the site's rich heritage, the statement said they started 'engaging stakeholders such as the Singapore Heritage Society, the Hokkien Huay Kuan and scholars' this year to find ways to capture the history and memories of the cemetery.

Construction of the road will begin in 2013.

The society has asked the authorities to slow down the pace of redevelopment so that more stakeholders can be consulted. One such party, it noted, is the Singapore Polo Club, which uses Bukit Brown to exercise its horses. The society noted that completing basic data recording will be a challenge, given the large number of graves and the 'impossibly short time frame'.

The LTA has set next March as the deadline for affected graves to be registered, with exhumation taking place in the fourth quarter of next year.

The society added that more time is also needed for historical research.

In a letter to The Straits Times on Wednesday, Ms Chew I-Jin called for the preservation of Bukit Brown graves.

'The erasure of these grounds will deal a substantial blow to the cultural history of Singapore,' wrote Ms Chew, a descendant of Singaporean pioneer and businessman Chew Boon Lay.

Prof Chua said much new information about Bukit Brown has been discovered since LTA's announcement. Graves of important pioneers have been found, people whom Singaporeans may not be aware of.

'So much information can be gleaned,' she said. 'If the graves have to be exhumed, at least give us more time to experience (the area) before it goes.'

The society is co-organising a public forum on Bukit Brown with National University of Singapore Professor Irving Chan Johnson on Nov 19. It is also seeking expert views on how to balance conservation and development of the area.


ST Forum
Oct 19, 2011

Keep Bukit Brown graves: Descendants

THE consequence of the decision by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to clear Bukit Brown Cemetery to make way for a highway and future housing developments is an irreplaceable loss to generations of Singaporeans ('Redevelopment plans for Bukit Brown site', Sept 13; and Forum letter 'Rethink road widening affecting cemetery' by Mr Liew Kai Khiun, Sept 16).

Indeed much of the historical and social value of Bukit Brown Cemetery is still being uncovered by volunteers today, yet preparations for clearing works are slated to start next month. The latest tender suggests that 24ha (10,000 graves) will be affected in the heart of the cemetery. This, we understand, is just the beginning.

Despite URA and LTA's assertions that they will work with the Singapore Heritage Society and other stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements, it appears that this refers to mere 'data recording', and not a heritage study.

It is not widely known that the Bukit Brown, Ong clan and Hokkien Huay Kuan cluster form the biggest Chinese burial grounds outside China, with a quarter of a million graves.

The erasure of these grounds will deal a substantial blow to the cultural history of Singapore.

The graves contain our immigrant forebears, from paupers to almost all our local pioneers who remain largely unrecognised beyond the roads that bear their names, such as Ong Boon Tat, Cheong Koon Seng, Cheang Hong Lim, Chew Joo Chiat, Lim Chong Pang and Chew Boon Lay; and the wife of philanthropist Lim Nee Soon.

Each tomb tells of a journey from a village in China, their families, their achievements and their culture.

Stories discerned from the graves will no longer be accessible to future generations.

As descendants of Singapore's early pioneers, we appeal to the authorities to explore alternatives like widening existing roads or using flyovers to preserve this national heritage.

It is not too late to recognise that Bukit Brown is rich with 'living' possibility and multi-uses - not just for those who pay respects to ancestors but also as a place for learning and recreation.

Here is where creative lessons in biology, bird-watching, history, genealogy, art and poetry could take place as well as serious research. To take a quiet walk with family or tour with the passionate guides is to be moved by our history and feel truly connected with this place we call our home.

Let us not squander our heritage and dishonour our past for a few more condos and cars. Once we bulldoze through this history, it will be too late to resurrect the foundation of our national sense of identity.

Chew I-Jin (Ms)

Descendant of Chew Boon Lay

FORUM NOTE: The other signatories are Mr Chew Kheng Chuan (descendant of Chew Boon Lay), Mr Gerald Tan Kok Seng (descendant of Tan Tock Seng), Mr Chia Hock Jin (descendant of Chia Hood Theam) and Ms Ong Chwee Im, representing the descendants of Ong Chong Chew, Ong Ewe Hai and Ong Kew Hoe, who donated the land for use of the Ong clan in 1872).

ST News, Oct 15, 2011

State of the dead; Honour ancestors before it's too late

Amelia Teng

Long-lost tomb helped her to uncover heritage

MADAM Rosalind Tan's perseverance in digging up her family's past has paid off - and has enriched her own life.

It took Madam Tan, 57, about two months to find the long-lost tomb of her grandparents in the vast grounds of Bukit Brown Cemetery.

With the help of tomb-explorer Raymond Goh, 47, and cemetery caretaker Lim Ah Chye, 41, she discovered the graves and, along the way, found out more about her own heritage.

In February, Madam Tan's brother visited the Land Registry at the Singapore Land Authority to determine the year of their grandfather's death, through his land title deeds and probate.
She later found out from a friend that the National Archives of Singapore held records of those buried at Bukit Brown. But her trip to the archives in early March did not unearth anything.

On March 26, she met Mr Goh during one of the tours of Bukit Brown that he and his brother, Charles, 43, organise for the public. The brothers are founders of Asia Paranormal Investigators, a society that researches paranormal activity and also organises tours to places of interest.

When she told Mr Goh about her quest, he urged her to make a second trip to the archives. She did so in April, and managed to retrieve her grandfather's grave plot number.

Madam Tan, Mr Goh and Mr Lim went to the cemetery on April 30, intent on finding the lost graves. A few days earlier, Mr Goh had spent two hours searching, but had not been successful.

It was no easy job, as the graves were on hilly terrain and hidden by dense undergrowth. Grave plots were not in sequence, and fallen trees along some paths made the going difficult.
That morning, it took another hour of scanning thousands of plots before Mr Goh, holding a grainy photo of Madam Tan's grandfather, found the graves.

Madam Tan's initial reaction was disbelief. She remembers sitting dazed at the foot of her apartment block for an hour when she went home that day.

It took another two months for Mr Lim to clean, scrub and restore the graves. This cost Madam Tan a few thousand dollars. Nothing was replaced except the faded photographs on the tombstone.
Madam Tan's grandfather, Mr Tan Yong Thian, is buried with his wife, Madam Ng Hean Neo. He died from apoplexy in April 1926, at the age of 71, two days after his wife was buried.

Born in 1855 in Guangdong, he arrived in Singapore at the age of 27. He was a building contractor who also invested in plantations, and later started producing essential oils. His firm, Chua Seng Heng & Co, was one of the largest producers of essential oils in the Straits Settlement in the 1920s. He is listed in Biographies Of Prominent Chinese, an encyclopaedia containing a few hundred entries of famous Chinese personalities.

The book was published in Shanghai in 1925, and only two known copies exist today. Madam Tan's older brother owns one copy, which was passed down to him from the late Mr Tan.
Madam Tan's father, Mr Tan Heng Chua, who died in the 1950s, is the fifth and youngest son. Her grandfather also had two daughters.

One of the late Mr Tan's grandsons is the late Mr C.C. Tan, former Straits Times Press chairman and lawyer.

His firm, Tan Rajah & Cheah, is still operating. His daughter, Ms Margaret Leng Tan, is a well-known Singaporean classical musician famous for her performances on a toy piano.

On June 26, Madam Tan and some family members gathered at her grandparents' graves to pay respects for the first time in more than 60 years.

Her older brothers - she has 13 siblings - used to visit the graves with her father. But after her father died when she was four, her mother, now 90, was too busy running the huge household to visit the graves.
Madam Tan's quest was inspired by her own name. She often wondered why her parents did not give her a Chinese name, and why her father was such an Anglophile. She discovered that he was influenced by her grandfather, who had dealt with business partners from America and Europe. After doing so much research on her grandfather, Madam Tan declares: 'I know him better than my own father.'

A grandmother of two, she spends her time as a museum guide at the Peranakan Museum. She also attends heritage talks, tours and weekly calligraphy classes.

She also visits her grandparents' graves once a month to 'keep them company'. She adds: 'I enjoy going there. I feel comfortable there; it's like visiting them at their home.'

She strongly encourages people to try and find their ancestors' graves before they are forgotten. 'Go before it is too late,' she says.

Madam Rosalind Tan (right) with her niece Magdalene Tan, 41, at her grandparents' tomb, which was derelict when found. It was cleaned and restored, and the faded photographs on the tombstone were replaced. -- PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ROSALIND TAN

ST News, Oct 15, 2011

State of the dead; The intrepid tomb-explorers

MR RAYMOND Goh takes immense satisfaction in helping visitors find the resting places of their ancestors.
Since last year, more than 30 people have asked Mr Goh, 47, to use his expertise at searching out the nooks and crannies of Bukit Brown Cemetery.

He has located half the lost graves, and does not charge a cent for his labour.
'When we reunite the living with the dead, we feel a sense of joy and happiness which money cannot buy,' he says.

'Every grave tells a story,' the father of three says. For him, tomb exploring is like reading a storybook. He tries to find out as much as he can about each tomb from its inscriptions, design and surroundings. He has documented and archived a few hundred graves so far.

He and his younger brother, Charles, 43, have been conducting monthly tours since 2009 for the public to raise awareness of Bukit Brown's history.

'It is difficult to find a place with such rich cultural and historical roots,' he says.

The brothers are licensed tour guides with the Singapore Tourism Board. Their cemetery tours cost about $30 per person. There are 30 to 40 people on each tour - a mix of students, working adults and retirees.
The brothers also conduct tours at the request of government agencies such as the National Heritage Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Land Transport Authority and Ministry of National Development.

Mr Raymond Goh is a director of a health-care company, and his younger brother is a safety manager.
He says that interest in the cemetery is growing, and since June he has been conducting tours weekly.
To raise awareness of Bukit Brown's heritage, the brothers organised a Remember Your Ancestors Day on Sunday. The event will be held again tomorrow.

Volunteer guides will provide information about prominent people buried in the cemetery. For those keen on finding their ancestors' graves, the brothers have provided a simple guide.

STEP 1: Find out your ancestor's name in English.
STEP 2: Find out the date of death. For help, go to Land Registry at Singapore Land Authority at 55, Newton Road. Search for your ancestor's last address. If he left a will, a grant of probate would have been issued, and you can determine the year of his death.
STEP 3: Check newspapers.nl.sg to see if your ancestor's family published an obituary notice in The Straits Times, which would include the date and place of burial.
STEP 4: Visit the National Archives of Singapore at 1, Canning Rise to find the burial plot number, including the block and section number of the grave.
STEP 5: Join Remember Your Ancestors Day. Guides will help you look for your ancestor's grave with the information you obtained. For more details, e-mail your questions to events@api.sg.

ST News

Oct 13, 2011

Singapore, not foreign, history first
IN THE past week, the local media broadcast documentaries on the role of ethnic Chinese in colonial Singapore in ending 2,000 years of feudalism in China, to commemorate the centenary of the 1911 revolution that overthrew dynastic rule.

The eight visits here by the father of modern China, Sun Yat Sen, to raise funds for the revolutionary movement were given prime prominence. The Balestier Road villa where he stayed has been transformed into a historical monument ('Historic Sun Yat Sen villa reopens'; Sunday).

Visiting politicians, prominent businessmen and academics have called on Singaporeans to remember the contributions of Nanyang (overseas) Chinese to the villa.

While I do not discount the significance of the revolution, I am uncomfortable with how our local identity and history remain subordinated to foreign history.

Although Sun was an important figure, his stay here was extremely brief and his interest in Singapore, probably peripheral.

Yet, the villa where he stayed is preserved while the graves of prominent pioneers of Singapore like Lim Nee Soon, Chew Boon Lay and Ong Sam Leong are not.

The Bukit Brown Cemetery where these sons of Singapore are buried must make way for redevelopment ('Bukit Brown to make way for housing'; May 30).

In the rush to celebrate the first milestone of modern China on Oct 10, 1911, we have forgotten a local incident of immense historical significance, especially close to the hearts of older Singaporeans, which took place on Oct 10, 1943.

This was the Double Tenth Massacre, a tragic day when the Japanese military police arrested and tortured 57 people they suspected of being involved in an allied raid that sank several ships at the Singapore harbour in World War II. Fifteen of them died later. This date does not even rate an annual mention.
In an era of nation-building where we should regard ourselves as Singaporeans first and profess loyalty exclusively to Singapore, the assertion of Chinese pride by some Chinese Singaporeans on China's 1911 revolution is disturbing.

As Singapore approaches the bicentenary of its founding in 1819, the emphasis on writing our history and preserving our heritage should not be expended disproportionately on prominent foreigners who happened to pass through.

Our emphasis should be firmly focused on Singaporeans who helped shape the history of this little red dot.
Liew Kai Khiun

Zaobao 2011106



突然,在说明陈武烈是同盟会员的一面图板前,我发现展出一本陈旧的硬皮书册,以烫金铅字印有书名“《星洲同盟会录》”,下有数行烫金小字是:“厦门大学惠存,林义顺敬赠,1928 SEPT”。























信笺上印有“南洋新嘉坡林义顺”,还有英文的公司电报地址,及英文”Marsiling Building, 56 & 57 Robinson Road”,和”Singapore,______192__”。
























附录2 《前星洲同盟会会员名录》


陈楚楠 张永福 林义顺 许子麟 黄耀庭 邓子瑜 刘金声

吴悟叟 李声余 林幹廷 郑聘廷 谢心準 李晓生 陈武烈

陈祯祥 黄甘松 陈梦桃 何心田 丘继显 刘七辉 何德如

张仁南 陈子麦 邵镇国 林航苇 魏諝同 吴逸亭 林镜秋

陈子缨 吴应培 许雪秋 张盛忠 丘焕文 郭渊谷 潘兆鹏

沈联芳 黄吉宸 周献瑞 陈先进 李镜仁 李普明 李普仁

李思明 张振东 谢巳原 朱观捷 褚民谊 吴炽寰 赵金鼎

赵金星 赵钓溪 赵克庵 蒋玉田 萧百川 丘廷璋 许柏轩

谢仪仲 谢坤林 苏德天 苏珊玉 吴子英 黄甘礼 叶玉桑

叶耀廷 黄康衢 刘任臣 张玉清 柯芦生 符天一 郑提摩太

许云德 林裕成 黄清读 王金练 丘得松 苏汉忠 李竹痴

李幼樵 李光前 沈子琴 许梦之 陈嘉庚 林文庆 吴逢超

吴海涂 卢耀堂 卢礼明 卢荣宗 留鸿石 郑古悦 陈汉生

李肇基 叶敦仁 张来喜 陈书臣 沈文光 张家仁 陈翼秋

李汉卿 蔡中兴 詹澄海 沈飞龙 徐渭水 林集波 邓 毅

吴金鸣 陈芸生 陈湧波 林喜尊 郑子辉 蔡兰谷 余 通

余 丑 黄亚田 刘焦余 许子伟 萧竹漪 余御言 林希侠

林立宗 陆秋露 张华丹










五部分内容别具文献意义 新加坡同盟会早期资料最有价值






一,一篇介绍星洲同盟会成立及活动的文稿,文中以当时商场正式使用的苏州数码和农历干支,写明“星洲同盟会创设于1905年,即乙巳年秋”,并记录 “数月后”,林义顺曾北上槟城创办分会,1906年又到缅甸仰光宣传,1907年秋创办《中兴日报》,及当年鼓吹革命的星洲书报社设立经过。























































Reference : https://www.zaobao.com.sg/special/report/politic/xh100/story20111006-111852?amp

林义顺 - 新嘉坡前中国同盟会诸同志姓名表1929

陈连才(字楚楠, Tan Chor Lan)
陈武烈 (Tan Boon Liat)
陈贞祥 (Tan Cheng Siong)
陈梦桃 (Tan Meong Tho)
陈嘉庚 (Tan Kah Kee)
黄乃裳 (黄九美, 黄慕华 (字绂丞,笔名梅湖半农者)
李肇基 (字冠山)
林义顺 (字蔚华、发初) Lim Nee Soon 
林受之(林喜尊, 号谦光,字梦生)
林文庆Lim Boon Keng
丘继显(Khoo Kay Hian)
汪声音 (Ang Sean lm)
吴金铭 (字一鸣)
许有若 (字雪秋)
张永福Teo Eng Hock
郑聘廷 (Tay Sek Tin)
郑古悦 (Tay Koh Yat)
周如切 (Chew Joo Chiat)

Other members
Pioneers in Tong Meng Hui whose tombs were found in Bukit Brown 薛武院(See Boo lh)王声世(Ong Seah Say) and陈延谦(Tan Eng Kiam) are not listed in Lim Nee Soon Tong Meng Hui member listing. Their tombs were found in Bukit Brown.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Powered by Blogger.
Javascript DisablePlease Enable Javascript To See All Widget