Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

April 2015

Zaobao News
蓝云舟 2015年04月13日 -


周家后人周锦莲(右)与寻墓人吴安全昨天探访坐落在武吉布朗深处的周家墓群。(梁麒麟摄


文史工作者吴安全无意间读到一篇题为《童年回忆》的文章,发现文中提到的名字与寻获的墓群碑文上刻的立碑人名字一样,因而证实了墓主身份,即清代五品官员周开先,也找到他的第五代后人——周锦莲。

本地文史工作者发现清朝同治年间古墓,多年来无法查出墓主后人身份,却因一次无意间读到一名语言学家记述童年的文章,才让墓主后人终寻获祖坟。

国立教育学院语言学副教授周锦莲(62岁)已有半个多世纪没到武吉布朗祭拜祖父。她几个月前发表一篇题为《童年回忆》的文章,寻墓人吴安全读后,惊觉文中提到的几个已故长辈名字与自己五年前寻获的一群古墓碑文上刻的立碑人名字一样,其中年代最久远的要追溯到清代同治年间。经反复查证,终于核实了墓主的身份。

古墓主人是清代五品官员周开先,逝世年份是同治七年(1868年),距今已有近150年,是目前为止在武吉布朗发现年代最为久远的朝廷官员坟墓。周锦莲的祖父周清庆是周开先的内孙,上世纪初在新加坡经营船运公司。据1933年的报章记载,周清庆当时在本地华人社群中颇有名气。

武吉布朗坟场于1922年投入使用,周开先等其他五个周家坟冢是到了1936年才迁至此。周家墓群里只有周开先、其子周万吉和三个周家妻室的坟墓,还有一个被树木深掩,因此能找到周开先第五代后人并非易事,还得经由许多零星的线索拼凑而成。

吴安全是本地著名寻墓人,多年来在武吉布朗寻墓,挖掘岛国历史。他说:“当初我大概只猜想到这是一家人,只是第三代‘清’字辈和第四代‘乔’字辈当中有些在立碑时还没出世,名字不在墓碑上,追查工作变得困难。直到看到周锦莲的文章里提到的几个名字后,才惊觉她就是周家后人。

”墓志铭至今仍清晰

墓群年代虽久远,但仍保存完好,刻在周开先墓前四块石碑上的墓志铭仍清晰可见。

墓志铭出自周开先家乡族人,其中一名负责书写的是咸丰九年(1858年)的正科解元周庆峰。据碑文记载,周开先祖籍福建漳州海澄石甲头乡,是唐朝诗人周匡物后裔,属海澄之望族。

周开先自弱冠之年便离乡背井来到本地经商,成家立室。晚年虽“木本水源之思自若也”,却“不敢冒险归骸”,决定在此长眠,周家也就这样在新加坡长久扎根。

周家也与我国开埠先驱陈笃生一家结有姻缘,周锦莲是陈笃生的外来孙(第六代后人)。可以想像,没有周开先当年下南洋谋生,这段佳话可能就无从谈起。

周锦莲: 7岁祭拜后就没来过

吴安全在确认周锦莲是周开先后人之后第一时间与她联系,并把消息告诉她。近年来,武吉布朗的部分墓地因道路工程而必须起坟,所幸周家墓群到目前为止未受影响。周锦莲形容,接到寻获祖坟消息时,几乎不敢相信自己所听到的一切。

她说:“我自7岁来拜山后就没再来过。大概在10年前,我们几个亲戚都想找回先人的坟墓,但武吉布朗坟头这么多,我们无从找起,还一度以为会起坟。听到有祖坟的消息,简直又惊又喜。”

周家一年有两三次聚会,周锦莲说,将尽快把好消息告知亲戚,然后动手打理祖坟。


书写墓志铭的是周开先家乡族人、咸丰年间正科解元周庆峰。据碑文记载,周开先是唐朝诗人周匡物的后裔,属漳州海澄望族。(梁麒麟摄)


Under a shelter made from a canvas sheet that hangs from a tree, Mr Chua Tiam Koon cheerfully recounted his experiences at the cemetery.



Mr Chua, 83, is a cemetery caretaker. He has been one at the Bukit Brown Cemetery for 65 years.
In between contagious laughter and a hacking cough, he told The New Paper in Hokkien: "I grew up in the village nearby and we used to play around here. I have been doing this for a long time. I prefer not to sit around at home doing nothing."

His two children worry about the elderly man working such a physically demanding job. They have offered to support him financially so that he does not have to work, but the independent man refuses to hang up his gardening tools.

"My children don't want me to work any more. They even sold my mower worth $400 to $500 to stop me, but I bought it back behind their backs and continued working," he said.
Frail but not incapacitated, he cycles 6km on his trusty 30-year-old bicycle from his three-room flat in Toa Payoh to the cemetery at 6am every day. He tends to 20 graves a day and finishes at 5pm, making about $8,000 a year.

Families pay him about $100 a year for each grave.

Mr Chua used to work as an assistant manager at a canned food company and tended to the graves only during the Qing Ming Festival.

Now, on top of tending to graves, he collects and sells cardboard for some extra cash.
But his main motivation is not money.

"I can earn only a few thousand dollars a year. My children ask me why I want to continue working when I have enough money for food and clothing, but it is not about the money. And it is good exercise," he said.

Mr Chua grew up in a village on what is now Lornie Road. He recalls playing and helping out at funerals in the cemetery as a boy in return for some money and a free meal.

Another cemetery caretaker who grew up in a village near Bukit Brown Cemetery is Madam Zhang Suan, 90, who has been at it for more than 50 years.
Caretakers like her often set up makeshift shelters for themselves, so as to find respite from the sun and rain, or rest their tired legs.

Her shelter was deep inside the cemetery, and required trekking through the forest and across a small bridge made from old doors to get to.

Madam Zhang declined to speak with us, but her landscaper son Soh De Yi, 58, told TNP about his mother: "She has been working at the cemetery every day for more than 50 years. When we lived in the kampung, it was her job. I have helped her clean graves since I was young.

"She might be 90 but she still has a lot of energy." Most of the cemetery caretakers are above 50 years old, and the trade is a dying one, say heritage guides such as Mr Andrew Lin, who conducts tours at Bukit Brown Heritage Park on weekends.

"Most of the caretakers are original members of the villages. Not many people want to do it any more because it is hard work.

"Most people who do it have lived there their whole life, it is a tradition that is passed on from generation to generation."

Another heritage guide, Mr Raymond Goh, said: "Over the years, the caretakers would have
developed an affection for the graves they have looked after.

"I remember one of them saying, 'I have better job offers elsewhere, but if I leave, who is going to take care of these graves?'"

Mr Chua sometimes wonders if the younger generation has respect for their ancestors.

"Once, I caught people having sex here. My friends threw their clothes away and they had no clothes to wear.

"They wrapped themselves in newspapers and had to borrow clothes from others," said Mr Chua with a smile.

More pay respects during Qing Ming


Qing Ming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, falls on either April 4 or 5 every year.
This year, it fell on April 5, but some people perform the rituals ten days before and after the actual day.

It is traditionally observed on the 106th day after the winter solstice, calculated according to the lunar calendar.

According to a guidebook published by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations in 1989, Qing Ming originated 2,500 years ago as a spring festival.
Chinese all over Singapore visit the cemeteries or columbariums during the festival. They clean up the graveyard, repaint the tombstones, and burn joss sticks. Candles are also lit, and gifts and food are offered to the dead.

While columbariums and most of the temples do not keep track of visitor numbers and as such were unable to provide figures, a spokesman for San Qing Gong temple in Bedok North observed that there has been an increase in numbers over the past few years.


Today Online  Apr 8, 2015

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Bukit Brown Cemetery among this year’s unusual venues at SIFA

By Mayo Martin,

mayo@mediacorp.com.sg

SINGAPORE — Residents of Upper Serangoon, Tampines, Marsiling Lane and Jurong East can expect the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) to arrive on their doorsteps in August.

The four HDB estates were revealed as the sites for the festival’s heartlands comedy performance Living Together led by Kumar, at a press conference held today (April 8) to officially launch the festival. Beyond the heartlands, other interesting venues and spaces this year include circus tents, an inflatable tent, cargo containers, Bukit Brown Cemetery and the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

Speaking at the press conference today, Kumar quipped: “I’ve done enough comedy for the yuppies.” The comedian also revealed his affection for the heartlands after moving into an HDB flat two years ago.

“I love it. When people steal shoes, they steal one shoe. What am I going to do with the other one?” he joked.

Aside from the comedy shows, there will also be intimate theatre shows set inside people’s living rooms in the neighbourhoods of Yio Chu Kang, Siglap and West Coast as part of the Open Homes initiative. This will be done in collaboration with the People’s Association’s PAssionArts.

Meanwhile, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will be the site of a few events, including festival director Ong Keng Sen’s durational performance The Incredible Adventures Of Border Crossers, which premiered in Paris last month; a few performances from the Dance Marathon — Open With A Punk Spirit! programme; as well as an app-enhanced “augmented reality” tour of the station.

Bukit Brown Cemetery will serve as the stage for a performance held at dawn by theatre group Drama Box, which will also be holding another of its shows at Toa Payoh Central inside its very own inflatable theatre space. The shows fall under its It Won’t Be Too Long series.

Elsewhere, expect small circus tents to pop up in the open field at Bayfront Avenue courtesy of Cabanons, which is a more intimate version of the circus spectacle created by French visual artist Daniel Buren. An exhibition by Chinese photographer Lu Guang will be set up at DECK, which comprises cargo containers.

The theme for SIFA this year is POST-Empires, which looks at what the world is like after colonialism, communism and even globalisation. Mr Ong added that aside from its significance in light of Singapore’s 50th year of independence, the passing of first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew also presented added food for thought.

“I’ve been asked by many what will happen to the island after the passing of the towering figure of Mr Lee, so perhaps we could also think about how we go on (from here) to find new independent trajectories,” he said.

Mr Ong added that the festival team was conscious of the importance of SIFA this year. “We were specific that this year was going to be the big bang,” he said. Hence, 60 per cent of the line-up comprise local works, including 12 new Singapore commissions. “It’s absolutely essential for every self-respecting festival (to commission productions),” he said.

With a slate of up to 65 ticketed and free shows and events spread across the festival in August and The OPEN in June, audiences can expect a “rich, intense, diverse and intellectually gripping” edition, said Ms Lee Chor Lin, chief executive officer of the independent Arts Festival Limited, which runs SIFA.

She added that the sizeable number of new works from Singapore groups makes the edition “that much more meaningful and fulfilling”.

One of these commissions is Smriti Padha (Memory Route), a brand new dance performance created by Cultural Medallion recipient Mrs Santha Bhaskar, who will make a comeback of sorts at the festival, having presented frequently in the 1980s and ’90s. Her last show for the arts festival was Manohra (1996). “I’m very happy and have many memories about how we worked back then,” she said. “And we’re back again now.”

The Singapore International Festival of Arts runs from Aug 6 to Sept 19, while The OPEN runs from June 16 to July 4. Tickets go on sale today (April 9), from SISTIC. For more information, visit http://sifa.sg



SIFA IN THE HEARTLANDS #1

You can catch Kumar, along with fellow comedians Koh Chieng Mun, Sharul Channa, Zaliha Hamid and Shane Mardjuki, in the show Living Together in at these times and places.

* Aug 6, 8pm, Multipurpose Hall, Blk 464 Upper Serangoon Road.

* Aug 8, 8pm, Tampines Festival Park, Tampines St 21 between Blks 254 and 257.

* Aug 13, 8pm, Ampitheatre, Blk 204 Marsiling Lane.

* Aug 15, 8pm, Community Plaza, Jurong East St 32 between Blks 312 and 316.

Performances last 1 hour each. Free admission and performed in the multiple languages of Singapore.

***

SIFA IN THE HEARTLANDS #2

25 homes across Yio Chu Kang, Siglap and West Coast will transform their living rooms into theatre spaces ala the open-house concept during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali.

* Sept 5, 6, 12, 13 at 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm.

Performances last 30 minutes each. Free admission. Registration needed. For more information, visit http://sifa.sg/show/open-homes andhttp://www.facebook.com/passionarts.



Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will be the site of a few performances,..


 

Zaobao News Apr 7, 2014

董农政

建设流放--让路的武吉布朗坟头

跑步的越跑越远
遛狗的越遛越远
骑马的越骑越云烟
不是因为森森的坟墓
而是因为即将没有坟墓的森森
一条不知会叫什么名字的公路
既不是阿公的路
又是阿公的路
把一棵棵老树
砍杀在辈份之外
忘了什么叫子孙
野蕨在机械里烂了怅怅的根
野兰在往后的清明再也不必流淚
黄莺呢
深情伴侣已在更深的铲铲下
考虑到城里当季候鳥
那些什么什么叫不出的碑
无须再考究
再大的名
再响的号
不过是更大的建设流放
更大的悲 

Banish

Those who run, run further away
Those who walk their dogs, walk further away
Those who ride, ride into the mist
Not because of the gloom of the tombs
But rather, there will soon be no more of the tombs' gloom
A road, the name of which is unknown
Not Ah Gong's road
Yet Ah Gong's road
Old tree after old tree
Hacked down regardless of the generations
Forgotten, what descendants are
Wild ferns, their unhappy roots in machinery rot
Wild orchids never need weep again during future Cheng Bengs
As for the canary
Its companion of deep emotions, under the deeper blows of the diggers
Is contemplating to be a migratory bird in the city
Those tombstones of which much is unknown
No need for further study
Bigger names
Grander titles
Are none other than greater exiles in the face of building
Greater sorrows

Translated by Yik Han

ST News,  Apr 6, 2015

SINGAPORE - Ninety-year-old Zhang Suan has been taking care of the tombs on Bukit Brown for half a century, and she is still going strong.
She can recognise by sight, all the relatives who visit the cemetery, and will point them to the right tomb, said her son Mr Su De Yi, 58.
"Everyone calls my mother 'Ah Suan Ah Ma'," Mr Su told Shin Min Daily.

Her moniker translates to "Grandma count" or "Grandma calculate" in Mandarin.
He told Shin Min Daily: "I have helped her clean the graves at Bukit Brown since I was young. She is 90, but still full of energy. She can't stop, and is always looking for something to do."
Being the custodian of so many graves, "Grandma calculate" starts getting busy after Christmas.
They take care of more than 100 graves, Mr Su said.
The pace picks up closer to Qing Ming, the "tomb sweeping" festival for Chinese families, which was on Sunday.

Around Qing Ming, Madam Zhang is at Bukit Brown cemetery from 8am till 4pm on weekdays and from 7am till 5pm on weekends.

Her memory is also superb as Mr Su recounted to Shin Min Daily: "She remembers every family she has met. When they come again the next year, she will bring them to the tomb of their relative. They all say she's like a computer."

Madam Zhang and Mr Su charge a minimum of $50 to take care of a tomb for a year. They charge more for larger tombs, but will also give a discount if a family is in financial difficulty.
Mr Su told Shin Min Daily: "We have met people who claim they never asked my mother to help them sweep the tomb of their relative, and refuse to pay. But her memory is so good, she couldn't have made mistake."

Since 2014, Mr Su and Madam Zhang have been taking care of Mr Lim Yew Teok's grave. Mr Lim died in 1925, and his family made the news because of a tussle over his inheritance, worth more than $100 million.

His fortune was held in trust, and to be distributed only 21 years after the death of his last surviving child. His will has come before the court five times since 1938 to be interpreted.
When his great-granddaughter Lim Chhui Ngor died unmarried and childless, a number of claimants came forward.

The High Court ruled in 2009 that none of them were entitled to the money as they were related to Miss Lim but not her great-grandfather.

Mr Lim's grave has been untended and Madam Zhang was asked by Asia Paranormal Investigators to look after it.

The co-founders of of the society, Charles and Raymond Goh are experts on old tombstones.

 


 

Shin Min News Apr 5, 2015
(新加坡5日讯)九旬阿嬤半世纪来打理上百座咖啡山坟墓,只要看到死者亲人就能准确指出坟墓位置,大家都赞她“记忆力好得如电脑”。
张算(90岁)的儿子苏德义(58岁)说,大家都称母亲为“阿算阿嬤”。
苏德义说:“我小时候母亲就在武吉布朗帮人家打扫坟墓,她现在虽然90岁了,但还是很有活力,几乎停不下来,一定要找东西做。”

圣诞节后开始忙碌

一般人在清明节才扫墓祭祖,但“阿算阿嬤”圣诞节后就开始忙碌了。
苏德义说:“我们打理100多座坟墓,如果不从圣诞节后就开始,可能会做不完。”
“阿算阿嬤”清明前后的数周,周日早上8时就到坟场,下午4时才离开。周末则从早上7时做到下午5时。
他说:“有时我觉得累,她都不累!她说,到处走动就不会累了。”
“阿算阿嬤”的记性超强,能够记得每座坟墓的位置。
苏德义说:“只要她见过那家人,她就会记得。隔年,同样的家人去扫墓时,她就能带他们到坟墓前。大家都说她像电脑一样惊人。”

去年起打理富商林有着坟墓

阿嬤去年开始打理富商林有着的坟墓。    
媒体2007年至2010年间,显著报道一起1300万元新币(约3516万令吉)的遗产争夺案。
富商林有着在1925年8月22日立遗嘱注明,信托基金须在他最后一个孩子去世后21年才能解散,把资产分配给受益人。
林有着把基金收入分成95份,其曾孙女林翠娥辗转继承了40份,死时遗产估计值1300万元新币,但她没有后嗣,因此当时有多名亲人争夺这笔遗产。亚洲超自然侦探协会创办人吴安全发现,林有着与妻女的坟墓没人打理,去年联络信托公司,对方于是委托“阿算阿嬤”打理。

曾遇翻脸不认账者拒还钱

阿嬤辛苦打理坟墓,有人竟翻脸不认账。
苏德义说,虽然很多人都很喜欢他的母亲,但也有些人在母亲打理坟墓后就翻脸。
“前天,我们就遇到一个这样的人。我母亲六年来为他的祖先打扫坟墓,但每次清明节都没碰到他们。结果今年碰到了,对方就说他没有叫我母亲帮忙打扫,不肯付钱。”
苏德义不满地说,他母亲记性好,不可能记错。
他说,打扫坟墓一年收费从50元新币起,要看坟墓的大小及周围环境来决定。但如果遇到有经济困难的人,他们会义务帮忙或只收象征性费用。



九旬阿嬤张算半世纪来,打理上百座咖啡山的坟墓。 

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