Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

2012

CNN
Dec 30, 2012

Cemetery as battleground for 'soul of Singapore'
By Liz Neisloss

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    Swathe of graves is being exhumed to make way for highway
    What remains of cemetery area will eventually make way for housing units, transit stations
    All graves at Bukit Brown cemetery will be exhumed under plan
    The cemetery stands at heart of heated debate over development in Singapore


Millie Phuah clears leaves from the tomb of her great-grandparents in Bukit Brown cemetery.

Singapore (CNN) -- Millie Phuah arrived at Singapore's Bukit Brown cemetery on a humid morning, armed with a rake and gloves to clear fallen branches and decaying leaves from her ancestors' graves.

"I've got my great-grandparents on this side ... and my grand-uncle will be on this side," she said, pointing in opposite directions. An eight-lane highway, set for construction in 2013, will run though the middle of the cemetery.

To make way for it, a swathe of graves -- marked by wooden stakes with painted numbers -- is being exhumed. The remains will be cremated by Monday, and if unclaimed for three years, the ashes will be scattered at sea.

The highway is expected to be completed by 2016 and affect 3,746 graves, according to Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Afterwards, what remains of the cemetery area will make way for 15,000 new housing units and two mass transit stations, and all the graves -- including those of Phuah's family -- will be exhumed under the plan.

With an estimated 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is the largest Chinese cemetery outside China, according to Singapore's Heritage Society. Located near a cluster of reservoirs at the center of the island, the cemetery sprawls over several hills covered partly in rainforest jungle.

Closed to new burials since the early 1970's, Bukit Brown now stands at the heart of a heated debate over development in tiny Singapore -- a nation that went from new and underdeveloped to one of the world's most prosperous in a matter of decades.

In addition to pioneers and early migrants like Phuah's family, the cemetery holds the remains of Singapore's most prominent, like Lee Hoon Leong, the grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore.

The Government says the road is needed to reduce traffic congestion, pointing out that a country of just 714 square kilometers (275 square miles) has many more needs, including land for housing, defense, industry and utilities. "In such a highly land-constrained setting, we need to make difficult decisions on land use for present and future generations of Singaporeans," a spokesman for the Urban Redevelopment Authority said.
Singapore's vertical farm

A shortage of land spurred rigid burial policies in 1998: Only one cemetery, Choa Chu Kang, remains open to burials, and there is a 15-year time limit for burial, after which remains are cremated. Singapore's National Environment Agency says at "closed" cemeteries like Bukit Brown "exhumations are carried out only if the land is affected by redevelopment."

Claire Leow has no relatives buried in Bukit Brown but says her grandfather's grave at another cemetery was exhumed when it was cleared to make way for housing. After a visit to Bukit Brown several years ago, Leow founded a blog, "All Things Bukit Brown," and now gives tours of the cemetery as part of a group of local activists, the Bukit Brown Community.



The debate has drawn growing numbers to view historic graves, including young Singaporeans and students who clamber around the gravesites and pick their way through the thick overgrowth. Leow tells stories at the graves of early Singaporeans, those who began prominent businesses and those who fought the Japanese during World War II.

In densely developed Singapore, Bukit Brown's vast green space also draws joggers, dog walkers, horseback riders and bird-watchers. One recent day, the rolling call of the straw-headed bulbul, a threatened bird, was far louder than the distant car traffic. Singapore's Nature Society says that roughly 25% of the country's threatened bird species can be found in Bukit Brown.

To Singaporeans like Phuah, Bukit Brown gives roots to a young country known largely as a place to shop and do business. "Singaporeans are more interested than the government thinks we are in our heritage. It's not just about hanging out in shopping malls here," she asserts.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority says it doesn't take the decision "lightly" and is working with community members to come up with ways to preserve the heritage of Bukit Brown.

However, exhibits will not replace the cemetery's value, according to the Singapore Heritage Society. "Ultimately, the struggle for Bukit Brown goes beyond saving a few graves or greenery. It is the struggle for the soul of Singapore."









ST News
December 8, 2012

Meaningful to find ancestors' tombs

Melissa Sim's article Finders Of Long- forgotten Tombs (Sunday Life!, Dec 2) was unique and interesting.

I had long wanted to find the tomb of my grandfather, who died in 1929 and was buried at the Bukit Brown cemetery. When the Land Transport Authority announced its plans last year to build a highway that will cut through the cemetery, my interest was reignited.

Armed with a copy of the register of burials from the National Archives, I made my way to the cemetery full of hope of locating my grandfather's grave. How wrong I was. Bukit Brown is a massive place with no proper signs and directions, making it difficult to find ancestors' tombstones.

It was during my second trip there in January this year, after a futile attempt the previous month, that I discovered not only my grandfather's tomb but also those of his two brothers adjacent to his.

All this was made possible through the assistance of Mr Raymond Goh, who was featured in Ms Sim's article.

Mr Goh said: "This is my country, it's worth fighting for because my ancestors are here." I echo that statement.

Bennie Cheok

Dec 02, 2012

Finders of long-forgotten tombs

Brothers Raymond and Charles Goh are renowned for combing graveyards to hunt for lost tombs

By Melissa Sim


The Goh brothers Raymond (left) and Charles, at the grave of one of the cousins of Singapore pioneer Tan Kah Kee. They explained that the five-colour flag at the top of this tombstone was the first flag of the Chinese Republic, which was used from about 1912. -- PHOTOS: SAM CHIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, NEO XIAOBIN


Visiting cemeteries and uncovering the secrets of forgotten tombs may seem an unconventional, if not morbid, activity but for brothers Raymond and Charles Goh, it is their passion.

The duo have day jobs but their hobby is finding tombs and they are experts at it.

Their discoveries include the lost tombs of nearly 100 notable Singaporeans such as Tan Keong Saik, after whom Keong Saik Street in Chinatown is named, and Cheang Hong Lim, of Hong Lim Park fame.

Just last week, the brothers were in the news again for unearthing the tomb of Teochew pioneer Seah Eu Chin, also known as the King of Gambier, on a hill known as Grave Hill in Toa Payoh West, adjacent to Bukit Brown cemetery.

They found the grave after a year-long search.

Mr Charles Goh, 44, a construction safety manager who is married with no children, says: "People like golfing, swimming, canoeing. We like discovering our own history."

Elder brother Raymond Goh, 48, says he became interested in tombs after he visited his grandfather's grave in Chua Chu Kang in 2006 for the first time. He had asked his father to take him there as he was interested in finding out more about his ancestors.

The brothers have three other siblings, none of whom are interested in hunting down lost tombs. Their late father was a taxi driver and their mother, who is 71, is a housewife.

Mr Raymond Goh says he felt a connection when he saw his own name on his grandfather's tombstone.

This is the oldest tomb in his family that he knows off. He says his great grandparents were buried in Jurong but their graves have already been exhumed.

He was so moved by seeing his grandfather's tombstone that he wanted others to feel this connection too. The father of three says he knew that Bukit Brown cemetery had old tombs and felt "maybe I can also help others find their roots".

So he started combing the abandoned Bukit Brown cemetery, located between Lornie Road and Mount Pleasant Road, which was in use from January 1922 till about 1973.

Mr Raymond Goh, a trained pharmacist who is a director at a multinational company, says he had been volunteering at a temple since he was 19 years old and had always been interested in Buddhism and Taoism. That led him to find out more about Chinese history and culture.

To him, tombstones hold many cultural and historical references besides indicating who is buried there.

The National University of Singapore alumnus says decorative carvings sometimes tell stories from Chinese classics such as Romance Of The Three Kingdoms. And historical references such as the first flag of the Chinese Republic or a Chinese emperor's name can help to date the tomb.

Old tombstones often do not even have the names of the individual, only the posthumous name or the names of their children, so the brothers have to match dates and family trees to crack the code.

And this is right up Mr Charles Goh's alley.

He founded a group called Asia Paranormal Investigators in 2005 and its interest lies in debunking urban legends such as ghost sightings and alien abductions in Singapore, as well as sightings of Big Foot in Malaysia.

But searching for lost tombs is where the interests of both brothers merge.

When they first started looking for tombs of Singapore pioneers, they were not systematic.

Mr Raymond Goh says: "We had no map. We would blindly, randomly walk along the hills and just explore."

With just a stick, a towel and a camera in hand, they would trudge through the undergrowth, clear the plants and vines and take photos of any tombs of interest in Bukit Brown cemetery.

Each trip took about two hours and resulted in numerous cuts from vines and thorns and bites from countless insects and mosquitoes. Mr Raymond Goh rolled up his pants to show the bites on his legs.

After identifying whose tomb it is, the brothers check the date of burial and name against the burial registry, which states which section of the cemetery the individual is buried.

They had been trying to map out the sections until they got their hands on a map from the National Environment Agency last year, which already had the sections mapped out.

Now the brothers claim that as long as they have the name of the person and the date of death, they have a 100 per cent success rate of finding a tomb in the Bukit Brown cemetery.

It takes them about three days to locate a tomb among the 100,000 there.

In the Hokkien cemetery and the Ong Clan cemetery around Bukit Brown, their success rate drops to 10 to 20 per cent because they do not have the burial registry or a map of the sections.

In 2007, the brothers publicised their first major discovery - the tomb of Cheang Hong Lim's tomb at Bukit Brown cemetery.

Mr Raymond Goh says: "We were just exploring the hills and I noticed a high- ranking title. Then I saw the children's names."

Cheang Hong Lim's name was not on the tomb, but checks against the burial directory showed it was indeed his tomb.

Sometimes, the brothers get requests from descendants who are keen on finding the tombs of their ancestors.

Mr Raymond Goh goes through land deeds, the National Archives and old articles from the National Library to find out where the individual might be buried.

His brother looks at old maps dating back to the 1920s to figure out which part of that person's land or which part of a cemetery the tomb might be in.

Once they have found the area, it usually takes them two to three hours of battling with the humidity, undergrowth and mosquitoes before they hit the jackpot.

On other occasions, the brothers will just go on their regular bi-monthly "research" trips, hoping to spot one of the tombs that they have been asked to find.

These days, they receive two to three requests a week from descendants looking for the tombs of their lost relatives.

Even the National Archives and the Land Transport Authority, they say, have given their contact details to people who are searching for the graves of their ancestors.

The brothers, who are certified tour guides, also take Friends of the Museum and school groups as well as companies on specialised Bukit Brown tours.

The group size is around 30 people.

After setting up a Facebook group - Heritage Singapore Bukit Brown cemetery - last year, they have attracted more people to sign up for their free weekly public tours.

These tours are run by the brothers and a group of about 50 enthusiasts.

The Facebook group has more than 2,000 members. "Interest is growing but time is running out," says Mr Raymond Goh.

Last year, plans to build a highway cutting through Bukit Brown cemetery were announced. The road would affect about 5 per cent of the graves.

"We are trying to educate the public to show that there is history and heritage there that the Government may not know about," he adds.

As urbanisation continues to erase traces of the past, the brothers continue to help others find their roots.

Mr Raymond Goh says: "Many people are very emotional when they re-connect. They find their ancestors and their roots, and it helps ground them to Singapore."

When young people see the tombs and hear the history behind them, he hopes they - like him - will become more attached to Singapore.

"This is my country, it's worth fighting for because my ancestors are here."


--  ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

simlinoi@sph.com.sg

Reuters
Nov 27, 2012

No eternal rest for the dead in crowded Singapore

By Kevin Lim and Eveline Danubrata

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Eternal peace does not last long in Singapore.

Starting early next year, workers with heavy machinery will begin constructing an eight-lane highway across the small country's oldest surviving major cemetery, overriding the objections of nature lovers and heritage buffs.

Singapore, with its 5.3 million people crammed onto an island less than half the size of London, is already more densely populated than rival Asian business center Hong Kong, making permanent burial space unfeasible.

The whole of Bukit Brown - the resting place of more than 100,000 people, including some of Singapore's pioneering business and clan leaders and their large, intricately carved tombs - will eventually be used for residential development. At least 30 people buried there have streets named after them.

Some families have begun removing the remains of their ancestors, and authorities plan to dig up the remaining graves in January.

But Nature Society (Singapore) and other groups want Bukit Brown left alone, describing the forested area as "a natural and historical treasure trove". Another body, the Bukit Brown Community, has been conducting weekly tours to raise awareness of the area's rich past.

"There is no other cemetery like Bukit Brown. The amount of historical information that we can find there and the amount of Chinese culture, heritage and custom is unique," said Raymond Goh, a founding member of Bukit Brown Community.

Photographer Shawn Danker, who recently held a photo exhibition to generate awareness about Bukit Brown, cites as an example pre-independent Singapore's links to the Nationalists who overthrew the Ching Dynasty in 1911.

On the headstone of community leader Tan Boon Liat's grave are 12 rays of sunlight, showing his longtime association with Sun Yat Sen's Kuomintang whose logo is a white sun with twelve rays on a blue background.

Tan, who died in the 1930s, was a great grandson of philanthropist Tan Tock Seng, for whom one of Singapore's largest hospitals is named.

"If there is any Singapore site that is worthy of UNESCO nomination, it is Bukit Brown," said Bukit Brown Community's Goh, referring to the United Nations body whose Heritage Site designations are keenly sought for the boost they can give to tourism.

In 1998, the Singapore government announced a policy to limit the burial period to 15 years. Bodies are then dug up and either cremated or interred in small plots to save space in the case of Muslims and other groups whose religions require burials.

"The above measures have helped to intensify the land use at the cemetery and overcome our land constraints," a spokeswoman for the National Environment Agency said.

Term limits for graves are even stricter in Hong Kong, which requires the removal of bodies from public cemeteries after six years. If families do not remove the remains, authorities will exhume and cremate them, burying the ashes in a communal grave.

Singapore's environment agency says more people are opting for cremation over burial, with the proportion rising from 66 percent in 1992 to 80 percent in 2011. That is nearly the entire population if those whose religions require burial are excluded.

Ang Jolie, funeral director at Ang Yew Seng Funeral Parlour, whose customers are mostly Chinese, who make up about 75 percent of Singapore's population, said the need to remove the body after 15 years is the main reason why many opt for cremation.

"The younger generation is more pragmatic and they may not want to trouble the future generations with the exhumation," she added.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/27/us-singapore-burial-idUSBRE8AQ07M20121127

ST News
Nov 26, 2012

Teochew pioneer's grave found in Toa Payoh

Brothers find grave of Seah Eu Chin after a year of painstaking search

By rachael boon



Tombstone hunter siblings Charles (left) and Raymond Goh discovered the grave of Seah Eu Chin - the founder of early Teochew clan association Ngee Ann Kongsi - last week on Grave Hill. -- ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG


THE grave of early Teochew pioneer Seah Eu Chin - situated on a hill known as Grave Hill in Toa Payoh West, adjacent to Bukit Brown - has been discovered by two tombstone hunters, brothers Raymond and Charles Goh.

They found the grave last week after a year-long search.

Seah was born in 1805 in Yupu village, Chaozhou province, and came to Singapore in 1823. He built his fortune as the owner of gambier plantations in areas such as Thomson and came to be known as the King of Gambier. He was an early member of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, and founded early Teochew clan association Ngee Ann Kongsi in 1845 with a group of Teochew merchants. He died in 1883.

His son, Seah Liang Seah, was also a prominent member of society. He was municipal commissioner and ran his father's businesses, which included spice trading. Liang Seah Street was named after him.

Seah Eu Chin's grave is the latest among those of Singapore pioneers to have been discovered recently. The tomb of landowner Chia Ann Siang, after whom Ann Siang Hill is named, was discovered in September this year. The tombs of Tan Keong Saik, whom Keong Saik Street in Chinatown is named after, and Tan Eng Neo, whom Eng Neo Avenue is named after, were discovered last year at Bukit Brown Cemetery off Lornie Road. The Goh brothers, who have been exploring tombs since 2006, were also involved in those discoveries.

On how the search began for Seah's grave, Raymond, 48, a licensed specialist tourist guide with the Singapore Tourism Board, said: "Last November, a classmate of mine read about our discoveries of pioneers buried at Bukit Brown, and e-mailed me to ask if I knew where Seah Eu Chin was buried and if I could take some of the Seah descendants to visit the tomb."

He began his search that very month at Bukit Brown by finding out if any of Seah's family members were buried there.

"The breakthrough came when I found the grave of Mrs Seah Eng Kun, who died in 1929, at Bukit Brown. Her husband Seah Eng Kun was the son of Cheo Seah, the eldest son of Seah Eu Chin. From the tombstone, I could determine the generation name used for the Seah family, and in turn, learn Seah Eu Chin's generation name," he said.

He was referring to the Chinese practice whereby family members of the same generation use the same characters in their names. Knowing the generation name, which was certified in an imperial edict he found, helped him confirm that the grave he found on Grave Hill belonged to Seah Eu Chin.

Raymond and Charles, 44, later found a Straits Times obituary that described Seah Eu Chin's funeral procession, from his home in North Boat Quay to his plantation in Thomson Road, about 4.8km away from town.

That is where Grave Hill is, according to a 1924 map, said Raymond, and that is where they found the grave. They identified it by his generation name She Bang Cong (his name in Mandarin), his birthplace, the names of his two wives who were buried next to him, and other inscriptions on the tomb. It was previously reported in The Straits Times in 2009 that Seah Eu Chin's grave was found in Kwong Hou Sua Teochew Cemetery, but Raymond believes that belonged to a Seah descendant.

Seah Eu Chin's grave is about a 10-minute walk up the hill, and is covered with overgrown grass and shrubs. The brothers have cleared a path leading up to the grave.

Said Dr Hui Yew-Foong, 40, an anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and the appointed documentarian of Bukit Brown Cemetery: "This grave is of the same level of historical significance as the graves of Tan Tock Seng and Tan Kim Ching, and therefore serves as an invaluable part of Singapore's heritage."

He said Grave Hill will not be affected by the Land Transport Authority plans to build a four- lane dual carriageway through Bukit Brown Cemetery to alleviate peak hour congestion on Lornie Road.

However, the Goh brothers are concerned, as the hill is close to the upcoming $8billion North- South Expressway.

Said Charles, who also is a licensed specialist tourist guide: "If this hill is redeveloped like Bukit Brown, it will mean the change of Singapore's heritage landscape, which can be told through the tombs of people such as Seah Eu Chin."

Mr Jeffrey Seah, 55, a direct descendant of Seah Eu Chin,learnt about the discovery from his first cousin's wife in Australia, who is in touch with the Gohs.

Seah Eu Chin is his greatgreat-great-grandfather.

The director of the Security Industry Institute said: "Very few people know about them, and parts of our history don't go back to the early founders - the people who laid the foundation for Singapore, prior to Lim Yew Hock's and David Marshall's time. They should do something to conserve the site, it's a rare discovery."


A panel from the tombstone. -- ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

rachaelb@sph.com.sg

ST News
Sep 23, 2012

A grave discovery

News about graves to be exhumed at Bukit Brown sparked search for famous ancestor
By royston sim


(Back row, from left): Cousins Allan Chia, 51, Alvin Lee, 50, and Raphael Farid Jamaludin, 42, and (seated, from left) brothers Anthony Sng, 50, and Alphonsus, 46, at their ancestor Ann Siang’s final resting place across Malcolm Road. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN


A quest by finance manager Anthony Sng to unravel his family's ancestry culminated last week in the discovery of his great-great-grandfather Chia Ann Siang's tomb.

The final resting place of the wealthy land owner, after whom Ann Siang Hill in Chinatown is named, had been a mystery until now.

Yesterday, five of his descendants went into the forested area across from St Joseph's Institution to view the tomb for the first time and pay their respects. They made it just in time for the 120th anniversary of his death today.

It began with a conversation between Mr Sng, 50, and his mother, Madam Dorothy Chia, 81, in May. She told him their family had a very important relative buried in the Bukit Brown cemetery, but she could not recall who.

All she remembered was that her own mother used to take her there to pay their respects at a grave before World War II.

News that several thousand graves would make way for a road project cutting through Bukit Brown made her concerned about finding this lost relative.

That prompted Mr Sng to start piecing together a family tree of immediate and distant relatives.

He said: "For years, I've wanted to do a family tree to find out who my ancestors were. We needed to find out fast before exhumation took place, to have a last chance to pay our respects. The fact that it was someone important made it more urgent and interesting."

A cousin told his brother, shipping director Alphonsus, 46, that their family was related to Chia Ann Siang - and that they were his great-great-grandsons.

That sent Mr Sng trawling the Internet for more information about his ancestor. He also approached the National Archives of Singapore and combed through old newspapers to piece together he family tree.

He established the generations of family members that came after Ann Siang, and it was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, he said.

His research also helped him connect with distant relatives such as his cousin Alvin Lee, 50, a pastor based in Perth. Mr Lee is descended from Ann Siang's fourth son, while Mr Sng's roots go back to the third son.

Yet one crucial piece of information remained elusive - Ann Siang's final resting place.

Mr Sng said that in a family tree, several bits of information are needed to complete an entry - a person's full name, date of birth and, if they are dead, their date of death and burial place.

In a book titled One Hundred Years' History Of The Chinese In Singapore, he discovered that Ann Siang was buried in his own private burial ground adjoining the Hokkien cemetery in Bukit Timah Road.

With that clue, he began searching for information about the grave, but made no headway.

While sifting through an online newspaper archive, he found a 1977 notice which said the Public Works Department would exhume four graves belonging to the estate of Ann Siang.

"I thought his grave had been exhumed," Mr Sng said. But when he contacted several columbariums, none had records of Ann Siang's ashes being placed there.

Next, he wrote to the Ministry of National Development and was referred to the National Heritage Board. Early this month, the board told him that the private cemetery might be located within the perimeter of the Hokkien Huay Kuan burial ground near Whitley Road and Mount Pleasant.

With his brother Alphonsus, Mr Sng went to the cemetery the very next day, Sept 8, expecting to find four unexhumed graves.

"We got the shock of our lives when we saw at least 10,000 graves in that forested area. Some were located on the slopes, so we had to slide down to inspect them," he said.

They gave up looking after two hours.

While Mr Sng was having little success in his search, another group of friends was actively assisting with the search for his ancestor's tomb.

His cousin, the pastor Mr Lee, had approached cemetery guide Raymond Goh, 48, to help find the tomb. The pair had become acquainted during a heritage tour of Bukit Brown earlier this year.

Mr Goh, who began exploring the Bukit Brown burial grounds in 2006 out of an interest in Singapore history, has connected many families with graves of lost relatives.

He had already found the graves of two of Ann Siang's sons in Bukit Brown - eldest son Keng Beng and fourth son Keng Sian. Mr Goh and his brother Charles then pored over exhumation records, land notices and old maps to narrow the search.

The 1977 exhumation notice stated that the four graves were located on "Lot 93 -19 Mukim XVII".

After cross-referencing old maps, Mr Goh realised the land lot was located at the tennis courts of St Joseph's Institution. But when he checked another old map, he found a small square-shaped burial plot marked out in what is now a forested area across Malcolm Road from the school.

On Tuesday, the Goh brothers went into the forest and within an hour located a large grave.

The names of Ann Siang's four sons, three daughters and two grandsons were engraved on the tomb, which was erected in 1892 - the year he died. Other engravings stated that Ann Siang was a fifth-rank official of the Qing Dynasty.

The tomb explorers had found their man, some 12 weeks after Mr Sng first began searching.

Said Mr Goh: "I was shocked. I didn't expect to find anything. Even at the grave, I didn't see Ann Siang's name initially... He had his posthumous name inscribed."

Posthumous names were typically given to prominent people after their death, and have positive values ascribed to them.

The Goh brothers relayed the good news to Mr Sng, who informed his relatives.

Yesterday, five of Ann Siang's great-great-grandsons trekked through the forest to pay their respects at his grave, a day before the 120th anniversary of his death today.

Mr Lee arrived from Perth to join Mr Anthony Sng, Mr Alphonsus Sng and their cousins - lecturer Allan Chia, 51, and engineer Raphael Farid Jamaludin, 42. It was the first time Mr Jamaludin and Mr Lee had met their cousins.

Also with them were the Goh brothers and several other Bukit Brown enthusiasts.

Standing in front of the grave, Mr Sng said: "Just imagine, 120 years ago the children of Ann Siang were standing here. Today, we are here. It's a great honour."

At the start, he knew only 62 family members, from his grandfather's line. To date, he has found another 109 members in his family tree.

Said Mr Alphonsus Sng: "I hope this inspires other families to trace their own family heritage, and know the experiences and challenges their ancestors faced."

Three other graves have yet to be found within the private burial ground. They are thought to be the tombs of their ancestor's wife, his second son and his eldest daughter.

Mr Sng said he and his relatives will discuss what comes next, now that the tomb has been found.

The family has already engaged a tomb keeper to clean the graves of Ann Siang's two sons in Bukit Brown, and is likely to do the same here.

Said Mr Sng: "The general consensus is that the grave needs to be cleaned up, and maybe build an access route so other members can visit in the future."



ANN SIANG HILL NAMED AFTER WEALTHY PIONEER


Chia Ann Siang was a wealthy Malacca-born Hokkien sawmiller who became one of the leading merchants of his time.

There are two different records of his age. One states that he was born in 1834 and died at age 58, while a book by Song Ong Siang says Ann Siang was born in 1832.

He was one of merchant Chia Poh Eng's many sons.

At the age of 16, he joined British firm Boustead and Company, which traded in commodities such as natural resources, spices and silk.

After eight years on the job, he was promoted to chief produce storekeeper.

While at Boustead, he became a partner of the firm Geok Teat and Company in 1863. He retired in 1890 after 42 years in the company, during which he built up a fortune. He then went into the timber business.

At his death in 1892, Ann Siang was a wealthy man and a landowner on a large scale.

His legacy lives on at Ann Siang Hill, which has restored shophouses today.

The hill was originally named Scott's Hill after its owner Charles Scott, and then Gemmill's Hill when auctioneer John Gemmill took over the house.

When Ann Siang came along and bought part of the hill, it took on its present name, Ann Siang Hill.

roysim@sph.com.sg

World-archaeology.com
Issue 55, Blog, Singapore
Sep 21, 2012

Paying the price of progress
by Tom St John Gray Filed

Since independence from Malaysia in 1965, the Republic of Singapore has undergone a radical metamorphosis, emerging from kampongs and swamps to a glittering 21st-century city-state. It is one of the world’s richest countries, with over five million people packed into the small island, alongside skyscrapers, neon shopping malls, and luxury condominiums.

Over the years numerous heritage locations have been swallowed by the rapid urbanisation of Singapore. The next imminent casualty is Bukit Brown Cemetery, the largest Chinese cemetery outside China and home to over 100,000 graves. The Singaporean government intends to build an eight-lane highway through the heart of the site. Construction of the 2km-long road starts next year, heralding a wave of building that will eventually include a new train station and housing for 50,000 people.

A firestorm of protest has erupted from heritage activists and online communities, with the media dubbing the burgeoning crisis ‘the Battle for Bukit Brown’. As the last great historic cemetery in Singapore and final resting place of many pioneering immigrants who shaped the nation, the site is loaded with cultural significance. Named after a British merchant who arrived in the early 19th century, Bukit Brown was established as a public Chinese burial ground in 1922, and contains Qing dynasty tombs dating back to the 1830s.

Bukit Brown supports a rich ecosystem. Its 233ha of wooded hillocks are home to 25% of the country’s bird population, many species of which are endangered. Recent sightings of the extremely rare Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus) suggest the sprawling cemetery contains a hidden biodiversity yet to be fully appreciated.

Activist group ‘SOS Bukit Brown’ marked the recent National Day with a clear statement to the developers: ‘Bukit Brown has no equal in Singapore or the world. It is a dishonourable and short-sighted act to destroy Bukit Brown by building a highway through it.’ This view has been echoed by Member of Parliament Ms Irene Ng: ‘We should not rush to demolish what some may treasure as heritage sites – as once demolished, what is lost cannot be recovered’.

The fate of Bukit Brown is not uncommon – since the 1960s, Singapore has relied heavily on reclaiming land from the development of former cemeteries. As far back as 1865, British civil engineer John Turnbull Thomson wrote that ‘roads are recklessly carried right through the bones of the original native settlers, and crowded streets now traverse the sacred places where many of the Singapore primeval worthies are laid in their last homes.’

Scarcity of land is a constant challenge in Singapore, and planners claim the new highway will alleviate traffic congestion, projected to increase by as much as 30% by 2020. Minister of State for National Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, admits that ‘difficult decisions about land use have to be made, and sometimes, the development of places such as Bukit Brown is unavoidable. These decisions are not taken lightly.’ Leading by example is founding father of modern Singapore, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who has a grandfather and aunt interred at the cemetery. Defending the government’s heritage track record, Mr Tan also points out: ‘we have conserved more than 7,000 buildings and earmarked our oldest urban areas such as Kampong Glam, Little India, Chinatown, and Boat Quay for conservation. These are the things that many may take for granted as we pass them by.’

Campaigners have strongly refuted claims of land scarcity by pointing out 31 golf courses that dot the country, covering over 1,500ha and amounting to six times the size of Bukit Brown. Groups such as Nature Society (Singapore) have suggested alternative routes for the proposed highway to avoid destroying the historic gravesite. MP Ms Irene Ng argues: ‘space is always a constraint in Singapore. But it does not answer the question of why a road to cater to a group of motorists is given higher priority over what some others may value as a heritage site.’

The protests have led to some concessions being granted. A section of the road has been redesigned as a vehicular bridge, reducing the impact on flora and fauna. While unclaimed historic tombstones will be destroyed, the exhumation of the endangered graves has been delayed until next year, allowing more time for families to remove ancestral remains.

In an effort to balance the needs of both development and preservation, the Ministry for National Development has funded the documentation of the 3,746 graves marked for destruction. Dr Hui Yew-Foong, from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, has lead a team recording a wealth of new discoveries, including burials from immigrants hailing from China, Siam, Penang, and the Dutch East Indies. Dr Hui believes: ‘the material culture associated with the graves, such as stone reliefs imported from China and decorative ceramic tiles imported from England, shows how embedded Singapore was in the global economy of the early 20th century.’

Bukit Brown is more than just a collection of statues and tombstones. Campaigners fear that eviscerating the site will destroy one of Singapore’s last great cultural and ecological hotspots. Acting as a rare physical archive of a nation’s past, notes Dr Chua Ai Lin from the Singapore Heritage Society, ‘Bukit Brown is a treasure trove of personal stories that weave an intricate historical network of links between the overseas Chinese and the region.’

The backlash against development in Bukit Brown has triggered an influx of visitors, both young and old, which experts believe signals a turning point in how Singaporeans engage with the nation’s past. Dr Chua thinks: ‘it signals an era in which Singaporeans guard more jealously the sites, spaces and artefacts of their forefathers. The unrelenting waves of globalisation have made the search for authenticity more important, and this is something that has energised local heritage activism.’ As the construction date looms, the fight to preserve this unique historical and ecological haven is certain to intensify, as Singapore faces the irreparable loss of Bukit Brown for present and future generations.

http://www.world-archaeology.com/world/asia/singapore/paying-the-price-of-progress/

Asia One
Jul 13, 2012

Relatives claim about 1,000 Bukit Brown graves

1,005 graves in Bukit Brown have been claimed by relatives in the last four months, reported The Straits Times today.


This works out to be about a quarter of the 3,746 graves that will be exhumed to make way for an expressway.

Relatives will have until Dec 31 this year to claim the graves.

Between March, when the government announced that it would proceed with the plans for the highway, and the start of this month, 178 of those who have claimed the graves have opted for a private exhumation, reported the paper. So far, 93 of these have already been exhumed.

Most will be exhumed by a contractor hired by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), to be paid for by the government.

Dr Hui Yew-Foong, an anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, told ST that only about half of the graves are expected to be claimed, because of the cemetery's age of about 90 years.

Unclaimed remains will be cremated, with the ashes to be kept by the Government for three years, after which, the ashes will be scattered at sea.

ellenja@sph.com.sg

Entering the Tomb 入墓三分



Preface

Ever since the government announced development plans and construction of a 8 lane highway through Bukit Brown (Kopi Sua) in mid 2011, it has become a focal point for a young nation developing rapidly and conservation efforts aim to preserve a part of history.

 The debate has awakened many a citizens' consciousness of their roots, heritage and culture, and members of the public, civic groups and students all have come forward, to savour the last remaining historic cemetery, the largest of its kind outside China, before scheduled redevelopment takes place.

 As a municipal government burial ground, its size of 173 acres (total 392 acres if including surrounding cemeteries) is the burial place of the pioneers and builders of a nation. Although established in 1922, its has many graves dating
 to the Qing dynasty era, when other areas in Singapore were cleared for development and re-interned into this government cemetery.

 Each of the 100,000 tombs in Bukit Brown tells a story, and reflect various transition phases of an island over a period of nearly 200 years, and also reflect an unique Nanyang cultural, religious and heritage blend of straits born Peranakan and
 Chinese immigrants, encompassing a much greater history from a small little red dot than that thought possible.

 Despite this rich cultural heritage, little is written and much is yet unknown about Bukit Brown to the public, and in fact, no book has ever been published specifically about Bukit Brown.

 So I am pleasantly surprised that two Ngee Ann Polytechnic students 杨旸 and 吴悦神 from the Department of Chinese Studies have taken a big step forward to take into themselves to publish their research and experience in Bukit Brown into a book available for the public.

 As a breed of new immigrants coming from China, these young students ventured into the difficult hilly terrains of Bukit Brown cemetery, documenting interesting tombs and interviewing those people closely interwined with the fate of Bukit Brown, like the tombkeepers, descendants and tomb researchers. Coming from motherland China whereby most of the Bukit Brown residents originated from, armed with their good Chinese cultural background, they are able to share their experiences in Bukit Brown from an unique and interesting perspective, and give greater depth and their own analysis to the rich material culture of this cemetery.

 I hope that by reading this book, the readers would have a broader and deeper understanding of this cemetery,
 and why there is a call by civic groups for the government to reconsider their development plan. Just like 杨旸 and 吴悦神 have discovered for themselves, there are pleasant cultural and historical mysteries and surprises for those who take step into this cemetery.

 Those who have come and see for themselves can really understand the deeper layers extending beyond merely a tomb structure. For those who still have yet to step into Bukit Brown, this book serve as a first introduction to a rich cultural, heritage and natural site that may give way in future to an urban concrete jungle in land scarce Singapore.

 Raymond Goh
 5 Jul 2012

入墓三分 is written by Wu Xue Shen and Yang Yang and published by Ngee Ann Polytechnic - School of Humanities and Social Science 

Zaobao News,
Jul 02, 2012

   
两名来自中国的学生吴悦神(左)与杨旸,研究新加坡早期富商王三龙墓碑旁的雕刻以及其包含的意义。(苏俊勇摄) 


  苏俊勇 报道

  jysoh@sph.com.sg

  武吉布朗坟场的历史你知多少?对墓碑上的文字和雕刻,你又理解多少?

  义安理工学院中文系学生杨旸和吴悦神为毕业专题作业,出版一本关于武吉布朗坟场的书,从年轻人的视角认识这座历史悠久的坟场。

  论文集子取名《入墓三分》,除了介绍武吉布朗坟场、解读墓碑文字以及墓碑雕刻包含的意义,也记载他们这三个月来在坟场的所见所闻。

  据他们的分析,不同籍贯的人建造的墓碑有不一样的风格:福建人建造的墓碑上有较多雕刻,而潮州人建造的墓碑倾向于“欧米茄”(Omega)形状。

  两人是在得知武吉布朗坟场的一些坟墓即将被挖掘后,发现它有丰富的华族文化义涵,因此开始与指导老师讨论考察武吉布朗坟场的事项。之后,两人便开始数月的“坟场文化之旅”。

  吴悦神受访说:“当我们得知武吉布朗坟场即将拆除时,我们便打算以实际行动保存这些古墓的最后一刻,而那便是以文字和图片记载这些历史遗迹。”

  比较新中两地墓碑

  两名学生都来自中国,在新加坡已待了10年,因此他们也尝试把武吉布朗坟场内的墓碑与中国的墓碑做比较。在中国,墓碑旁不能有神兽,只有皇室才有这种权利,但新加坡的坟墓有神兽守护着墓碑。此外,武吉布朗坟场的墓碑也有很明显的南洋风格。

  《入墓三分》从撰写、排版,到出版种种事项都由他们亲力亲为。杨旸说,通过这项专题作业,他除了学会如何辨别和解读墓碑上的雕刻及文字,也学会如何进行宣传。

  武吉布朗坟场的地势高低不平,因此行走不方便,杨旸说:“如果下起雨来,路面更加溜滑,考察的过程就会比较危险。”

  义安工院中文系系主任兼高级讲师郑君心受访时说,这项计划的目的主要是弘扬华族和南洋文化,让年轻人能多了解他们的根源,同时让中文系同学将他们所学应用在实际的企划。

  《入墓三分》将于本月29日上午10时30分于中央公共图书馆举行新书发布会。除了推介新书,作者也将邀请“坟场达人”介绍武吉布朗坟场。

Zaobao News Jun 25
by 吴悦神

俗话说“百善孝为先”,而我认为“孝”作为华人的传统美德之一是每个人都应该具有 的一种品格。小时候,祖父祖母总爱讲“二十四孝”的故事给我们听,虽然当时并不了解故事背后的含义,但却会时不时地跑去给祖父祖母捶捶背捏捏腿。至于像 “卧冰求鲤”、“卖身葬父”、“弃官寻母”这些耳熟能详的典故至今仍记忆犹新。

  再次接触到“二十四孝”的故事是在今年的3月份。闹得沸沸扬扬的武吉布朗坟山,也就是俗称的“咖啡山”因受道路工程的影响而导致部分坟墓将要被迁移。因此决定,与另一位学者杨旸,在这些文化古迹流失前,去亲眼目睹一下这片早期华人所留下的历史古迹。

   走进坟山,我们便发现不少坟墓上有着雕工十分精致的雕刻,甚至还有不少罕见的深浮雕。在这些雕刻中,包括了不少当时流行的小说连环画,而“二十四孝图” 正是这些雕刻中最为常用的蓝本。通常这些雕刻会出现在一座坟墓的坟壁上,而这些具有“孝”意的雕刻,正是象征了儿孙们对逝去先祖的一片孝心。不过由于坟墓 尺寸的局限性,“二十四孝图”通常只会在一座墓出现几幅而已。但是,有一座坟墓竟然打破了这种局限性,因为它够“大”!

  王三龙老先生的 巨塚是武吉布朗坟山中最大的一座双人墓,足足有600平方米大,相当于10个三房式组屋单位的面积,并以一种唯我独尊的姿态立在咖啡山中最高的山坡上俯视 着其他坟墓。初次见到这座巨塚,除了被它那惊人的排场与气派深深震撼外,另一项发现也令我们振奋不已——“二十四孝全图”的立体深浮雕!

   我与杨旸在游访王老先生巨塚的过程中,发现坟墓的坟壁上雕有许多和其他坟墓类似的雕刻,只不过这些雕刻的数量要远胜于其他咖啡山内普通的坟墓。仔细观察 下发现,两侧的墓手上明显雕有数幅我们所熟知的“二十四孝”典故,但有些我们并不十分确定。我心里推测:会不会王老先生的坟墓刻有全幅的二十四孝雕刻呢?

  于是,在好奇心的驱使下,我们一幅一幅拍下了所有坟壁上的浮雕,回去一一查证。我们先是在网上搜集了大量关于“二十四孝”的资料,之后又借来了《新刊全相二十四孝诗选》以及《中国古代二十四孝全图》进行交叉对比并加以反复考证。

   结果我们发现果然不出所料,王老先生坟墓坟壁上的雕刻确实刻有全部“二十四孝”中的典故,分左右两边排放,一边12幅,这也印证了我们之前的推断。有人 说二十四孝的浮雕出现在坟墓上,体现出的其实是墓主的子孙对墓主所表现出的孝道,其中也略微带有稍许向他人“炫耀”的色彩。但我们觉得,这些雕刻其实体现 出的并不只是孝道而已,它们更包含了建坟者对其子孙的教育意义,以及对子孙日后也能够如此行孝的一种期望。

  王老先生的墓碑上不仅有二十四孝的浮雕,我们还发现这些雕刻上还有残留下来的彩色印迹。难道这些雕刻在完成之初是以彩色的姿态呈现出来的?又或者是后人为他们的先祖所上的色?这些我们暂时不得而知,仍需继续考察。

There is a Chinese saying 富不过三代 – that is riches or legacy does not pass 3 generations.
What it implies is that if the descendants does not treasure what the ancestors left behind,  usually the wealth will dissipate after a few generations.
It is also a reminder to the descendants to treasure, safeguard and if possible expand upon what the ancestors has left behind. Sometimes people will try to break
this saying by ensuring that fortune will pass down the generations, even pass the 3rd generation.
----
It was the year 1982.
An obituary notice was published in the Straits Times for a grand old lady who died at the age of 91. 
Few people at that time knew this lady was tied to the tides and fortunes of a prestigious family going back all the way a hundred years ago....a Pineapple King
Tan Tye came from Hokkien Tong Ann. Born in 1839, he came to Nanyang Singapore in 1860 when he was just 21 years old and in Singapore, he managed  to start the timber business, in addition
he had big rubber and pineapple plantations.
Tan Tye – the pineapple king
Pineapple is a suitable cash crop to be grown along side rubber, as rubber trees take 5 years to mature, whereas pineapples only 2 years to bear fruits.
Most plantation owners would plant pineapples besides rubber, making Singapore one of the major exporters of canned pineapples in the world.  Many Singapore pioneers
like Tan Kee Peck (Tan Kah Kee's father), Lim Nee Soon and Tan Tye made their fortunes through the pineapples industry at that time.
In fact Tan Tye was so well known for his canned pineapples, that people called him the Pineapple King.
He owned land near Clarke Quay and has a pineapple canning factory there.  He also donated land there to the government to build warehouses, hence today, there is a street Tan Tye Place near Clarke Quay named after him.
One of his famous brand of canned pineapples was the Istana Brand, which he managed together with his sons Lian Swee, Lian Boh and Lian Chye
Istana Brand Pineapples by Tan Tye & Sons (Pic source:  Occupation, Published by Hokkien Huay Kuan 2008)
Tan Tye with 2 of his sons Lian Boh and Lian Chye (Photo credit: Pat Lin)
In 1878, he was one of the 4 assistant directors of the Tan Si Chong Su Tan Clan temple.  Towards the end of the 19th century, he also donated funds to the Qing Government and was awarded a 4th ranking official title.
Hin Choon & Co, Preserved Pineapple Factory
35 Sumbawa Road (Victoria Road junction)
Pic source : Lee Kip Lin collection nl.sg
Hin Choon & Co was set up by Lian Boh and Lian Chye in 1906.  Tan Tye eldest son Lian Swee established Lian Choon at Stamford Road junction,
Lian Choon pineapples was also very famous.  Lian Chye also bought large pieces of land to cultivate rubber and pineapple, near Kranji and Jurong.
1900 – 1905 – pineapples in Boat Quay to be transported to canning factories
Pic source : a2o. com.sg
From ST : Tan Tye died in Singapore on Jul 22, 1898; his estate was a large one; the will was of somewhat complicated character, and he has, as so many gentlemen of Chinese race seem, particularly in the past, anxious to do tied up his property in such a way that the distribution is to be delayed until the last possible moment. He was twice married, and had children of both sexes by both wives; he also had a mistress by whom he had a child; and he also adopted certain sons; in addition to this he had brothers whose sons, his nephews, also benefitted under his will.
It was stated that the Tan Tye clogged the distribution of his property until the expiration of 21 years from the death of the survivor of such of his children and grandchildren and certain named nephews as should be living at testator's death.
The tomb of Tan Tye.  He was buried somewhere near Upper Pierce Reservoir
A close up of his tombstone reveals his 5 sons and 3 daughters.
Tomb of Tan Tye showing his 4th rank Qing Dynasty title and his children
His blood sons included Lian Swee,  Lian Boh and Lian Chye.
However, sometime before 1970s, his tomb was raided by tomb raiders.  The descendants then decided
to shift his remains to a smaller tomb near by.
The smaller tomb whereby Tan Tye's actual remains were kept.
On 20 Nov 1918, the mother of Lian Boh and Lian Chye died and was buried at Hokkien Huay Kuan near Bukit Brown Cemetery
On 30 Nov 1965,  2 of his daughters' graves nearby was affected by redevelopment, and the tombs were exhumed
and reinterred at Hokkien Huay Kuan Cemetery as well
One of the daughter of Tan Khin Neo, Chee Gim Geok, together with other administrators of the deceased, gave consent for the exhumation.
Soon, it was Tan Tye's turn to be exhumed.
An exhumation notice was published in The Straits Times, 31 May 1993, Page 26
EXHUMATION NOTICE THE GRAVE OF "TAN TYE"
3 days later, Tan Tye's trustee British and Malaya Trust (BMT)  became aware of the exhumation notice of the exhumation and immediately commenced legal action to prevent the exhumation
The case went all the way to the Court of Appeal, presided by CJ Yong Pung How but BMT lost the case in 1999 and Tan Tye's tomb was exhumed. BMT has lost the grave land that they were entrusted
to keep by Tan Tye through an unfortunate string of events pertaining to sale and resale of the plot of land one part of which contained Tan Tye's grave.
Tan Tye grave was original situated in a lot of approx 4 acres of land and the surrounding land including this grave land in 1971 was to be sold and the grave land resold and conveyed back to
BMT.  The land was soon resold again and involved more parties including a bank and BMT, the trustee never got back the grave land.
----------------
Back to Tan Tye's will.  At the time of Tan Tye's death, there was a young girl who was his granddaughter named Chee Gim Geok.   She was the administrator who exhumed her mother grave
Tan Khin Neo in 1965.  She was the youngest grandchild of Tan Tye's will.
As Tan Tye has stated that his property can only be divided 21 years after the death of the last surviving grandchildren, so when Chee Gim Geok died in 1982,  Tan Tye's vast property
can only be divided in 2003.
And the property can only be divided among his male descendants, but not to adopted sons nor women folk.
More than 50 people laid claim to his property in 2003,  but in 2004 May 21, , the high court decided that only 16 of his descendants qualify,  these 16 have descended from his
3 blood sons.  At that time, his property was worth some $70 million, and each descendant could get around 4 million dollars.
Two of Tan Tye's sons Tan Lian Boh and Tan Lian Chye are currently buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery.
Tomb of Tan Lian Boh – LTA Stake No 1872.  Tan Lian Boh's tomb was exhumed recently in
preparation for LTA highway project cutting across Bukit Brown.
Tan Lian Boh is also the founder of Xiao Tao Yuan (Little Peach Garden), an entertainment club whereby intellectuals would gather and discuss about political and other issues.
According to a local researcher Walter Lim (http://bukitbrowntomb.blogspot.sg/), 
Tan Lian Chye and Teo Eng Hock once wrote to the British Consul in Shanghai to help rescue Zhang Tai Yan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Binglin)
and Zou Rong (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zou_Rong) in the 1903 Subao case which shocked the world, writing under the auspices of this club Xiao Tao Yuan.
The Subao case marks the moment in Chinese history when the radicals who called for the end of dynastic governance and the creation of a democracy split
from the reformers who sought creation of a constitutional monarchy and was also a turning point in China's constitutional order, helping to publicize and popularize the cause of constitutional change
As for Tan Lian Chye (also known as Tan Chor Nam),  his tomb still remains at Bukit Brown.
Tan Lian Chye was one of the pioneers of the local branch of Tong Meng Hui, which helped Sun Yat Sen to overthrow the Qing Government
Pic of Tan Lian Chye sitting next to Sun Yat Sen
Tan Lian Chye, his mother and his two sisters' tomb nearby may be affected by later development slated for Bukit Brown and its surrounding area.
Tan Tye has a vision, to let his legacy survive beyond 3 generations so much so that he left an unusual will.
The tombs of Bukit Brown tell the story of many Singaporeans who helped to build up Singapore and some even play great roles beyond the little red dot of Singapore.
Let the legacy enshrined in Bukit Brown remain in times to come


Zaobao News Jun 16, 2012
by 柯木林


建立名人陵园或先贤陵园,说难亦易,说易亦难,必须各方面的协调合作,始有可成。其中后裔的态度,至关重要。建立名人陵园毕竟涉及后裔的家事,若有异议,恐难成事。


  拜读林清如先生6月9日在《联合早报·周末论谈》发表的大作《深藏武吉布朗的秘密》后,即刻致电作者。因其文中谈到新加坡福建帮开山鼻祖薛佛记 (1793-1847),是我感兴趣的课题;而该文结束时又提及我先前所倡议的“名人陵园”的构思,觉得有必要再作一文阐述之。
  今年3月21日在回应《联合早报》的提问,谈及如何处理受修路工程影响的名人墓地时,我曾建议:“把有历史和文化意义的坟墓,例如薛中华、邱菽园等人 的坟墓集中搬迁到一个先贤陵园……(由于)武吉布朗会分阶段发展,一些地段最终可能不受影响,可以在那里建立先贤陵园,方便人们凭吊。”
  薛中华的墓地在武吉布朗坟山,编号1919,是受修路工程影响的名人墓地之一。另一个受影响的名人是邱菽园,编号2536。今年初,在一个细雨纷飞的早上,我特地前往凭吊此二人之墓地,但见杂草萋萋,显然已经有一段时间没有人修整。
  薛中华(1886-1940)、邱菽园(1874-1941)是同时代的人。邱菽园比薛中华大12岁,可惜薛中华并不长寿,早邱菽园一年辞世,享年54岁,他们两人有亲戚关系。薛中华的妻子邱杏娘(Khoo Heng Neo)是邱正忠的三女儿,而邱菽园乃邱正忠之子。根据武吉布朗墓地登录簿(Burial Registers of Bukit Brown Cemetery, May 1947-Nov 1972)的资料,邱杏娘卒于1963年8月10日,终年80岁。按辈份看,她是邱菽园的妹妹,也就是说薛中华为邱菽园妹婿。邱菽园是星洲才子,在新加坡文坛颇负盛名;薛中华则是华社领袖,声誉甚隆,都是当年响当当的人物。
  薛中华是商人,邱菽园是文人,他们来自不同的领域,但对新加坡社会的贡献是一样的:一个在经济层面上,一个在文化层面上。薛中华生前住在巴慕乐路(Balmoral Road)23号的豪宅,邱菽园住安珀路(Amber Road)42号的“东滨小阁”,两处并不毗邻。但百年之后都安息在武吉布朗山,并且同样受迁坟的影响,或许是他们生前所始料不及的吧!
  薛中华也是新加坡福建帮开山鼻祖薛佛记的曾孙。一百年来,薛氏家族对新加坡社会的贡献,不容忽视。我有一专文论述薛氏家族的贡献,这里不再重复(此文 收录在柯木林著《石叻史记》,新加坡:青年书局出版,2007年8月第一次版,页65-73)。薛中华有生之年曾将其家族史汇辑编成《东山薛氏家谱》,此 家谱由其幼女薛彩凤(Lucy Chen)保管。1963年,陈蒙鹤撰写其硕士论文《新加坡早期的华文报(1881-1912)》(The Early Chinese Newspapers of Singapore 1881-1912)时,就曾利用这部家谱的资料。1972年,东南亚史学界泰斗陈育崧也是利用此家谱资料,正式肯定薛佛记在新华社会史上的地位。
  《东山薛氏家谱》的内容给我印象最为深刻的是薛有福(1862-1884),他是薛中华的叔叔,新加坡乃至全东南亚第一家华文日报《叻报》创办人薛有 礼(1851-1906)的弟弟。这部家谱详细记录了薛有福的生平事迹。这位受英文教育的峇峇,为清朝第三批幼童赴美官费留学生之一。从美国留学回来后, 又到福州船政学堂学习,之后在福建海军服务,1884年于中法马江之役殉国,年仅23岁。薛有福是此次海战中殉国的唯一本地清朝海军军官,他短暂的一生很 具亮点,值得一书。
  一百多年后的今天,在福州马尾昭忠路,我们还可以看到当年奉旨建造的昭忠祠,祠中的石碑上镌刻着在此次中法海战中阵亡的736名官兵的名字,其中就有:“扬武”舰留美回国练生六品军功薛有福的刻字,永垂青史。

左秉隆创始“星洲”一词

  新加坡的另一称号星洲,虽非邱菽园原创,但通过他的推广,“星洲”一词才广为人知。根据新马历史学者李业霖的考证:中国清朝驻新加坡领事左秉隆是“星 洲”一词的创始者。左秉隆在驻新加坡任内曾游廖内岛,归程时上午登船,一路帆开逐流,归来已是入夜时分,他看到新加坡海面上,渔火点点,于是赋诗纪游,其 中有“乘兴不知行远近,又看渔火照星洲”之句,称新加坡为星洲(见左秉隆著《勤勉堂诗钞》卷四,页110,〈游廖埠〉)。
  左秉隆赋诗时1887年,比邱菽园办《天南新报》早11年。不过,邱菽园在1898年创办《天南新报》后,便屡用“星洲”一词作为新加坡的别称。如果 说左秉隆是“星洲”一词的创始者,邱菽园却是将“星洲”推广应用,可说是发扬光大者。邱菽园也是当年保皇派的中坚分子,戌戍政变后,康有为南来新加坡避 难,邱菽园就曾在经济上援助过他。
  林清如在文章结尾时沉重地指出:“名人陵园的构思,是实际可行的建议,社会上下却置若罔闻。保留古迹,保留历史,谁有责任?”
  事实上,建立名人陵园或先贤陵园,说难亦易,说易亦难,必须各方面的协调合作,始有可成。其中后裔的态度,至关重要。建立名人陵园毕竟涉及后裔的家 事,若有异议,恐难成事。从另一方面耒说,倘若后裔们的态度主动积极,会有更好的效果。名人后裔可与民间组织及官方机构配合,共商此事。
  当然如薛中华、邱菽园等,他们的精神与曾经的贡献,也应视为国家的财富与文化遗产。以薛中华和邱菽园而言,薛中华上世纪20年代曾任新加坡福建会馆、 中华总商会会长等职;邱菽园一度任漳州十属会馆(即今漳州总会)座办。这些在薛中华、邱菽园有生之年的相关机构,亦可以牵头与古迹保存局互动,为创建名人 陵园的工程努力!

 Zaobao News  Jun 9
by 林清如

  武吉布朗的开路计划看来势在必行,有关方面已在3月19日明确表示,没有洽商的余地。
  又有哪些先人需要“为国捐躯”呢?根据报载,受影响的包括了早期社会闻人邱菽园与薛中华的墓地。邱菽园是报界先驱,大家懂得的事较多。本文只谈薛中 华,他有鲜为人知的故事,更有不平凡的后代。网上相传武吉布朗有个二号山,也称中华山,很多薛家先辈都葬在这里。除了薛中华自己的坟墓外,受道路工程影响 的包括他的两个弟弟(薛中朝和薛中乐)、弟媳妇及他们的母亲(薛有文妻)等十二人的墓地。

比陈嘉庚更早的福建帮首领

  薛中华原籍福建厦门,于1885年出世于马六甲的一个显赫土生华人世家。他是新马福建帮的开山始祖薛福记曾孙,《叻报》创办人薛有礼的侄儿。
  6岁那年,薛中华从马六甲来新加坡圣约瑟书院读书,1901年受雇汇丰银行,后被擢升为买办。1912年即活跃于中华总商会,后被委为市议员、太平局 绅。薛中华与陈嘉庚等人同时是怡和轩会员,但是他的主要影响力是在福建会馆,连任福建会馆与天福宫主席多年,比起陈嘉庚,他可说是更早的福建帮首领。当时 陈嘉庚与林推迁坐镇怡和轩与同济医院,经常与薛中华的人马,为争夺中华总商会地盘而公然出招。
  笔者与薛中华的一位外孙女陈宗孟医生相识多年,她正是笔者挚友林福寿医生的贤内助。今年4月12日笔者与怡和轩同仁前去造访,陈宗孟内心深处是个鲜为人知的“大江大海”,一向行事低调,几经细心推敲,她才平静地吐露些许往事。
  薛中华家族与怡和轩先贤姻缘不浅。他的一名姑姑(薛有文之妹),是曾为新加坡解决水供短缺问题而出名的富商陈金声的媳妇(陈明水妻),这名姑姑也就是怡和轩创办人之一陈若锦的母亲。薛中华的幼子薛梦熊,则娶另一位怡和轩先贤林义顺的长女林积玉为妻。
  薛中华的幼女薛彩凤(Lucy Chen Nee See),正是陈宗孟的母亲。薛彩凤到英国学法律,认识了来念工程的河北青年陈序。陈序的父亲陈调元原为北洋军阀、后投国民革命军,先后出任第37军军长、山东省省长、蒋介石剿共预备军总司令。相传洪晃之母章含之,即是陈调元另外一位儿子陈度的私生女。
  薛彩凤是新马史上第一位在英国获得律师资格、并成为英国律师公会会员的女性。毕业后与陈序结婚,随他回南京,结果让她在伦敦的学妹张舜琴(张永福长 女)先回来新加坡,成了进入海峡殖民地律师公会的第一位女性。陈宗孟笑着说,回南京后,陈序服务于中国铁道局,薛彩凤忙着入乡随俗,在一个重视礼教的中国 人家庭学做人家的媳妇。
  1932年陈宗孟诞生于南京,她的两个弟弟也先后出世。1937年日军全面入侵中国,爷爷陈调元力劝媳妇薛彩凤带陈宗孟姐弟回新加坡避难,与外公薛中华同住在巴慕乐路(Balmoral Road)23号的薛家豪宅。陈宗孟说,这是她第一次见到外公薛中华。那时她5岁,进入武吉知马的南洋女子小学读一年级。
  中日战争爆发后没几年,国民政府被迫迁都重庆,爷爷陈调元与父亲陈序跟着去。为突破日军的封锁,国民军开辟了滇缅公路,陈序是筑路的工程师之一。预知 日军会直下南洋,陈序过后安排把妻子与儿女一家人接到重庆。陈宗孟记得,大约是1942年前后,他们从槟城坐船到仰光,辗转跋涉滇缅公路进入昆明,最后到 了重庆。
  二战结束,一家人回到南京。1949年中共建政,父亲陈序随国民党去台湾。妈妈带姐弟四人先去香港,再与两个小的弟弟回新加坡,开始执业当律师,曾在 马绍尔律师馆任职。陈宗孟和一个弟弟则留香港升学。陈宗孟读完高中,进入香港大学读医科,1957年毕业后,在香港实习一年,1958年回新加坡的中央医 院工作。
  陈宗孟说,外公薛中华是糖尿病患者,新加坡沦陷前就逝世了,过后外婆把巴慕乐路的寓所卖给一所中学校,现在已被发展为一座豪华公寓。不过附近的有文路(Ewe Boon Road),就是以曾外祖父薛有文的名字命名的。她笑着说,有一回一位表妹碰巧驾车路经有文路时与人争吵,对方怒汹汹问道:“你以为这是你祖母的路吗?(Do you think this is your grandmother’s road?)”表妹迅速给她“纠正”:“不对,是我曾祖父的路啊!”我们听了,哈哈大笑。

大时代女性的楷模

  陈宗孟在中央医院工作,认识了林福寿医生,对他那无私的专业精神、温文尔雅的君子风度、幽默的谈吐、崇高的人生理念留下深刻印象。陈宗孟端庄高贵,扎实的双文化内涵,虽然出身名门,但在战乱中长大,更显得气质非凡。两人彼此倾慕,是意料中的事。
  林福寿原是人民行动党建党党员,后来与林清祥等人集体退党,另组社会主义阵线。那天访谈时,林福寿说,1961年10月的某一天,他叫了12位好友(林清祥、兀哈尔、布都惹里、傅树介(陈嘉庚外孙)、方水双等人)到他在甘贝尔巷(Campbell Lane)的住家“开会”,与会者到齐后才知道,原来那是他们两人(林福寿与陈宗孟)宣布结婚的“会议”!1962年,他们唯一的孩子诞生了。
  1963年2月,林福寿在“冷藏行动”下被拘留,将近20年(1982年)后才获得释放。新婚夫妻长期被拆散,陈宗孟辛酸诉不尽、心灵创伤终生难愈。 不过不管地老天荒,她坚守承诺、风雨不改地定时去探监,给丈夫精神上的支持。她自力更生,把儿子抚养长大,同时致力于自己的专业,成为著名的胃脏专科医 生。令人肃然起敬的陈宗孟,堪称大时代女性的楷模。
  陈宗孟说,她们夫妇曾经到台湾探访年老的父亲陈序,母亲则在2002年去世。夫妇俩也多次与姨妈那边的亲戚,一道去武吉布朗扫外公的墓。近年来夫妇俩年迈体弱,没再去了。最近曾和表兄弟、表姐妹谈到外公墓地将被挖掘的事,大家都感到无奈。
  “外公尸骸即将化为灰烬,有何感受?”陈宗孟淡淡回答:“新加坡历史深印着外公的足迹,他更是福建帮早期领袖,要把他的古迹烧尽丢尽,应该是件大事,国家与社会却无动于衷,我们做后代的能做什么!”
  武吉布朗好风水,薛中华才有不平凡的后代。薛中华即将长眠不再,瞬间就会随同记忆一起蒸发。历史学者柯木林曾有建个名人陵园的构思,是个实际可行的建议,社会上下却置若罔闻。保留古迹、保留历史,谁有责任?

Torque
May 31, 2012

More than a Grave Situation
Singapore’s Bukit Brown saga reveals serious potholes in planning and public relations

By: Christopher Tan


The Bukit Brown “problem” is yet another classic case of opposing needs that cities the world over grapple with every now and then – of urbanism versus environmentalism, of progress versus heritage, of mobility versus liveability.

That is not the real controversy, though, because such a struggle is to be expected in any modern metropolis populated with people who have diverse views and priorities. To me, the most startling thing about the whole Bukit Brown affair pertains to poor planning and even poorer communication with the public.

The Government had conceptualised Lornie Road as a crucial link of the Outer Ring Road system way back in the 1990s. It has spent more than $400 million so far on a series of overpasses and underpasses to connect arterial roads from Tampines to Queensway, forming an unbroken “circle” just outside the city centre. With hardly any traffic lights along the way, this ring allows motorists to bypass the congested (and ERP-priced) city area without going onto any expressway (which is often priced, too).

One of the last pieces of the Outer Ring Road jigsaw is the Lornie Viaduct. Construction started in 2004, and the $34 million project was completed in 2008. As soon as it opened, congestion in Lornie Road worsened. The LTA’s traffic engineers should have seen this coming. A viaduct increases flow rate, allowing more vehicles to ply into Lornie than before.

Soon afterwards, the authorities widened Lornie Road. This was finished in 2009. Just two years later, the Bukit Brown road project was announced.

The planners had more than a decade to determine the configuration of the Outer Ring Road system. And when the Lornie viaduct was being constructed, they had another four years to fine-tune what should be done to ensure a road system that would at least be able to cope with demand for the next 10 years.

If a road through Bukit Brown was deemed necessary, it should have been built back when the Lornie overpass was being erected. If Lornie Road needed to be widened significantly, the authorities could also have got on with the job when the viaduct was planned. It might have had to make the difficult decision to acquire a row of bungalows along Lornie, but the Government has never shied away from tough decisions –  certainly not when property acquisitions are concerned.

Or alternatively, they could have extended the Lornie flyover to span the entire length of Lornie Road. This would have created a two-tier road that should be able to handle future demand.

But from how things panned out (as described above), this was not to be. Instead, we have witnessed a series of patchwork projects. To make things worse, the Government says Lornie Road will be downsized to a dual two-lane road after the Bukit Brown project is up in 2016. It is now three-lane in one direction and four-lane in the other. In defence, it says the widening of Lornie was an “interim measure”.

Spending tens of millions to widen a road, only to downsize it in seven years is haphazard planning at best, and an irresponsible use of tax dollars at worst. The money spent is one thing. What about the invisible costs in the form of traffic disruptions, noise and dust that motorists and residents nearby had to endure from 2004 (when the construction of the viaduct started)?

The second shortcoming of the Bukit Brown saga is poor communication. When the four-lane dual carriageway that cuts through the cemetery was announced in September 2011, nary a word was said about why it was necessary and why the alignment chosen was best. It was only after various civil groups kicked up a fuss that efforts were made to communicate and “engage”.

The No. 1 rule about engaging the public is timeliness. You don’t engage them after the fact. And engagement starts with effective explanation. For instance, people have to understand why the Bukit Brown road has to be built now, when the site is not due for redevelopment until some time in 2050. Or why building a second deck along the entire stretch of Lornie Road is not feasible. (Traffic disruptions during construction was cited as one main reason, but as one industry watcher put it, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs”.) Or why the planned Thomson MRT Line will not be sufficient in crimping road demand along that corridor.

These clarifications have to be communicated early, and not after people have been worked up. Otherwise, the effort – however sincere – can be counter-productive.

To be sure, there will be more Bukit Brown-like challenges ahead. Singapore will do well to recognise that, and embrace the need for proper planning and positive dialogue.


http://www.stcars.sg/guides-articles/road-essentials/more-than-a-grave-situation/a/97664



UNITED NATIONS
OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

SPECIAL PROCEDURES OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL



Mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

REFERENCE: AL Cultural rights (2009) SGP 2/2012

Excellency,

29 May 2012



I have the honour to address you in my capacity as Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 19/6.

I would like to draw the attention of your Excellency’s Government to information I have received regarding the planned building of an eight-lane highway through the Bukit Brown Cemetery, which is described as a remarkable space of natural, cultural and historical value.

According to the information received, the Bukit Brown Cemetery is the largest Chinese cemetery outside China with approximately 100,000 graves. The remarkable natural, cultural and historical value of the Cemetery lies, in particular, in the uniqueness of the designs of the tombs, the artistic embellishment and fengshui orientation of the gravestones as well as the information found on the gravestones such as the origin of the deceased, their family relations including women, and personal epigraphs. It is reported that the Bukit Brown Cemetery, which is unique to the region, enables people to trace their family trees by providing otherwise unavailable information, to learn about their past including the history of Singapore and its regional linkages, thus contributing to building a sense of identity and belonging to the region; it also provides a valuable database for researchers and scholars. The value of the Bukit Brown is reflected in the living practices of people who continue to pay their respects to their ancestors in the form of ceremonial rites, offerings, as well as in highly personalized ways in continuity of living cultural practices. The Bukit Brown is also described as an important recreational and leisure space, with a unique combination of nature and heritage.

It is reported that in September 2011, the Government of Singapore announced the construction of a new eight-lane road through the Bukit Brown Cemetery to relieve traffic congestion, and that, in line with long term plans of the authorities, the Bukit Brown area will be developed for housing in the future. It is estimated that the new road will affect about 5 per cent of the graves (5000 graves). Reportedly, exhumation of affected graves is planned for the last quarter of 2012, and the construction of the new road should start in early 2013. It was also brought to my attention that the Governmental authorities have announced that, in order to preserve the heritage of the Bukit Brown Cemetery, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Land Transport Authority will work with the Singapore Heritage Society and other stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements of the Cemetery.



According to the information received, the decision taken by the Government to build the road was not preceded by a meaningful consultation process, in particular with civil society organizations and experts working on cultural heritage as well as environmental issues. Reportedly, some meetings were held only two weeks before the decision was announced, and were mainly aimed at informing civil society organizations about the rationale behind the decision and at managing public opinion. While recognizing that Singapore cannot continue to grow as a country and as a society without future building and infrastructure projects, opponents to the governmental decision propose that alternative options be considered. They also underline that the housing project is to be established in about 30 years, making it premature to install existing infrastructure into the area, as this would in effect pre-empt future choices.

Excellency, while I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of the reports received, I would like to recall that, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community.

I would also like to draw your Excellency’s Government to my report on the right of access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage, submitted in 2011 to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/17/38). In this report, I stressed the significance of accessing and enjoying cultural heritage by individuals and communities as part of their collective identity and development processes. I underscored that the right to participate in cultural life implies that individuals and communities have access to and enjoy cultural heritages that are meaningful to them, and that their freedom to continuously (re)create cultural heritage and transmit it to future generations should be protected. I underlined that States, in particular, have the duty not to destroy, damage or alter cultural heritage, at least not without the free, prior and informed consent of concerned communities (recommendation b). In addition, concerned communities and relevant individuals should be consulted and invited to actively participate in the whole process of identification, selection, classification, interpretation, preservation/safeguard, stewardship and development of cultural heritage (recommendation c). I encouraged States to develop cultural heritage mapping processes within their territory and to utilize cultural impact assessments in the planning and implementation of development projects, in full cooperation with concerned communities (recommendation e). I also underscored that States should make available effective remedies, including judicial remedies, to concerned individuals and communities who feel that their cultural heritage is either not fully respected and protected, or that their right of access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage is being infringed upon (recommendation l).

It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Human Rights Council to identify possible obstacles to the promotion and protection of cultural rights and to work in cooperation with States in order to foster the adoption of measures aimed at the promotion and protection of cultural rights.

Since I am expected to report on these issues to the Human Rights Council, I would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters:

1.Are the facts alleged in the above summary accurate?
2.Have complaints been lodged to challenge the decision of the Government to build the road, and with what results?
3.Have the Governmental authorities made a cultural impact assessment of its plan to build an eight-lane road through the Bukit Brown Cemetery, and with what results? Was such assessment made in full cooperation with concerned communities, including in particular civil society organizations and experts working on environmental and heritage issues, and in the case not, why not?
4.Have the Governmental authorities examined possible alternatives?
5.Can you please provide more details on the plan of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and of the Land Transport Authority to work with the Singapore Heritage Society and other stakeholders to identify and document key heritage elements of the Cemetery?

I would appreciate a response within sixty days. Your Excellency’s Government’s response will be made available in a report to the Human Rights Council for its consideration.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Farida Shaheed
Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

May 18, 2012

http://vimeo.com/42383883

This is the trailer for a short independently-made documentary, BUKIT BROWN VOICES. The film tells the story of Singapore's oldest Chinese cemetery on the cusp of major change.

During what is the last Qing Ming (grave sweeping) festival for some families whose ancestors are buried at Bukit Brown, we hear their thoughts and memories about what the place and the customs they practise mean to them.

A Film by Su-Mae Khoo & Brian McDairmant
twochiefs.com
facebook.com/TwoChiefs


http://twochiefs.com/bukitbrownvoices


ST 12 May 2012

MY THOUGHTS

One idea for preserving Bukit Brown heritage
By Alicia Ang

I HAD always wanted to design a columbarium.

In a country like Singapore where land is scarce, burial needs have evolved from cemeteries to columbaria. Inevitably, current facilities will run out of space and demand for well-designed columbaria will increase.

The recent brouhaha over the development of Bukit Brown cemetery inspired my final-year project.
Four months of project work - and visits to the cemetery - resulted in Bukit Brown Memoirs. My concept revolved around the idea of preserving the graves and designing a heritage centre-cum-columbarium to support the heritage and history represented by the graves in Bukit Brown.
For Bukit Brown was not what I had expected a cemetery to be: eerie and grim. Instead, it was filled with greenery that provided serenity. Walking down the concrete pavement and meandering through grass to get to tombstones, I found Bukit Brown filled with gems waiting to be discovered.
The intricate carvings found in Peranakan and Chinese culture are apparent on some tombstones; Sikh guards and Chinese sculptures are found on others. Each tombstone has its own character and story to tell. To completely demolish these would be a loss.

My hope is that Bukit Brown Memoirs would help Singaporeans preserve a piece of our heritage by collating and documenting information.

The chosen site is a vacant Command House located at 1 Fairy Point Hill, on the east side of Singapore, away from the city. The building is isolated on top of the hill, surrounded by lush greenery. It faces the Johor straits.

The peaceful environment creates an ideal location for a columbarium that aligns to the environment currently present in Bukit Brown. Here, I attempted to pay homage to the famous and the ordinary by symbolically honouring them as Singapore's pioneers.
The proposed spaces feature galleries to exhibit preserved artefacts, photography works, documented works, exhumed graves, and a miniature Bukit Brown cemetery model for one to see how it once was. LED screens will feature digital images and historical short film footages from the past.

My concept was inspired by the layers of history buried with Singapore's pioneers in the cemetery. The concept of layers is further enhanced with the play of artificial and natural lighting denoting the importance of the space.

The hardest part of the project was to create a sense of spirituality in the space, to evoke the emptiness that is prevalent with the loss of a dear one and a piece of history.
I was able to achieve the desired effect by playing with different volumetric expressions and natural elements such as light and water.

The achromatic colour scheme focuses on the different shades of warm grey to create a sombre mood, yet at the same time invites visitors to pay their respects to our pioneers.
Putting Bukit Brown Memoirs together has helped me learn how our forefathers built Singapore, and that we should give them due respect.

The project was a sensitive attempt to resolve the Bukit Brown issue close to Singaporeans' hearts.
The writer, 19, recently graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in interior architecture and design.

A malay metaphor tak kenal maka tak sayang (not knowing without loving it)
describes well a person who cannot understand or appreciate dondang sayang - he probably
does not know anything about it.

What actually is dondang sayang?

It is a form of traditional singing popularised in Malacca in the early  19th century, particularly among the Baba Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese)

The word dondang means singing, and sayang is love. Taken in its Malay context, dondang sayang is mengulit kasih (lullaby)

One significant characteristic of dondang sayang is that it must be sung in the form of pantun (quatrains or old fashioned 4 verse poems) to ensure its entertaining effect.

It is claimed that the pantun in dondang sayang depicts the courtesy, fine thoughts and emotions of the Malay.

According to Malay historical records, dondang sayang was originally a song in itself with its own melody and rhythm. It was introduced in the 12th century by Princess Wan Benai of BIntan in the Riau islands.

During the reign of the Malay Sultanate in 1377, dondang sayang was brought by the womenfolk who migrated to
Malacca where it was immediately embraced by the people there.

In later years, it was refined with the introduction of music to accompany the singing. The musical instruments then consisted of a rebab, rebana and tendawak, all are different types of Malay drums.

The Portuguese rule in Malacca in 1511 added the violin and later, the accordion, both Western musical instruments to the list.

Because of its past history, dondang sayang has Chinese, Persian, Portuguese and Middle East influences.

The development of dondang sayang went into a serious phase in 1870 with a version embracing the Malays, Baba Peranakan and the Indian Chettiars in Malacca. It was mainly performed at weddings and other native festivals.

In Singapore one of the most active dondang sayang groups is the Persatuan Gunong Sayang established by a group of Baba Peranakan in 1910 at Ceylon Road, Katong.

Prime movers of the group include Mr Boon Kim Yew, 67, William Tan 60. The late Gwee Peng Kwee was also a prime mover of this group.

extracted from ST 7 Jun 1988, pg 7


WilliamTan
William Tan who plays a nonya Alice Wee in the play Tidak Berdosa
ST file picture


PersatuanGunongSayang
ST File picture

Prominent members of the Association include Koh Hoon Teck, a well-known dondang sayang singer and a founding member of the Association in 1910.

As a pantun expert, it had been one of Koh's wishes that dondang sayang should be sung at his funeral. Upon his death in 1956, his family members and close friends accordingly arranged for a “pantun party” at his gravesite in Bukit Brown cemetery.

  

KohHoonTecktombpantun

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOjtPMJWsJQ

Kalau pergi rumah Che Nona,
Petik kan saya se-biji delima,
Dunia bukan kita punya,
Asal manusia pulang ke-tanah.

English Translation
If you go to Nona's house,
Do get for me a pomegranate,
This world is not ours forever,
From earth we came to earth we return.

G T Lye,  a nephew of Koh Hoon Teck, and son of Gwee Peng Kwee,  recited the same pantun that was said when Koh Hoon Teck died in 1956, and recounted stories of the Koh Hoon Teck's death and social circles.

The following pantun appeared in Vol 1, pg 42-43 of Koh Hoon Teck’s book, Panton Dondang Sayang Baba Baba Pranakan

Brapa tinggi pokok pisang
Tinggi lagi asapan api
Brapa tinggi gunong Laydang
Tinggi lagi harapan hati

No matter how high the banana plant is
Smoke is even higher
No matter how high Mt Ledang is
My hope is even higher

-------------------------
  


BeritanHarian11May1980
Gwee Peng Kwee
Berita Harian file picture, 11 May 1980

Gwee Peng Kwee was born on 24 Aug 1901 in New Bridge Road.
His father Gwee Eng Chuan, has 4 sons and 2 daughters. Peng Kwee was the eldest

His father Gwee Eng Chuan, passed away in 1914 when he was 42, leaving behind a widow Song Chwee Neo.

When Eng Chuan died, Chwee Neo got a gratutity of $2000 to raise a family of 6 children.

His uncle Koh Hoon Teck took them to live in Chin Swee Road.  It was then that Gwee Peng Swee was first exposed to Dondang Sayang.

In 1915, Gwee left school and start to work with his relative in the rubber store.

As for Song Chwee Neo, she would go to relatives' houses and try to sell a few things, dresses and other things.
She was able to supplement the family budget in this way.

In 1922, Gwee Peng Kwee joined a Literary Club. Classes were conducted by Song Ong Siang, and it was from Song Ong Siang that he learnt a lot of English under him.

Gwee was to get married in 1927.

 

Mr. Gwee Peng Kwee (centre right) and his Peranakan or Straits Chinese bride (centre left), both dressed in traditional Qing dynasty style (1644-1911) first-day wedding robes, flanked by a young flower girl and a young pageboy at 27 Cuppage Road on 15 January 1927. Taken from book Communities of Singapore : a catalogue of oral history interviews., page 55-1

Gwee Peng Kwee only staying in Koh Hoon Teck’s house in Chin Swee Road for 1 year before moving elsewhere.

In 1940, they moved to Carpmael Road in 1940. One evening after his dinner in 1941, he was taking a walk and started to hear music. Yes it was Dondang Sayang, and a song he liked very much.
And then he met his uncle Koh Hoon Teck in the Club.

From there, he learnt from the pantun master Koh Hoon Teck, and soon became recognised as an expert himself.
‘I was at a wedding party with the dondang sayang players and I was invited to sing. A Malay gentleman agreed to start the singing and another from the party must reply. He directed himself at me: “Encik nyanyi dulu. Saya jawab.”

‘I was struck, I blushed. The music was playing and the audience urged me to reply. It was shameful. The Malay gentleman was asking:

Baba pandeh, saya tanya:
Bulan berjalan, mana kaki-nya?
(Baba is clever, so I ask of you:
The moon moves but where are its legs?)

‘I answered:
The moon moves not a length of padi,
The clouds move, the world revolves;
The moon moves through the power of God
The snake crawls, where are his feet?’

So profound an answer was given that soon Gwee’s formidable reputation as a stylish pantun composer grew.

Taken from http://peranakan.org.sg/culture/culture-thearts/the-romantic-master-of-dondang-sayang-gwee-peng-kwee/

On May 31, 1943, the woman who bought up 6 children,  Song Chwee Neo died.  Some of her sons became guardians of Peranakan culture, and Gwee Peng Kwee became

the champion of Dondang sayang.  William Tan was to acknowledge repeatedly that Gwee Peng Kwee was his mentor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58BaJzTRcvU


William Tan Wee Liam (1928 - 2009).

We will miss the sweet soothing voice of Baba William Tan. Among his contributions to the cultural scene of the Baba community were the three plays he directed: Buang Keroh Pungut Jernih (1985), Biji Mata Mak (1989) and Tak Sangka (1990); the sessions he conducted for the members of the Gunong Sayang Association; and the collaborations with authors on the Peranakan Chinese culture.
Performing with Baba William Tan was Nyonya Jessie Chiang and GT Lye.
















Tomb of Song Chwee Neo in Bukit Brown Cemetery




















The nyonya with a sweet smile.  One of her sons Gwee Peng Gwee became the champion of Dondang Sayang.

Even during the occupation year in 1943 when life was difficult, he did not hesitate but to give her a good funeral and grand send off to Bukit Brown
where she was laid to rest, at a age of 70 years.

G loved her mother a lot, 15 years after she died, he still published in ST – In Memoriam.














Her grandson, William Gwee Thian Hock, wrote some books on Baba culture for example A Nyonya Mosaic: My Mother’s children and also a dictionary of Baba Malay.

Another grandson, G T Lye continues the tradition his father Gwee Peng Kwee has left behind.



G T Lye,  ST file picture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpyShHCnUho

27th April 2008, Peranakan Wedding by Peranakan Association, GT Lye, Terry Lim

Mr Gwee passed away in 1986 leaving behind about 7,000 handwritten pantuns, most of which were his own compositions, in specially bound volumes. The majority of the verses have not been published.

From: http://peranakan.org.sg/culture/culture-thearts/the-romantic-master-of-dondang-sayang-gwee-peng-kwee/




















ST, 11 Nov 1982, Tigerish Art



















 DrThomas
Dr Thomas, who wrote a book : Like Tigers Around a Piece of Meat

If you are always sitting around worrying about losing, about whether people are going to laugh at you, you’re finished as a dondang
sayang singer.

 










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