Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

May 2014

Archives and Manuscripts, 2014, Vol 42, No 1, 87 - 97
DOI: 10.1080/01576895.2014.902319

Natalie Pang and Liew Khai Khiun

In recent years there has been growing interest in the discipline of computing in relation to cultural heritage, parallel with developments in greater user participation in archives and advances in documentation work. These trends are reflected in the case of a documentation project of an old Chinese cemetery in Singapore, Bukit Brown Cemetery. This case was characterised by tensions among the ‘wild’ array of emerging individual participants and archivists that took the momentum away from both more formal NGOs and government institutions in documenting, archiving and raising awareness of the heritage of the site when part of it was announced to be set aside for a new highway. The case presents a compelling need for participatory archives, facilitated by computing interventions encouraging public engagement and visits to the site. Being actively involved in the documentation process, the authors reflect on how conceptual frameworks of records may assist in designing new media innovations and informing the ways by which a cemetery may be documented. Through these reflections, the authors argue for the active participation of archivists and records professionals in documentation work, and demonstrate how, in the creation and keeping of records, they shape the collective imagination of the public and other stakeholders in heritage sites.

ST Forum, May15, 2014

THE article ("Can civil society influence policies?"; Monday) said civil society groups "extracted concessions on Bukit Brown cemetery".

As key players in the civil movement trying to protect and preserve Bukit Brown, we are unclear what "concessions" the article referred to.

In 2012, the decision to build a highway through Bukit Brown had already been made before the official announcement. We were present at a briefing by the Ministry of National Development, but there was no consultation or protracted engagement thereafter to extract any concessions. We issued a call for a moratorium and moved on.

The article said the number of graves planned for exhumation was reduced from 5,000 to 3,746 as part of a compromise reached with civil society. This was not the case.

The number of graves finally affected was 4,153. The figure cited in the article was from a Land Transport Authority (LTA) statement on March 19, 2012 on the realignment of the road. The final tally of affected graves was in an Aug 5, 2013 statement by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and LTA to announce the award of the contract for the road.

Also, both statements clearly attributed the road realignment to an engineering decision. The decrease in the number of graves affected had nothing to do with consultations with civil society.

The LTA statement that announced the road design included a plan for a bridge over several creeks in Bukit Brown, rather than a design that would see the filling up of these natural drainage networks with soil.

There was no consultation on the original design or its changes. It is not clear if the adjustment was a result of a yet-undisclosed but limited-scope biodiversity impact assessment that the LTA conducted in early 2012.

Regardless of the reason, this change in design was not a result of a "compromise" with civil society.

To date, there has been no consultation on the zoning of the greater Bukit Brown area in its entirety for residential use in the 2013 Draft Master Plan released by the URA. This area includes the larger cemetery complex comprising Bukit Brown, Seh Ong, Lau Sua and Kopi Sua.

We would like to focus on the present. We have been meeting the National Heritage Board since the middle of last year and hope to make more progress in protecting Bukit Brown.

Chua Ai Lin (Dr)
 Singapore Heritage Society

Claire Leow (Ms)
 All Things Bukit Brown

ST Opinion, May 12, 2014
By Leonard Lim, Assistant Political Editor
THE large, spreading banyan tree once had such a thick canopy that little sunlight could filter through, hindering the flourishing of any plants below.

But, to borrow this metaphor of the State made famous by former minister George Yeo in 1991, it has been pruned somewhat in the past couple of years.

Consultation and engagement have become the buzzwords of government policymaking in a changed political landscape, with a more well-educated, well-travelled populace becoming more assertive and vocal.

There may be no better time for civil society - the wide spectrum of organisations operating outside the government and business sectors - to test this pledge to listen more, and in the process carve out a more influential role for itself.

They can take heart from the naming of Mr Tan Chuan-Jin last year as the Government's unofficial point person for engaging with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Mr Tan is Manpower Minister and a member of the fourth-generation leadership.

In 2012, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam met gay activists to discuss matters such as discrimination and the anti-gay sex law Section 377A.

The State's engagement with other interest groups on animal rights, heritage and conservation as well as environmental awareness has also increased.
Civil society has scored significant victories recently as well, influencing legislation and government policy.

Since the start of last year, foreign maids - either with a new work permit or a renewed one - have been entitled to a day off every week, or must be paid a day's wages in lieu.

As contracts last two years, all maids will, by next January, be on new contracts that have to abide by the rule. The change came about after a decade of lobbying from groups championing the rights of migrant workers.

Laws on sexual crimes have also been repealed.

It started in late 2011, after an article highlighting a little-known section of the Evidence Act was put up on website publichouse.sg. The Act allowed a man charged with rape to discredit the victim by digging into her sexual history, and showing she is of generally immoral character.

Mr Andrew Loh, who runs the site, circulated the post to several ministries to get a response.
He received a call from the Law Ministry suggesting a meeting, but turned it down as he felt the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) was the expert on the topic.

Mr Shanmugam eventually met representatives from the women's rights advocacy group and later started the process of amending the Act.

Nature lovers, who in 2001 succeeded in getting the reclamation plans for the Chek Jawa wetlands area shelved, also extracted concessions on Bukit Brown cemetery recently.

Several nature and heritage groups opposed the construction of a road that would slice through the historic graveyard.

It is the largest Chinese cemetery outside China, and among the thousands of graves are those of philanthropist Gan Eng Seng and Lee Hoon Leong, grandfather of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

After months of engagement, a compromise was reached and the authorities changed the road's design so that the number of graves exhumed fell from 5,000 to 3,746.

But there are also many examples where civil society's push for change was not successful.

Earlier this year, several activists took issue with the Government's tabling of proposed legislation to keep the peace in Little India following last December's riot.

They argued that the parliamentary Bill placed too much focus on alcohol as the cause of the riot, and this might influence a Committee of Inquiry's deliberations.
Several non-partisan Nominated MPs criticised aspects of it. But it was passed, with the Government explaining that the new laws would give the police powers in the neighbourhood for a year until longer-term measures could be enacted.

Other recent civil society proposals that were rebuffed include calls to introduce a poverty line to reduce income inequality, and the withdrawal of licensing regulations of news websites, which some saw as onerous and curbing free expression.

But groups can take heart that "the Government has and will continue to engage civil society as an essential partner in dealing with the important issues that face Singapore", as Mr Shanmugam's press secretary wrote in a letter to The Straits Times Forum page last November.

Still, even as the political leadership indicates a greater willingness to engage, there is always the lingering question mark over whether a civil society group's actions or statements are deemed to have crossed into the political arena, thus risking censure from the Government.

This longstanding stance of politics and political comment belonging only in the realm of party politics can be traced back to the fledgling days of the People's Action Party.
In the 1960s and 1970s, leftists used trade unions and cultural groups to garner support against the party.

A recent incident involved activist Nizam Ismail.

In April last year, the lawyer was accused by the Government of using the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) as a platform for pursuing partisan and racial politics, a claim which he denied.
He resigned from his AMP leadership positions, saying he was told the Government had taken issue with his online comments and participation in political events that he said he did in his "personal

In the wake of the furore, Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said in May last year that the Government welcomes feedback on policies even if they may be critical, as this helps improve public policy for the benefit of all Singaporeans.

But NGOs "should not be used as a cloak for partisan political objectives", he stressed.
"Similarly, while individuals in the NGOs are free to express their views, they should not use their organisations to pursue a partisan political agenda," he added.

The goals of civil society in wanting social transformation, however, mean these limits will inadvertently be tested on occasion.

Still, if the saplings under the banyan tree are to take root and thrive, much will depend on how willing Singapore's civil society is to push the boundaries and extend its reach in this new landscape.

Nature lovers at Chek Jawa wetlands. In 2001, environmentalists and nature lovers succeeded in getting the reclamation plans for the wetlands area shelved. Recently, they also extracted some concessions on plans to build a road through the historic Bukit Brown cemetery. -- LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

Zaobao News
May 5, 2014
by Chia Yei Yei

The relocated tomb of Neo Jin Quee, founder of Hong San See temple, a National Monument was hidden in the depths of Bukit Brown.
Although local scholars and historians have noticed his tomb before, they are unable to recognize his tomb in the past because he only used a posthumous name.

According to burial records, Neo Jin Quee (posthumous name : Zhen Rong), his wife E Boon Neo (posthumous name :  Qin Shen), son Neo Chang Hock (posthumous name : Dun Mu), son's wife Chee Im Neo
was relocated to Bukit Brown on Apr 26, 1927 to a remote corner in Bukit Brown.

Tomb seeker Raymond has noticed this set of tombs before, so has scholar David Chng, who has recorded a few of these graves' inscription in his published book of tombs' inscription, but he was not aware
that Neo Zhen Rong was actually Neo Jin Quee.

Recently Raymond combined forces with other historical researchers who are also Brownies - Walter Lim and Yi Han to research and ascertain that this Neo Zhen Rong was indeed the leader who in the Bing Shen year of Daoguang reign (1836) founded the Hong Shan See temple in Tanjong Pagar.

There has been very little info on this founder Neo Jin Quee and his special relationship with Hong San See  until 5 years ago when Yik Han and Loo Say Chong combined research to find that Hong San See was founded in 1836 headed by Neo Jin Quee.  Hong San See has been in the news recently for its numerous awards for its restoration project.

Neo Jin Quee is listed in the plaque in Hong San See as  the founder of the temple in 1836
(additional info)

But for a long time,  other than being the founder, his identity was still a mystery, until Yik Han managed to get hold of a genealogy book published in Taiwan on the Genealogy of the Neo Clan in Shishan Fengpo,
and found out that Neo Jin Quee was actually the younger brother of Neo Bee Kiat and Neo Tian Seng

Among the 3 Neo brothers, Neo Bee Kiat (1787 - 1839) was the most well known, in fact he was the Teng Choo  of Cheng Hoon Teng temple in Malacca, and also in the board of directors of Penang Kwang Hock Gong.
At that time, being a Teng Choo in Cheng Hoon Teng was equivalent to the head of the Chinese community, and Kwang Hock Gong was also an important Chinese organization. 

Genealogy record of the Neo Clan of Fengpo, Shishan
(additional info)

When Telok Ayer Tian Hock Keng was built in 1840, Neo Jin Quee donated 24 dollars, and his name can be found in the temple plaque dated 1850

As for the Neo genealogy book edited in 1884,  it was revealed that the father of the Neo brothers was Neo Zhi Shu (Assumed name  : Yushu) , who was born during Qianlong dynasty and later immigrate to Malacca and was buried there.

Neo Jin Quee's father Neo Yushu 1808 tomb in Bukit Cina
photo taken from the book 馬六甲三寶山墓碑集錄(1614-1820"A Collection of tombstone inscription of Bukit Cina Malacca
(1614 - 1820)

Three sons: 天成 Tian Seng美吉 Bee Kiat,  壬癸 Jin Quee
grandsons : 瓚源 (Chang Guan) , 瓚水 (Chang Swee),瓚興 (Chang Hin)

(NB : additional info)

There was also little info on Neo Jin Quee, except that he first started his business in Malacca together with his brothers.

Raymond said that he already noticed Neo Zhen Rong 1843 tomb when he was researching old tombs in Bukit Brown. He have also heard about Yik Han and Loo Say Chong's research and also felt that this tomb
was somewhat related.  Later from the National Archives, he found the reburial records mentioning the names of Neo Jin Quee, his son Neo Chang Hock, and their wives E Boon Neo and Chee Im Neo,
and together with Yik Han and Walter, they decided to do the field research to verify and confirm his identity.

From the tomb of Neo Zhen Rong, they saw that he has two sons Chang Ann and Chang Hock, from this they are able to confirm that Dun Mu was the posthumous name of Chang Hock.
Chang Hock's tomb was erected in the year 1867, and has two sons Guan Chye and Guan Meng.

Neo Jin Quee wife E Boon Neo apparently lived much longer than her children, for her 1883 tombstone was erected by her grandchildren Guan Chye and Guan Meng.

As for Chang Hock's wife Chee Im Neo, it was erected on 1907

Neo Guan Chye made a small donation of 14 dollars (1868 renovation plaque in Hong San See temple)

(NB: additonal info)

Recently these 3 Brownies bought this reporter to visit this Neo cluster and found out that the 4 tombs are reburied in a single line.   The tomb of Neo Jin Quee was the hardest to identity as a tree has grown in front of it
and wrapped its branches around the tombstone. From this, it was deduced that nobody has visited them for a long time. 

The relocated tomb of Neo Jin Quee was wrapped by tree branches, but the names of his sons Chang Ann and Chang Hock could be clearly seen.
The story of Neo Jin Quee family reflect the immigration stories of the earliest Lam Ann pioneers to Singapore

The 4 tombs would have been rebuilt around the same time as they have the same tiles decorated on their tombs except for Chee Im Neo, who has the descendants' names inscribed on them.

As for where this cluster originated from, Walter thinks that further research is needed, as besides the old Heng Shan Teng, there was also many private burial grounds.
Raymond has also found the tombs of the descendants of this Neo cluster, including Neo Guan Chye wife Mdm Tan,  and learnt that Neo Guan Chye has 3 sons Hong Seng, Hong Choo and Hong Kim.  From newspapers archives,
they even learnt that Hong Choo and Hong Kim even went to court over their father's estate before the war.

Mrs Neo Guan Chye' tomb in greater Bukit Brown (additional info)

As for Neo Guan Chye's wife Mdm Tan's tomb, there was even a fengshui couplet  :

Heaven will assist the tomb to face the Heavenly Deity Star
Energy from the left will open the channel and pave the way

This couplet actually comes from the renowned ancient Chinese fengshui master Lai Bu Yi - Enhancement of Fame essay

Raymond, Walter and Yik Han at the tomb of Neo Jin Quee, founder of the National Monument Hong San See

Zaobao News, May 5


谢燕燕 报道 chiayy@sph.com.sg






他们当时所掌握的史料显示,凤山寺是清道光丙申年(1836年)创建,当时以“梁壬癸为总董”。凤山寺近几年因修复工程出色,连连得大奖。 不过有很长一段时间,梁壬癸的身份是个谜,直到洪毅瀚从宗谱着手,才有了新发现。凤山寺祖庙来自南安诗山,洪毅瀚在国大图书馆找到台湾所出版的《诗山凤坡梁氏宗谱》后,发现梁壬癸原来是梁天成和梁美吉的弟弟。 梁家三兄弟中,梁美吉(1787-1839)还大有来头,原来他是马六甲青云亭第一任亭主,也是槟城广福宫董事。当时的青云亭亭主,相等于华社最高领袖,广福宫则是槟城过去的重要华人组织。

直落亚逸天福宫立于道光三十年(1850)的碑上,也能找到梁壬癸的名字,原来天福宫在1840年创建时,梁壬癸曾捐了24元。 修于光绪十年(1884)的梁氏宗谱,显示三人的父亲是生于清朝乾隆年间的梁自树(字亨珠、号玉树),早年间到马六甲谋生,最后葬在马六甲。宗谱有关于梁壬癸的资料不多,只说他和兄长在马六甲开拓事业,生卒年不详。

吴安全说,他一年前开始研究道光年间的古墓时,便留意到凤坡人“梁振荣”置于道光二十三年(1843)的坟墓。他也知道吕世聪、洪毅瀚对梁壬癸所做的研究,总觉得两者有一些关系。 他后来从网上的迁葬档案记录中找到Neo Jin Quee和儿子Neo Chan Hock,以及他们的妻子Ee Boon Neo及儿媳妇Chee Im Neo于1927年从他处迁到武吉布朗的纪录,开始和林志强、洪毅瀚一起对这组古墓展开田野调查。

他们从“梁振荣”碑上看到他有两个儿子瓒安和瓒福,而瓒福显然与Neo Chan Hock吻合,由此再推断“梁敦睦”是梁瓒福的谥号。梁瓒福的墓碑是在“同治六年”(1867)安置,他有两名儿子源财和源明。 梁壬癸之妻余文娘(谥勤慎)显然比儿子长命,她那个安置于光绪九年(1883)的墓碑,是由孙子源财和源明所立。梁瓒福之妻徐音娘(讳育娘)的墓则是安置于光绪三十三年(1907)。

墓碑被树根攀缠不易辨认 吴安全、林志强和洪毅瀚最近带领本报记者寻访梁壬癸家族的迁葬墓时,发现上述四座墓并排在一起,当中梁壬癸的墓最不容易辨认,墓前长了一棵大树、墓碑被树根攀缠,应该有很长一段时间没有后人造访。

四个迁葬墓应该是由后人在同一个时候修建的,因此格局、大小差不多一样。梁壬癸、余文娘和梁瓒福的墓还用了相同的瓷砖做墓肩装饰,徐音娘的墓肩上写着后人的名字,因此没贴瓷砖。 至于这组古墓是从何处迁来的,林志强认为还有待考察,因为那个年代除了大家所知道的旧恒山亭,还有不少私人墓园。



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