Update of news and articles on Bukit Brown

April 2016


17 Apr 2016
Zaobao viewpoint : The Value of History, by Chia Yei Yei
 Extract: The discovery of Wee Theam Tew's historic tomb by Raymond Goh unveiled the family history of Wee Hee, Wee Theam Tew and Theam Seng. This little family history ferret out an interesting snippet: Wee Theam Tew, who was born in Singapore, went to study law in England, employed by the Qing court Prince Su as his secretary, yet his grandfather was a Ghee Heng secret society leader, flying high the pro Ming anti Qing flag. This is certainly a fascinating and interesting history

谢燕燕:历史的价值

编辑室内外
 把许许多多先驱人物的经历与奋斗史拼凑起来,就能构建早期社会一个粗略面貌,明白这片土地是如何在近两百年时间里发展起来。
 前内阁部长杨荣文最近在一篇题为《没有过去的记忆就没有未来》的专访中说,历史是很奇怪的。在一个部落里,从基因上来说,总有一些人是喜欢收藏,一些人专门做记录,一些人对历史发生兴趣,其他人毫无兴趣,但是历史却给了他们力量、安慰和保障。
 他认为让新加坡人知道他们的历史遗产被保留下来是重要的……这是集体生存的一部分,在社群当中总要有人积累知识,让热情继续燃烧下去。至于有许多人不对历史感到振奋,他也不奇怪。
 杨荣文认为“对过去太执着会没有未来,但完全不知道过去,同样没有未来。两者之间,一定要对记忆有平衡和新颖鲜活的处理方式”。
 我年轻时其实很讨厌历史,上大学时修的是文学,没想到迈入记者生涯的最后阶段,竟热衷于报道文史工作者所挖掘和发现的族群史和本地历史。是这些人文故事所串成的历史,让我对工作保有热度。

当年厌恶历史,是因为执著于真相的追求,而人性中的“偏执”是不可能还历史一个真实面貌的。历史总受限于撰述者的立场、观点、角度、认知等,很难做到客观,更没有绝对的真相。
 多年以后对历史改观,是因为放开了对绝对真相的执著,明白我们所研究的族群史,只是现代人根据所能掌握到的有限史料,考证出来的一小部分历史面貌,绝非历史的全部。另外还得放开对历史人物的道德判断,用较包容的姿态去看待在特定时空、发生在先辈之间的人与事。

少了执著与道德审断,研究历史变得轻松有趣,甚至很有满足感。我们纯粹在探寻先辈走过的道路,了解他们的生命历程,认识他们如何在这块土地上奋斗求存,辛勤付出,繁衍生息,如何抱着希望与信念,为后辈创建一个在当时恐怕不容易看得清楚的未来。
 把许许多多先驱人物的经历与奋斗史拼凑起来,就能构建早期社会一个粗略面貌,明白这片土地是如何在近两百年时间里发展起来。
 先辈的生命轨迹让我们认识过去,对自己如何在这片土地安身立命,如何从“华侨”逐渐变成身份清晰的“新加坡华人”,有更完整和透彻的认知。

总理公署、外交部兼交通部高级政务部长杨莉明不久前在国会提醒本地华社,新加坡华人是华裔而非“侨居海外的中国公民”,指出我们是“拥有独立国籍、效忠及身份的华族”,强调我们对自身文化宿命应该保持尊严和感到骄傲。

可以确定的是,认识过去对构建身份认同非常重要。如果对新加坡的开埠史、建国史毫无认知,就会分不清新加坡华裔和华侨有何不同,不明白我们如何从百多年前以“华侨”自处,走到今天笃定自信地以“新加坡华人”自居。

一位不喜欢历史的同窗好友总是和我争辩历史问题。她认为眼前的世界缤纷精彩,瞬息万变,要跟上这个眼花缭乱的世界就已经耗尽力气,哪儿还有精力研究过去的历史?她选择把有限的精力放在现在与未来。

可是当她知道自己所属教堂的一段充满况味的历史后,还是有点兴奋。她做礼拜的教堂不仅是牛车水第一家电影院,创办人卖掉戏院后还曾经在她所属教会当牧师。多年以后,当传统电影业萧瑟没落,那一家曾经积累数代人集体记忆的百年影院,竟阴差阳错地变成她今天的教堂。我相信朋友今后上教堂,会多一份历史厚实感。

著名寻墓人吴安全最近找到阮添筹近百年的古墓,由此掀开阮锡禧、阮添筹和阮添成的家族史。这段家族小历史却牵引出一段趣事,当年负笈英国念法律的阮添筹,虽生长在新加坡,却曾经被清廷的肃亲王看中聘为秘书;而阮添筹的祖父阮锡禧,却是高举“反清复明”旗帜的秘密会社义兴公司的大总理。这真是一段诡谲有趣的历史。

新加坡很幸运有一群民间的文史爱好者,愿意前仆后继,完全不计较得失报偿地钻研岛国历史,他们的热沉与奉献,为岛国短浅的历史增添一层又一层的绚丽姿彩。

晚晴园近年对新加坡与辛亥革命的研究,宗乡总会出版《新加坡华人通史》,不同会馆研究和整理籍贯族群史,同样对我们的历史认知和身份认同有着功不可没的建树。但时代和发展的巨轮正迅速往前冲,着手整理,记载和出版这些共同记忆,为下一代保存历史的努力已刻不容缓。

ST News Apr 17, 2016
by Melody Zaccheus

WWII memorial, 35,000 graves in section of cemetery will be gone under exhumation programme

On a grassy patch in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery lies an unusual square plot with a solitary stone tablet - the final resting place of the martyrs from Little Bamboo Lane.

The 46.5 sq m tomb memorial is believed to house the remains of several Chinese who died during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II.

The tablet inscription states that it is a memorial for Chinese "patriot victims" killed in the spring of 1942, in a village along Little Bamboo Lane at the 5 ½ milestone in Bukit Timah.

Soon, this World War II memorial and 35,000 graves in a section of the cemetery will have to go.

They are slated for exhumation in August under phase five of the National Environment Agency's (NEA) exhumation programme at the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.


The World War II memorial in the heart of Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. It features a stone tablet with gold inscriptions in the middle of a compound decorated with ceramic lotuses. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI


Mr Raymond Goh, a tomb researcher who found the memorial, worries that this and the remains of significant pioneers "will be gone for good", as many of the tombs do not appear to have been visited in years.

Graves that go unclaimed will first be exhumed and cremated by NEA. Their ashes will be scattered at sea if they stay unclaimed three years after exhumation. The deadline for claim registration is July 31.

NEA told The Sunday Times that as of March, only about 900 graves have been claimed.

The latest phase of the exhumation programme was announced in July 2014. Due to land scarcity, NEA introduced a policy in 1998 which limits the lease of graves to 15 years.

Mr Goh, who has been studying the affected site over the past year, has identified several historic graves there, including several dating back to the 19th century. He also found the graves of prominent Singaporeans such as Dr Adolphus Josiah Thumboo, uncle of poet and academic Edwin Thumboo.

The late Thumboo, who died in 1956, was probably the first Asian to teach anatomy at the King Edward VII College of Medicine.

The area also houses the remains of 11,500 pioneers from the defunct 1840s Loke Yah Teng Cemetery in Tiong Bahru. They now take the form of small, plain tomb markers arranged like neat teeth in rows, across a large, sloping plot of land at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

Many of the 35,000 graves slated for exhumation were moved there as a result of redevelopment. They were re-interred from defunct graveyards between the 1940s and 1970s, with the aid of old clans including those of the Huang, Chua and Lim lineages.

Mr Goh told The Sunday Times: "The least we can do is to give them some recognition, and to know what we are removing."

He hopes the significant tombstones there will be documented and studied by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

The war memorial, for instance, features a stone tablet with gold inscriptions and decorations such as ceramic lotuses.

Mr Goh believes the war memorial, which was built in 1962, could have been forgotten during the nationwide effort in the 1960s to rehouse the remains of the Chinese community's war dead at the Civilian War Memorial at Beach Road.

He said: "It's a great mystery. Who were the martyrs who were killed in this village? The inscription itself is very meaningful and the memorial should be preserved as it is.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions. When you remove these headstones and their remains, a facet of our history will be gone."

The Sunday Times understands that NHB is in discussions with NEA about the historic structures at the cemetery.

Mr Jacky Kok, 45, who was visiting the graves of his ancestors on Friday, said he did not know about the exhumation. The tombs of his ancestors - one who died in 1933, and another who died in 1966 - will be affected by the programme.

Mr Kok, who is self-employed, said more can be done to inform the public about the exhumation. He hopes the authorities can publish names and old records so that next-of-kin can come forward.

"It's important to care for our family history and heritage," he said.

Mr Goh added that clans can help by "taking the initiative to inform its members" about the exercise.

Other key graves in the area include those from Tan Jiak Kim's family burial ground of more than 70 graves. Tan has a street in River Valley named after him.

Tan, who died in 1917, was a Straits-born Chinese merchant and political activist. He co-founded the Straits Chinese British Association. His great-grandson, Mr Tan Tiang Teck, 74, a retired insurance executive, stressed to The Sunday Times the importance of "honouring the country's forefathers".

The section of the cemetery slated for exhumation is also home to graves from the Yeo clan, which includes a mass family grave watched over by statues of four Sikh guards and Chinese military warriors.


Mr Goh, a tomb researcher who found the memorial, worries that this and the remains of significant pioneers "will be gone for good", as many of the tombs do not appear to have been visited in years. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI


 The Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, which houses the final resting place of the World War II martyrs from Little Bamboo Lane at the 51/2 milestone in Bukit Timah, according to a tablet inscription there.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

Zaobao News Apr 10, 2016

In today's Lianhe Zaobao, the discovery of Wee Theam Tew's grave by Raymond Goh. He was mentioned in Song Ong Siang's book as a local lawyer trained in London, and for a short period he was secretary to one of Manchu princes who was a minister in Imperial China. While researching Wee Theam Tew, Raymond realised that his brother Wee Theam Seng, one of the earlier Christians in Singapore and a manager of the Chinese Commercial Bank, was the maternal grandfather of Kwa Geok Choo.

The grandfather of Wee Theam Tew and Wee Theam Seng, Wee Siak Hee, was one of the headmen of the Ghee Hin Society. His ancestral tablet used to be placed in the Ghee Hin headquarters at Lavendar Street, and was relocated eventually with the tablets of other Ghee Hin leaders and members to the Pu Zhao Chan Si in Changi.


发现早期著名律师民国六年古墓 寻墓人考研出阮添筹家族史

谢燕燕



生平故事曾被列入宋鸿祥《新加坡华人百年史》的阮添筹(也称阮添畴),祖父阮锡禧是新加坡福建帮义兴公司的大总理,而弟弟阮添成则是建国总理李光耀夫人柯玉芝的外祖父。

本地寻墓人和文史工作者吴安全(51岁,药剂师)去年9月在武吉布朗老山的密林中,无意间发现了本地早期著名律师阮添筹之墓。经过半年的调查研究,他终于考研出阮氏家族在新加坡鲜为人知的故事。

生平故事曾被列入宋鸿祥(Song Ong Siang)《新加坡华人百年史》的阮添筹(也称阮添畴),祖父阮锡禧是新加坡福建帮义兴公司的大总理,而弟弟阮添成(Wee Theam Seng)则是建国总理李光耀夫人柯玉芝的外祖父。

在本地出世的阮添筹(Wee Theam Tew)就读于莱佛士书院,中学毕业后先在一家洋行当书记,后来在白手起家、兴办义学的颜永成的资助下到英国深造,1897年从伦敦林肯法学院(Lincoln Inn)取得律师资格。

曾受聘为满清肃亲王
 爱新觉罗·善耆秘书

熟读中国和英国文学的阮添筹,最为人津津乐道的事迹,是1904年曾被中国满清肃亲王爱新觉罗·善耆(1898-1912在位)聘为秘书。当时已岌岌可危的满清王朝,也许想借助这名留英法律专才研究修宪问题,但显然为时已晚。阮添筹到北京赴任没多久便又回到新加坡,第二年在本地开设律师馆。

一般人对清末第十代和硕肃亲王善耆也许感到陌生,但一提川岛芳子都略有所闻。善耆正是川岛芳子的生父。原名爱新觉罗·显玗,汉名金璧辉的川岛芳子,本是肃亲王府的格格,却在二战期间当起日本人的间谍,1947年在北平被河北高等法院以汉奸罪判处死刑。

阮添筹1901年在新加坡当过吾槽区市政厅代表,当年才35岁。他也是颜永成义校信托人。本地文史学者李元瑾曾在一篇文章中说,阮添筹和邱菽园、林文庆的交情不浅,都是华商阁成员,林文庆还称他是年青人的楷模。

阮添筹是在1918年1月19日与世长辞,去世时才52岁,但他的墓碑上却写着“民国六年”(1917年)。这是因为他去世时正当农历十二月初七,还没过农历年,因此还是民国六年。

吴安全在老山(新恒山亭)的密林中找到阮添筹那近百年的古墓时,墓碑几乎已被灌木丛覆盖,相信后人早已不知道这古墓的存在。

吴安全从考究阮添筹的资料中,还追溯到他的弟弟阮添成。

阮添成育有六名女儿,他把长女阮有娘许配给柯守智,而柯守智正是建国总理李光耀夫人柯玉芝的父亲。

除了长女嫁给柯守智,阮添成最小的女儿阮海伦(Helene Wee)也嫁入名门,夫婿是本地著名银行家陈振传。陈振传的后人最近把他所留下的3万多份私人文献捐给了尤索夫伊萨东南亚研究院。

根据吴安全找到的报章资料,阮添成是在1950年4月11日以82岁高龄与世长辞,他是海峡殖民地最早的基督徒,也是华商银行(Chinese Commercial Bank)经理。由福建商人创立于1912年4月的华商银行,1932年与旧华侨银行及和丰银行合并为目前的华侨银行。阮添成去世后葬在比达达利基督教坟场(Bidadari Cemetery)。

在考研撰写阮氏家族史时,吴安全参阅了多位文史工作者的学术论著,翻查各种旧档案,包括旧剪报,目前收录在国家档案馆的旧遗嘱,也走访了供奉着早期义兴公司义士神主牌的寺庙。

吴安全说,他最初并不知道阮添筹和阮锡禧的关系,却因为对武吉布朗坟场的历史感兴趣,很早就知道武吉布朗坟场姓王山部分,最早的业主叫Wee Hee。

他后来在《新加坡自由报》(Singapore Free Press)的一则旧通告中,看到Wee Hee又名Wee Seh Hee,这才联想到Wee Hee可能是义兴公司的福建帮大总理阮锡禧,于是到档案馆找了Wee Hee的英文遗嘱来研究。

遗嘱上虽只用Wee Hee和Wee Tian Siew,却注明Wee Hee的儿子是阮启昌,长孙是阮添筹,这与阮启昌所留下的华文遗嘱相吻合,由此确定Wee Hee就是阮锡禧。

阮启昌立遗嘱时,清楚说明他因染重病,将把阮锡禧留给他的遗产交托给游永安,待儿子阮添筹长大再交还给他掌管,如果阮添筹不在世就交给阮添成,阮添成不在便交给阮添铭。

阮添筹祖父阮锡禧是义兴公司福建帮领袖



阮添筹是我国早期的著名律师,还一度受清廷赏识,他祖父阮锡禧却是高举着“反清复明”旗帜的秘密会社义兴公司福建帮领袖。

义兴公司是天地会二房在海外的繁衍,是马来亚最早成立的秘密会社或私会党组织,18世纪末就已经出现在槟城。莱佛士开埠后不久便传到新加坡。

根据学者研究,1850年新加坡的华侨有2万7000人,其中2万人是天地会成员,由此可见,秘密会党在早期华社占据了重要位置。

本地学者庄钦永在《新甲华人史史料考释》一书中,曾对最早位于劳明达街的五虎祠(又称社公庙)的70余座义兴公司义士的神主牌进行研究,当中就包括了阮锡禧的牌位。

祖籍福建思明(厦门)的阮锡禧,神主牌上写着“明赠义士号大总理讳锡禧阮府君禄位”,显示他是福建帮义兴分会的领袖。阮锡禧曾在咸丰八年(1858年)赠横匾“德超孙许”给天福宫,也曾在1867年和1868年捐钱给崇文阁和紫云庙。

从他儿子阮启昌立于光绪八年(1882)的遗嘱看,吾槽义兴公司建庙时曾向阮锡禧借了钱,阮启昌因此说继承遗产者日后能前去追讨。

新加坡义兴公司的代表黄秋水、郭亚头、张馨华等人在1857年2月14日向东印度公司买下劳明达街一个地段建会所总部,据曾经参观过该会所的英国作家威汉(J.D. Vaughan)形容,那是一座美轮美奂的会所,二楼有两个大厅,主殿供奉着五位会社创始人的神位,一般称“五主”或“五虎”。

不过到了1890年,海峡殖民地政府封禁一切会党活动,义兴公司正式被列为非法组织。1892年8月,颜永成代表义兴公司把上述地产捐给了陈笃生医院。
 义兴公司内的神主牌,后来被德春板厂主人收集起来供奉,德春号停业后由成昌号接手。1930年,成昌号因扩张厂地把神主牌送到义兴公司旧址的社公庙供奉。1990年社公庙被拆除,这批文物被接到乌鲁三巴旺金同花园的广福英烈庙,但不到一年,该庙又被征用,因此在1991年4月落户到樟宜的普照禅寺,供奉至今。

FAMILIES MAKE THEIR WAY TO WHAT IS LEFT OF BUKIT BROWN CEMETERY FOR ANNUAL QING MING FESTIVAL

The New Paper Apr 5, 2016 6:00am
BY LAURA CHIA

 

REMAINING: Parts of Bukit Brown Cemetery have been razed to make way for a major road connecting the MacRitchie Viaduct to the Adam Flyover. TNP PHOTOS: PHYLLICIA WANG 

Most girls her age tend to shun chores such as sweeping, cleaning and weeding.

But not only does Soh Yi Wei, 10, look forward to it, she is also willing to wake up at dawn for it.

This is especially so during the annual Qing Ming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, which usually falls on April 4 or 5. Families visit their ancestors' tombs to clean them and to pay their respects.

Last Sunday, the Woodgrove Primary School pupil was at Bukit Brown Cemetery with her family to clean her great-grandfather's tomb.

"I like going there because I like doing the work," said the Primary 4 pupil, who helps her parents sweep the surrounding area of the tomb and clear the weeds.

Her father, Mr Nelson Soh, said that Yi Wei has been accompanying him on Qing Ming since she was two years old.

Mr Soh's family is joined by his three older brothers and their families.

"Since my father died in 2002, the four families have been visiting my grandfather's tomb every year," said Mr Soh, 48, a business developer.

"Before that, we followed my father only once in a while."

Apart from the actual tombsweeping, Yi Wei, along with her 12-year-old brother, Hong Ren, also help in the preparations by accompanying their father to buy supplies, such as joss paper, for the visit.

Mrs Shalie Ng, 47, has also been visiting Bukit Brown Cemetery with her husband, Mr Patrick Ng, every Qing Ming for more than 10 years.

FAMILY






PLAYING HER PART: Soh Yi Wei, 10, helping her family during the Qing Ming Festival last Sunday. TNP PHOTOS: PHYLLICIA WANG



















Mr and Mrs Ng are accompanied by their three children, aged between 18 and 21, who help to sweep their great-grandfather's tomb.

"My children enjoy it as they find it interesting," Mrs Ng, a part-time clerk, told The New Paper.

"Most of their friends don't get to go to graveyards. They want to follow us because they find visits to cemeteries rare in Singapore today."

Bukit Brown has been seeing fewer visitors over the past few years as parts of it have been razed to make way for an eight-lane road being constructed through the cemetery to connect the MacRitchie Viaduct to the Adam Flyover. The project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

More than 3,700 graves in the affected area have been exhumed since Dec 17, 2013.

The graves of ancestors of the Soh and Ng families are not affected by the project.

Mrs Ng said: "I am thankful that we are not affected. This way, we can continue visiting my husband's grandfather's tomb every year.

"Bukit Brown is also a unique place with a rich culture, so I hope that by coming back every year, this Qing Ming spirit will be passed on to the next few generations."

Bukit Brown is also a unique place with a rich culture, so I hope that by coming back every year, this Qing Ming spirit will be passed on to the next few generations.

- Mrs Shalie Ng

- See more at: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore-news/keeping-traditions-alive-bukit-brown-qing-ming#sthash.zcFa1Lbr.dpuf

ST News, Apr 5, 2016
by Audrey Tan

SINGAPORE - A slice of the Republic's history will come alive on April 9, when a book documenting the impact of the Japanese Occupation on Singapore is launched.

The book, WWII @ Bukit Brown by All Things Bukit Brown, is a collection of stories, essays and poems, with a focus on those buried at Bukit Brown cemetery, which was at the time the largest cemetery in operation in Singapore.


WWII @ Bukit Brown by All Things Bukit Brown is a collection of stories, essays and poems, with a focus on those buried at Bukit Brown cemetery.PHOTO: SINGAPORE HERITAGE SOCIETY/ ETHOS BOOKS

When war descended upon Singapore's shores, the cemetery became a site of battle, and the resting place of those who died in the run-up to the invasion and subsequent occupation by the Japanese forces.

Launched by non-government organisation Singapore Heritage Society and publisher Ethos Books, the book tells of pre-war conditions, when the Chinese in Singapore were involved in raising funds for their homeland, at war with the Japanese during that time.

Readers will learn what the consequences of those actions were when Singapore fell to the Japanese, through the anthology compiled from family archives and oral interviews.

The stories, essays and poems in the book were compiled by All Things Bukit Brown, a loose community of volunteers, "as an act of commemoration", said the volunteer group in a statement on Tuesday (April 5).

It added: "(The book is) supported by the Singapore Heritage Society and published by Ethos Books. We acknowledge the National Heritage Board for its grant, and contributions from SHS members and other community members."

The book launch will be held at the 5th-floor auditorium at The URA Centre in Maxwell Road. It will be attended by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Home Affairs.

Those interested in attending the book launch, which will also feature presentations and a panel discussion on community engagement, can register online at http://peatix.com/event/159461

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