Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

December 2014

Resurgent Spirits of Civil Society Activism: Rediscovering the Bukit Brown Cemetery in Singapore
pp. 21-45 | 10.1353/ras.2014.0016                                                                                                           



The proposed building of a major highway and expected extensive housing projects in the forgotten Chinese cemetery at Bukit Brown of Singapore in 2011 ignited unprecedented national and international attention. Opened in 1922 by the British colonial authorities and eventually embedded with over 100,000 graves of the Chinese diaspora within a site rich in biodiversity, it is now touted as one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China and a possible candidate for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This paper is not intended as a major theoretical framing of larger issues; instead, the focus is on chronicling the important resurgence of civil society activism in the process of rediscovery and tracing the challenges posed to the disciplinary political authorities of Singapore. Previous studies about contestation over Chinese burial grounds in Singapore are centred on Western versus Chinese practices and on parochial sub-communal interest versus modernist developmental regimes, without bringing heritage concerns directly into the microphysics of power. This new narrative on Bukit Brown will unveil the extent to which heritage, history and identity suddenly surged to the forefront of citizenry consciousness and interrogated the fundamentals of governance and national developmental agenda.

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Zaobao News Dec 28, 2014





不是祭祖,送殡一般人都不会到坟场去。采访当天要求德士司机载记者到武吉布朗(Bukit Brown)坟场去,司机就不很乐意,记者只好在离坟场约200米的路口下车。吴安全和吴安龙就毫不避忌,他们一次又一次带队到坟场寻根问祖,让一个个深藏在老林的古坟重见天日,还历史的本来面目。

自2011年9月武吉布朗因为要让位给新道路,约5000多个坟墓必须迁移的消息公布后,每个月的两个周末,还有公共假期,总有一群来自各界,学有专长,自称布朗人(Brownies)的热心人士轮流义务导览。他们身穿印有“Bukit Brown Heritage”的白色T恤,倚仗挥汗热情解说,尽自己所能让公众多认识武吉布朗的历史。吴安全和吴安龙兄弟是这群人当中两个熟悉的身影,他们也是这群布朗人的领头羊。



吴安全则是一名药剂师,兄弟俩还共同创办了亚洲超自然侦探协会(Asia Paranomal Investigators),为落实他们追根究底的理想跨出第一步,开始研究武吉布朗坟场的墓碑,还绘制了一份地图,让公众下载来个“坟场自助游”。他们也从2006年起在武吉布朗导览,成了带团到武吉布朗探秘的先行者。








吴安龙说:“以武吉布朗坟场来说,都有记录册记录埋葬者的资料。问题是很多人不是很清楚先人何时过世,一些后代只知道先人的中文名,记录册则只记英文名,有些还是用手写的。资料越少,寻墓的难度就越大。” 难怪吴安全说,一座古墓的发现,往往是多个学有专长者共同努力的成果,绝不是一两个人的力量所能成就的。




2014 Personality of the Year by Zaobao weekly, Dec 28, 2014

Raymond Goh (51) and Charles Goh (46)

Looking at history through the departed

If not for praying to one’s ancestors, one would not usually go to the cemetery. That day the reporter asked a taxi driver to drive her to Bukit Brown cemetery. The driver was not very happy, and so she has to alight at approx. 200 metres from the cemetery at the road cross junction. But the Goh brothers does not have any sort of taboo. They keep on bringing people to the cemetery to look for their roots, rediscovering old tombs hidden in the depths of the forest, bringing history back to life.

Ever since Sep 2011 when news broke out that part of Bukit Brown has to give way to a road and approx 5000 tombs has to be exhumed, nearly twice a month during weekends and public holidays, one would see volunteer guides from all walks of life known as “Brownies” wearing Bukit Brown heritage T shirts, and guiding the public on the history and heritage of Bukit Brown.

Raymond and Charles Goh are a familiar pair among the Brownies and the pioneering guides among them.

Bukit Brown Pioneering Explorers

Charles Goh is a construction safety manager and has from young like to explore the unknown to get to the root of matters. Some things will be forgotten or disappear as one grow up, and Charles hope to revive the forgotten collective memories. Since the SARS crisis of 2003, Charles responded to the call of STB and together with his brother registered as tourist guides. They do voluntary guiding for visitors to the cemetery, and let these visitors know Singapore in an unique way.

Together with Raymond Goh, a pharmacist, they founded Asia Paranormal Investigators, as a step forward to fulfil their ambition to research all things unknown. Since 2006 they also started to lead tours to Bukit Brown, do research into tombs and even design a cemetery map for the public to do DIY tours on their own.

Raymond said that Bukit Brown and the surrounding Seh Ong and Hokkien cemeteries has a total of 200,000 tombs, with the earliest dating all the way to 1826. From that year to the closure of the cemeteries in the early 1970s, one can see 150 years of changes and transformations reflected through the tombstones of Bukit Brown. Our history is gathered piece by piece from the collective stories of all these tombstones.

2014 Great Finds

Through the efforts of Charles, Raymond and the Brownies, there has been a surge in interest to find one's ancestor. Due to the passage of time and insufficient information, the success rate of finding one's ancestor for these tombs is only about 50%, but the rediscoveries of pioneers’ tombs provide much encouragement to the Goh Brothers. This year alone, the two great finds are the founder of Hong San See temple Neo Jin Quee and the family cluster tombs of Lee Kuan Yew maternal ancestors.

According to the archives, Hong San See founder Neo Jin Quee was relocated to Bukit Brown cemetery. When Raymond Goh first encountered this tomb, he combined forces with local history researchers Walter Lim and Ang Yik Han to research into this tomb and finally confirmed the identity of this tomb. The discovery of Neo Jin Quee’s tomb and the tombs of his wife, son and daughter-in-law provide important clues to the study of the immigrant stories of early Lam Ann people to Singapore.

Apart from this, in Jun this year, a news report to find the rickshaw puller Koh Teong Koo made Raymond recalled about Lee Kuan Yew maternal grandfather Chua Kim Teng and maternal grandmother Leong Ah Soon. Based on the clue provided by tombkeeper Soh Ah Beng, Raymond and Walter Lim finally found the tombs of Chua Kim Teng, his second wife and his father’ tombs. They later managed to find Leong Ah Soon’s tomb from the burial register, that is Chua Kim Teng’s third wife. The Chuas were a typical Peranakan family, and Chua Kim Teng was a successful merchant. These finds provide important historical information for the study of this early Chua pioneer family.

Apart from graves, Charles Goh is also interested into heritage sites and ruins. Not long ago, together with NHB Group Director (Policy) Alvin Tan, they rediscovered a century old lunatic asylum wall, which provide valuable information for the study of this early institution.

The greatest difficulty in finding graves is not mosquitos and insects bites, nor wild snakes or animals, nor wild vegetation, but the limited information and resources to find the graves.

Although there are burial records in Bukit Brown, many descendants does not know the dates their ancestors passed away, and some can only remember their ancestors’ Chinese names, while the records are in English. The lesser the information, the more difficult will be the tomb find.
 As such, Raymond said that sometimes it require more than the efforts of one or two persons, but the combined efforts and expertise of many volunteers to help find a tomb.

As for 2015, the Goh brothers will keep on their volunteer work of researching and finding tombs, and their mission is to find an earlier tomb than 1826 as there were already Chinese people then who died before that.

By Mok Mei Ngan
 Photo by Yap Chin Tiong - Raymond and Charles Goh has been researching and rediscovering old tombs in Singapore and sparked local grave interest

Zaobao News Dec 28, 2014

他们未必都是镁光灯下的知名人物,但却在各自的领域发光发热。由早报副刊各专线记者选出的年度人物2014一共有六位,他们是寻墓人吴安全、新加坡国际艺术节艺术总监王景生、纪实摄影师沈绮颖、名厨Julien Royer、演员李铭顺、歌手林俊杰。除了奖项,他们的努力及影响,是上榜的重要指标。

西方有句谚语“魔鬼在细节中”(The devil is in the details),意指细节决定成败。今年由《早报·现在》选出的六位“年度人物”,就善于凭借细腻心思和敏锐观察力,揪出细节中的魔鬼;在顾全大局的同时,也将各方面照顾得滴水不漏,就连最微小的细节也绝不放过。







●让世界看到新加坡精致餐饮瑞士史丹福酒店70楼JAAN主厨罗耶(Julien Royer)对手工食材的热忱及用心,让他在今年餐饮界的国际盛事中扫下多个奖项,为JAAN争取不俗的排名。在他之前可能外地人看本地餐饮,只会想到来自台湾的名厨江振诚(Andre Chiang),现在,罗耶再次让外地人看见新加坡。

●用镜头关切草根生活原为《海峡时报》驻北京特派员的沈绮颖,在2011年放弃记者之职,投入纪实摄影工作,用镜头热切关注中国草根阶层的生活。沈绮颖也在今年7月成为首位、也是唯一加入国际著名的“七图片社”的亚裔摄影师,并在今年10月获颁Her World杂志的本年度“青年女性成就奖”(Young Woman Achiever)。


年度人物2014 吴安全


Zaobao News Dec 27, 2014










Zaobao News, Dec 23, 2014

庆德会183年老传统 新修祠堂内延续




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