The Penang Heritage Festival 2015  will be soon be upon us, mark your calenders 4th July to 7th July,  book your flights and head north, for this year’s theme will leave you salivating.

‘EAT RITE: Rituals Foods of George Town’, Heritage Celebrations 2015 puts the focus on the city’s festive heritage with emphasis on the special foods made to celebrate each occasion. More than just a source of nutrients, such foods are rich with significance and symbolism that express the beliefs and hopes shared by the community.

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The Brownies had a heritage blast last year and had their fill of the landmarks of Georgetown and the stories recounted here in:

To Penang With Love.

by Simone Lee

Penang and George Henry Brown (1826-1882)

Though at opposite ends of the Malayan peninsula, the islands of Penang and Singapore share common ground in culture and history, and even identity.  Last year (2014) the Brownies set out exploring the connections with Singapore’s past while celebrating the Penang Heritage Festival in commemoration of George Town’s listing as a UNESCO Heritage site.

Brownies on a heritage tour during the Penang Heritage Festival. Photo taken at the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple

Brownies on a heritage tour during the Penang Heritage Festival. Photo taken at the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple

While the Bukit Brown Cemetery volunteer guides were in Penang, they  paid homage to the person that the cemetery was named after. George Henry Brown arrived in Singapore in the 1840’s from India and bought parcels of land around Upper Thomson including Mount Pleasant, which he named because of its pleasant surroundings. Although Mr.Brown did not buy the exact piece of land that now holds Bukit Brown cemetery, his name was adopted as the locals referred to the hills in the area as “Kopi Sua” or Brown’s hill ( *kopi literally means coffee but is here referred to as brown for its colour, due to limitations in the dialect vocabulary.)  In the 1880’s, Mr.Brown sailed to Penang following an accident with a tapioca machine on his estate in Singapore,  which severely injured his arm. He was there to recuperate in his brother’s home but complications from injury set in and he passed away. He was buried at the Old Protestant Cemetery in GeorgeTown.

A moment of reflection and wonder for the Brownies at George Henry Brown’s resting place. Picture by Cuifen

The Old Protestant Cemetery is the oldest christian cemetery in Penang. It is where Sir Francis Light, the founder of colonial Penang, was also laid to rest. Thomas Leonowens, the husband of Anna Leonowens is also buried there. After the death of her husband, Anna moved to Singapore and with George Brown and Tan Kim Ching’s (son of Tan Tock Seng) recommendation, she became the English tutor to the children of King Mongkut in Siam. Her story is immortalized in various versions of The King and I (or Anna and the King).

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Some of the tombstones from tombs damaged by WW2 air raids were salvaged and installed along the walls of the cemetery.

 

Crypts belonging to Sir Francis Light and Thomas Leonowens

Crypts belonging to Sir Francis Light and Thomas Leonowens

 

Kapitan Chung Keng Quee (1821-1901) and the Tan Kim Ching (1829-1892)  connection

High on the Brownie itinerary,  was the hunt for the biggest tomb in Penang (and possibly in Malaysia). The immensity of the space  where life sized statues guard the grand tomb of Kapitan Chung Keng Quee is a jaw-dropping experience. Kapitan Chung or Ah Quee was a leader in the Chinese community and was known for his generous contributions. He was also the headman of the Hai San secret society who led the group through the 4 Larut Wars and supported the Pangkor Treaty. The fierce fighting over the booming tin mining territories in Taiping (formerly known as Larut) involved members of the Ghee Hin and Hai San secret societies from as far as Singapore. To  end the bloodshed, Prince Abdullah who himself was embroiled in a succession crisis and  was sympathetic to the  Ghee Hin faction,  traveled to Singapore to seek help from Tan Kim Ching.  As  a prominent leader in the Chinese community  Tan brought to bear his influence in the matter and  called on the British administrators who had charged of The Straits Settlements  to intercede and broker a peace agreement. The rest as they say is history.  The Pangkok Treaty ended hostilities  with  a truce and Larut was then named Taiping – 太 (tai – ‘great’) and 平 (ping – ‘peace’). More on Romancing Taiping here.

 

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Brownies are dwarfed at Kapitan Chung Keng Quee’s tomb. Photo by Raymond Goh

 

The tomb guardians oversees anyone entering the territory

Tomb guardians oversee anyone who enters the territory

 

 

Big is the word

Big is the word

 

Back in Georgetown, Penang, Kapitan Chung was also known for his expansiveness and exquisite taste in architecture and all things Chinese culture and history. His grand townhouse in Georgetown showcases some of the finest artisan work of that time  imported from both China and Europe  and is now opened to the public as the Penang Peranakan Mansion. Next to his townhouse is Kapitan Chung’s private temple. A life-size bronze statue of Chung stands in this temple.

 

Chung Keng Quee's mansion, now the Penang Peranakan Museum

Chung Keng Quee’s mansion, now the Penang Peranakan Museum

 

Brownie Simone posing next to statue of Chung Keng Quee

Brownie Simone posing next to statue of Chung Keng Quee

 

 

Khoo Tiong Poh (1830-1892) and Tiong Bahru

Resting at a corner of the Jalan Free School roundabout is buried the man who is named for Tiong Poh road in Singapore, Tiong Bahru.  Khoo Tiong Poh was a Chinese merchant and ship owner. He owned the shipping and trading company, Bun Hin & Co at Malacca Street, in Singapore, and within a few years opened branches in Penang, Hong Kong, Amoy and Swatow, making it the largest and leading shipping enterprise in the Straits. He was also known for his philanthropic deeds which included donations made to cemeteries and temples in Penang, and to the coastal defence and flood relief in China, earning him the title Dao Tai 道台 by the Qing government.

After a prolonged illness, Mr.Khoo passed away in Singapore and his body was shipped to Penang to be buried at his plantation. His son, Khoo Phee Soon, who resided in Singapore till his eventual death is buried in Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Brownies pose for a group picture with the care takers (seated at front left side) of Khoo Tiong Poh's grave

Brownies pose for a group picture with the care takers of Khoo Tiong Poh’s grave

 

 

Khoo Kongsi

Brownies approach the grandest temple in Malaysia, Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi clan temple (photo by Ang Yik Han)

Brownies approach the grandest temple in Malaysia, Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi clan temple (photo by Ang Yik Han)

No trip to Penang is complete without visiting the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi. The  clan association which has opened it doors to the public  as a living museum, displays the rich history behind the Khoo lineage, the grand architecture, and the elaborate Chinese decorations, paintings and carvings. It also showcases prominent pioneers who made their names in the society and contributed generously to the community in Malaya and Singapore. These men include Khoo Seok Wan, Khoo Teck Phuat and his father, Khoo Yang Tin.

Larger than life, Khoo Yang Tin's portrait overlook write-ups of other pioneers at the Khoo Kongsi

Larger than life, Khoo Yang Tin’s portrait overlook write-ups of other pioneers at the Khoo Kongsi

 

A plaque of recognition in the ancestral hall bearing Khoo Seok Wan's name

A plaque of recognition in the ancestral hall bearing Khoo Seok Wan‘s name

 

Over the years, the Leong San Tong has gone through a number of restorations. Over the span of 3 years (1999-2001), the biggest restoration exercise saw conservation specialists and craftsmen from China and India, flown in to work on restoring and reinstalling parts of the building with materials that were traditionally used. These included traditional organic paint, and terracotta tiles which were imported from China. The massive restoration brought Leong San Tong’s shine back to its authentic glory and garnered the National Heritage Restoration Award in 2000, and helped sealed Georgetown’s  UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008.

 

The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi temple was made out of carvings, sculptures and engravings.

The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi temple was made out of carvings, sculptures and engravings.

 

The crown of the temple

The crown of the temple

 

The inner walls of the temple are decorated with paintings of immortals

The inner walls of the temple are decorated with paintings of immortals

 

For the few short days, the Brownies visited a few other sites in Penang which had links to Singapore but yet to explore some completely, saving them for future Brownie adventures.

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Acknowledgements :

We are grateful to members of the Penang Heritage Trust for their hospitality and guidance in our trip. Special thanks to Salma Khoo, Lim Giak Siang, Clement Liang and Joanna Khaw.

A special mention is the place the Brownies called ‘home’ for 3 nights; the Ren I Tang Heritage Inn. The shophouse once housed the oldest traditional chinese medical practice in South East Asia, Yin Oi Tong, for 124 years. It went through a 2-year restoration process which retained much of the original features, including the air-well, wooden staircase and roof tiles. Today, one can find himself soaking in Ren I Tang’s history at the comfort of his room, while sipping a cuppa at the bistro or just bybrowsing through the museum.

Ren I Tang Heritage Inn

Ren I Tang Heritage Inn

About the Brownies and their off-site sojourns:

The Brownies’ yearning to connect to history and thirst for adventure, brings them to various locations within and beyond Singapore. The objectives of these retreats are, to study the historical and cultural links to Singapore, and to strengthen kinship amongst the brownies.

(Brownies are the volunteers who conduct regular weekend guided walks and independent research on heritage, habitat and history of Bukit Brown Cemetery.)

‘Then and Now’ with Simone and Genine

Singapore has seen vast changes over the years. Take a walk with us at Bukit Brown as Simone share some stories of life in the past and the contrast to what we are familiar with today. Guest starring Genine will be sharing a special segment of this walk featuring the New World Amusement Park in conjunction of the exhibition on this legendary park at City Square Mall.

Simone is a volunteer at the Bukit Brown Cemetery. Specialising in themed walks such as ‘Ladies of the Straits Settlements’ and ‘Back-to-Schools’, she is part of an informal group of volunteers and heritage enthusiasts, affectionately known as the Brownies.

Genine is a curator and researcher who works locally and regionally on themes in visual arts and heritage. She takes an-almost masochistic delight in sifting through stacks of musty archival material in search of the weird and wonderful.

Bukit Brown is more than a cemetery. Come discover our habitat, heritage, history. Exhumations have started. Many areas have been cordoned off.

Bukit Brown is also on the World Monuments Watch list 2014 . Find out what makes this a heritage site worthy of preserving. http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7930

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Difficulty: Average, some trekking requiredPlease bring umbrella or poncho.Please wear covered footwear.

“We guide rain, shine or exhumations”

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Tour starts at 4pm and ends at 6.30pm.

Registration: Our weekend walks are FREE!

Please  sign up via Peatix: http://peatix.com/event/85773

and the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/888541011210581/

so that we can allocate enough Brownies for this walk (Optimally 1 volunteers to 15 participants).

*Disclaimer: By agreeing to take this walking tour of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward)
* Please take note:
1. We will be walking through the undergrowth so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.

2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.

3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.

4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place (e.g. BukitBrown.com)

5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.

6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.

———————————————————————

Meeting Point: Main entrance gate into Bukit Brown at Lorong Halwa

How to get there by MRT / Bus:

Bus services available: 52, 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855.

From North: Go to Marymount MRT and walk to bus-stop #53019 along Upper Thomson Road. Take Buses 52, 74, 165, 852, 855 Alight 6 stops later at bus-stop, #41149, opposite Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Walk towards Sime Road in the direction of Kheam Hock Road until you see Lorong Halwa.

From South: Go to Farrer Road MRT and walk to bus-stop #11111 at Farrer Road, in front of Blocks 2 & 3. Take Buses 93, 165, 852, 855. Alight 5 stops later at bus-stop, #41141, just before Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Cross the bridge, walk towards Sime Road, follow the road until you see Lorong Halwa.

By car:Turn in from Lornie Road, to Sime Road. Then, turn left into Lorong Halwa, where parking is limited.

Try to use public transport to get there.

How to get there and handy tips here:

http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7250

http://goo.gl/maps/qgKL8http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=1170

http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/1.3354/103.8224

 

Photo by Franck

Photo courtesy of the Bukit Brown Documentation team

Remembering Yeo Bian Chuan

by Simone Lee

Qingming or Tomb-Sweeping Day is a traditional festival on the Chinese  calendar in remembrance and respect of ancestors. Families visit their ancestors’ ‘home’ – the grave,  for a ‘spring clean’ and replenish their needs by leaving ‘worldly’ offerings. This year, the festival fell on the 5th of April and 10 days before and 10 days after is the period where rituals are conducted.

Smoke from burning incense sticks blankets the fauna at Bukit Brown Cemetery

Smoke from burning incense sticks blankets the flora  at Bukit Brown Cemetery (photo Simone Lee)

Bukit Brown is busiest at this time of the year. Jams are not uncommon.  Throngs of people drive around the historic cemetery to look for their ancestors’ tomb. They carry with them bags of offerings and cleaning tools. Yet, for another year, Yeo Bian Chuan’s grave laid forgotten.

Almost a miss, Yeo Bian Chuan's tomb has been neglected

Almost a miss, Yeo Bian Chuan’s tomb has been neglected (phone Simone Lee)

In February 1915, during the Indian Mutiny in Singapore, Yeo Bian Chuan saved 17 Europeans’ lives by hiding them in their home from a bloody massacre. For this he was awarded a commemorative gold medal but died before receiving it.

The headstone of Yeo Bian Chuan's dilapidated tomb

The headstone of Yeo Bian Chuan’s  tomb

Today, Yeo Bian Chuan’s tomb is in a state of neglect, not what a hero deserves. We can only hope that soon a descendant would identify him and restore the glory of his ‘home’, one which he deserves.

The loyal guardian of Yeo Bian Chuan's tomb

The loyal guardian of Yeo Bian Chuan’s tomb (photo Simone Lee)

Read more on Yeo Bian Chuan’s story at Peter Pak’s blog here.

 

 

Bukit Brown Watch Day 2015

All Things Bukit Brown, a civil society group of volunteers, will mark World Monuments Watch Day for Singapore’s first and only World Monuments Fund watch site, Bukit Brown Cemetery, on Saturday 14 March 2015 in a programme of exclusive events to raise awareness on the Heritage, Habitat and History of Bukit Brown.

Watch Day marks the listing of Bukit Brown Cemetery by the World Monuments Fund in October 2013, putting the site on the watch list with 66 other sites globally for 2014 to 2016, in a bid to raise global awareness of sites under threat and encouraging community engagement to take ownership.

On the Bukit Brown Watch Day, we celebrate community at the site with a choice of  guided walks from nature trails to unravelling the ties of kin and clan, deciphering the stories of the exquisitely carved stones, storytelling for children, a sketch walk  and stations to play some traditional games or try your hand at painting your own tiles inspired by the “Peranakan” tiles of the graves.

This is a ticketed event and registration on Peatix at this link bbwatchday.peatix.com opens on 1 March, 2015, 12 pm. Participants will receive a limited edition Watch Day Tote Bag with a magnet tile and a snack pack of traditional sweets. Registration for this specially curated morning of guided walks and activities is capped at between 20 and 25 pax to ensure maximum engagement with your volunteer guides. There are guided walks targeted at the first time visitor and those who have a deeper interest in history, and something for children of all ages.

The event is organised by All Things Bukit Brown with the support of the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society of Singapore.

Bukit Brown Watch Day 2015 Programme

Date and Time: Saturday March 14, 8am – 12.30pm

Meeting Point and Registration: Open air-area, approximately 200 meters as you enter the main gates of Bukit Brown at Lorong Halwa, on your right just pass the green hoardings, there will be directional signs at various vantage points.

Please note ticketed events are limited to one event, the schedule and geography of Bukit Brown does not lend itself for attendance to more than one ticketed event. There will however be additional activities scheduled for ticket holders to participate in.

A Introduction to Bird Watching with Wing Chong

8.30am – 11.30am (20 tickets)

Home to over 90 resident and migratory birds, Bukit Brown in the morning greets with a chorus of bird song and flashes of colours from pink and green neck pigeons to the cobalt blue of kingfishers.

Join Wing Chong, Chairman of the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) bird group and you may just catch more than a glimpse of the 13 endangered species which include the red jungle fowl and the Changeable Hawk. (binoculars recommended)

B Unravelling the Connections of Clan and Kin – by Ang Yik Han and Raymond Goh (20 tickets)

Part 1 8.30 am – 10 am with Yik Han

Part 2 10.15 am – 12 pm with Raymond

Conducted in English, this is highly recommended for those with knowledge of Mandarin who want to delve deeper into the familial and socio-economic ties of the past. Both tours will cover tomb inscriptions which are the stone thumb drives of the past. This is a 2- part tour with Yik Han conducting Part 1 covering Chinese clan connections and in Part 2, Raymond will share his new discoveries found just weeks ago during his “bush bashing” on the genealogy of pioneer families.

Raymond and Yik Han are the keen researchers of “All Things Chinese Past” among the Brownies.

C Tales of Wisdom and Wonder: The Young Story Teller with Rosemarie Somaiah

8.45am – 10.00am (25 Tickets including accompanying parents)

Suitable for 4 years upwards, please note a parent must accompany and be responsible for their child/children. Recommended that you bring your own mats to sit on

Join storyteller and published author Rosemarie as she shares stories that honour family and heritage and celebrate the world around us at the largest family tomb cluster of Bukit Brown where the carvings abound with stories of filial piety and animal statuary.

Rosemarie has led workshops and told stories in local and international schools, museums, corporations, over the radio, in libraries and even on the MRT

D Sikh Guards and Kampong Guided Walk with Peter Pak

10am-12pm (25 Tickets)

Combining his passion for Sikh Guard statuary and the flora and fauna of Bukit Brown, join the affable Peter on this trek retracing the bountiful harvest of the old Kampong and find out how a warrior race became elevated to tomb guardians and status symbols for the Chinese Towkays of the past.

E Sketching for Beginners with Marcus Lim

10am – 12pm (20 Tickets)

Please bring your own pen/pencil and sketch pad.

Get inspired by the beauty and serenity that is Bukit Brown and let it guide your first heritage sketch with Marcus, a historian painter who will help with introductory lessons on drawing.

For his feature on samsui women, Marcus won the ‘Cover Art of the Decade’ by the Asian Geographic Magazine and he was Singapore’s first representative to the International Portrait Artists’ Conference in Washington DC, in 2010.

Additional Activities opened to all Ticket Holders

F Old School Games with Andrew Lim

Suitable for the young and those forever young

This is a free and easy station starting from 9am onwards, ending at 12pm

Experience games which were more social and did not need batteries or high speed connectivity, yet still needed skills and just as competitive. Remember the capteh (shuttlecock), goli (marble balls), five-stones, zero-point (rubber-band rope), kuti-kuti (flick)? (Re)discover some of these toys at the Old-School Games station and find out if you (still) have what it takes to beat your opponents.

G “Peranakan” Tile Painting

Session 1: 9am – 10am (limited to 15 tiles)

Session 2: 10.30am – 11.30am (limited to 15 tiles)

Paint, paint brush and tiles provided. Limited to one tile per participant.

“Peranakan” tiles are almost ubiquitous, gracing the shophouses of our past, temples, walkways, tombs and in some modern homes with a wide array of colours and designs. They are also rich in symbolism. These decorative tiles were very popular in the 20th Century and were imported from various countries. Learn the history of the “Peranakan” tiles and paint one of your very own.

H The Wayang of the Tombs by Yik Han

10.30am – 12 pm (limited to 30 participants)

The exquisite carvings on the tombstones of Bukit Brown, come alive with stories from the great Chinese classics, recounted by Yik Han who will also highlight   the symbolism and significance of grave artefacts and statuary.

What you should Know

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take part in the activities of Watch Day at Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so. To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward)

There are minimal toilet facilities and these are located near the entrance just for Watch Day.

In case of heavy rain and lightning, we will be taking shelter at a site office at the entrance of Bukit Brown. Activities will however continue if there is a light drizzle so please come prepared with umbrellas and/or ponchos.

What to Wear

Please wear comfortable clothes, covered shoes (suitable for light trekking) sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

What to Bring

Water and a packet of traditional sweets will be provided but feel free to bring your own snacks to munch along the way if you tend to get peckish. For Story Telling please bring mats and for Sketching bring your own pen/pencils and sketch pads. Umbrellas and/or ponchos

Watch Day Poster_Final

Bukit Brown Watch Day – Layout Design by Bianca Polak

About:

The World Monument Fund (WMF) mission is to preserve the world’s architectural heritage of significant monuments, buildings, and sites. Every two years since 1996, the World Monuments Watch is a call to action for cultural heritage around the globe that is at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change.

Inclusion on the list provides nominators and site owners with an important opportunity to promote their sites locally and internationally, to work towards improved site protection, and to build community engagement in their preservation efforts. Bukit Brown is the first site in Singapore to have gained a listing.

All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) is the banner for a community of volunteers (Brownies) of diverse backgrounds and different beliefs who conduct guided walks and independent research on the heritage, habitat and history of Bukit Brown. Formed in 2012, they have conducted tours for more than 14,000 people, organised two exhibitions and presented talks to schools and museums. In August 2014, All Things Bukit Brown became the first recipient of the Advocate Organisation of the Year Award in the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards, presented by civil society champions to recognise and encourage civil activism. For more, bukitbrown.com.

Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) is dedicated to the preservation, transmission and promotion of Singapore’s history, heritage and identity. Founded in 1986, the Singapore Heritage Society is a non-profit, non-government organisation and registered charity.

Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) is a non-government, non-profit organisation dedicated to the appreciation, conservation, study and enjoyment of the natural heritage in Singapore, Malaysia and the surrounding region.

 

Saturday 27th Dec’2014 9am – 12pm

Meeting place: At the Lor Halwa Main gates

Join the Brownies for the last guided walk of 2014, as they look back at their journey and share their collection of individual stories and experiences at their favourite tombs: stories of women breaking the glass ceiling, of great sacrifices and humble deeds, experiences of the joy of discovery and connecting the living to the dead. It is also our thank you tour for the community who have supported us all the way through this ongoing journey which began in 2011, of bringing our collective past and history into the present. We look to you to continue to grow and spread the word of Bukit Brown a Living Museum, Heritage Habitat History.
Bukit Brown Advocate Organisation of the Year 2014
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=9425
Bukit Brown on the World Monuments Fund Watch List
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?page_id=7930

Please sign up at Peatix: http://atbb2.peatix.com/ if you are coming!

We guide rain, shine or exhumations”
===========================================

Please bring umbrella or poncho and sun protection.
Please wear covered footwear.
Please bring mosquito repellent.
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For first time visitors, see below for some important things to note.

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For information on how to get there and handy tips please visit
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=1347

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take this walking tour of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward)

Registration:

Our weekend public tours are FREE …
Optimally the group size is 30 participants (15 individuals/guide).

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Bukit Brown:

The Bukit Brown area is about 233 hectares in extent, bordered by Lornie Road, Thomson Road and the Pan-Island Expressway. It lies just to the south of the Central Catchment Forest, being separated from it by Lornie Road and includes Singapore’s only Chinese Municipal Cemetery. With more than 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is also one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China.

Don’t forget to bask in the peaceful surrounds, and also chat with your guides and make friends with other participants. We are amateurs and volunteers, but we are passionate and serious about what we do at Bukit Brown, and we encourage sharing of knowledge.

Here is a map of the grounds:
http://bukitbrown.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/API.BBC_.Map_.ver3_4.jpg

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Please take note:

1. We will be walking mainly on paved roads. But there are hill treks so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.

2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.

3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.

4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place (e.g. BukitBrown.com)

5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.

6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.

=========================================

How to get there by MRT / Bus:

Bus services available: 52, 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855.

From North: Go to Marymount MRT and walk to bus-stop #53019 along Upper Thomson Road. Take Buses 52, 74, 165, 852, 855
Alight 6 stops later at bus-stop, #41149, opposite Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Walk towards Sime Road in the direction of Kheam Hock Road until you see Lorong Halwa.

From South: Go to Botanic Gardens MRT and walk to bus-stop #41121 at Adam Road, in front of Singapore Bible College. Take Buses 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855. Alight 2 stops later at bus-stop, #41141, just before Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Cross the bridge, walk towards Sime Road, follow the road until you see Lorong Halwa.

By car:
Turn in from Lornie Road, to Sime Road. Then, turn left into Lorong Halwa.
Parking space available along Lor Halwa and in the cemetery some distance after the cemetery gate

 

Dunman Secondary School brought around 40 students to Bukit Brown on 16 August 2014 for a learning journey. Our students marveled at the vast, rich sloping terrain covering over 200 hectres of land space. Some graves dot all the way to Mount Pleasant Road (along PIE).

Our students know that Joo Chiat and Boon Lay are familiar residential estates but little did they know them to be named after our pioneers who lie buried at BB. Tan Ean Kiam, the pioneer whose foundation donated to the construction of our school hall, lies buried at BB alongside his wife. Our students observed a minute of silence as a mark of respect for him.

Dunman Sceondary School  at Tan Ean Kiam photo Yik han

Dunman Secondary School students observing a minutes silence at the grave of Tan Ean Kiam (photo Yik Han)

Our students learned about the strong cultural links our pioneers had with China expressed in the Chinese poetry and the rich artistry in the sculptures and carvings on their grave stones.

The ultimate aim of education is known to be character-building, but certain values such as filial piety and fortune expressed in an abundance of descendants and sustaining blood lines, are so deep-seated that our pioneers bring them down to their graves in forms of figurines symbolizing these values. One grave had carvings showing a a daughter in law breastfeeding her aged and toothless- mother-in-law, choosing to feed her over her crying child, in an act of filial piety. Another grave had 2 Sikh guards standing erect and tall each by the side of a rich tycoon’s final abode. He even had them enshrined as a “sepoy” (stationary guard) and a “prowler” (one who patrols around). This setting reveals the trust placed on the Sikhs for protection during colonial times. Our students were amazed by the detail and rich history of Bukit Brown.

Our students learned that war time graves were smaller and have a unique serial numbering. They were also informed that mass graves were a norm during the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945.

We offer our deep heart-felt thanks to the brownies ( the Bukit Brown volunteers) Yik Han, Beng Tang and Catherine for an informative and educational tour of BB. Their passion and love for the history and heritage of the pioneers is evident during their explanations and guidance of the tour. We truly believe that Dunmanites in the tour benefited greatly from the sharing and discussions.

By Gopie Silvarajoo Naidu Prem ( Teacher in Charge)

Editors Note:

The students were from the schools NPCC. Their teachers had worksheets which they worked on immediately on-site after the guided walk. The learning journey was documented and  later published in  their newsletter. We thank the teachers especially of Dunman for going the extra mile to do this despite their very busy schedule. We note that this was the third time the school has requested engagement on Bukit Brown  with Brownies for various groups of students. There was one previous visit to Bukit Brown and a brownie had also made a presentation on Bukit Brown at the school itself.

Thank you for sending atBB the PDF of the newsletter. 

Schools who are interested in learning journeys, please email a.t.bukitbrown@gmail.com.  and give us least 3 weeks notice.

Catherine Lim

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by Sally T.

One recent Saturday, some friends and I had the pleasure of being guided around Bukit Brown Cemetery on a special tour led by three descendants of notable people buried there. The Descendants Tour was presented in partnership with the National Library of Singapore – a great community initiative on the part of the library. A few seasoned guides helped lead the group, which really helped to add insight and context along the way.

Claire, a Bukit Brown volunteer guide gave a brief introduction on the history of Bukit Brown Cemetery and Singapore's pioneers (photo by Simone)

Claire, a Bukit Brown volunteer guide gave a brief introduction on the history of Bukit Brown Cemetery and Singapore’s pioneers (photo by Simone)

Each of the three descendants had fascinating stories to share and we were treated to what I would describe as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hearing them so passionately and proudly tell familial histories and sing songs in honour of their ancestors, many of whom were pioneers of early modern Singapore, will be something I look back on as a highlight of my time living here. We visited the resting places of enterprising business people, diplomats and philanthropists – the type who have streets named in their honour.

In recent years I had heard a lot about Bukit Brown, a national treasure that had been rediscovered by a caring community and was being hard fought for. Despite my curiosity I’d never visited, perhaps not wanting to feel inappropriate or as an invasive foreigner, but a conversation with a friend who is a passionate historian prompted me to look up the next tour available. The fact that three descendants were taking the tour alongside a few experienced Brownies seemed like a unique opportunity and one not to be missed. I was right.

A door deity guards a tomb (Sally T)

A door deity guards a tomb (Sally T)

Our meeting point was just near the LTA temporary set-up, which we figured was the site headquarters for the current exhumation works taking place in certain sections of Bukit Brown. There’s no denying that it’s a confronting reality. While I’ve known for a while that exhumation is fairly common here, I learned that it has a relatively long history in Singapore and happened under British rule too, as one of the graves we visited had actually been moved there from somewhere else in the 1930s or 40s. The current works were well underway when we visited, with high fences erected throughout. From the main road, you would easily have mistaken it for any construction site.

Once the large group of about 30 was assembled, we walked a short distance to the tomb of Chia Hood Theam, who was a respected businessman with a lovely black and white home called Rosedale at the corner of Devonshire and Killiney Roads. Chia’s maternal great-great granddaughter Noreen Chan, along with some other family members present, shared a series of beautifully preserved photographs and stories that had been passed down through the generations. Noreen described how as well as being a ‘comprador’ – the business relationship managers of the old banking regime – her Peranakan grandfather was an early champion of women’s education in Singapore. The tomb was well preserved and had beautiful tiling work.

Noreen, a descendant of Chia Hood Theam, showing pictures of her family (photo by Sally T)

Noreen, a descendant of Chia Hood Theam, showing pictures of her family (photo by Sally T)

 

Some of the beautiful tiles on a tomb (photo by Sally T)

Some of the beautiful tiles on a tomb (photo by Sally T)

Next stop was the tomb of one of Dr Lim Su Min’s several ancestors buried at Bukit Brown. On this mother’s side, Dr Lim’s lineage can be traced back to Tan Tock Seng, a prominent merchant and philanthropist who of course the hospital is named after. We visited the tomb of a relation of Tan Tock Seng. An impressive tomb turned a rusty orange from the lichen, the resting place was a little way up a small hill. After sharing his fascinating family history, Dr Lim treated us to an intimate and special moment as he sang a song he had written in his ancestors’ honour. Standing there with only jungle noises to compete with the ukulele, we knew we were witnessing something heartfelt.

Lim Su Min shows his family tree at Seow Poh Leng's mother's tomb (photo by Simone)

Lim Su Min shows his family tree at Seow Poh Leng’s mother’s tomb (photo by Simone)

 

The third tomb we visited was tucked much further into the jungle, and on the way we passed some extraordinary tombs, all with different style and character. Clearly, grieving family members had gone to a great deal of trouble to put their loved ones to rest in a place of beauty. The third descendant to share with the group, Serene Tan, went on a mission to find her family’s cluster of tombs after being visited by a man in Mandarin robes in her dreams who encouraged her to visit. After a long search and some coincidences that could only have been fate, one of the Brownies came across the tomb of Serene Tan’s ancestors, including Tan Quee Lan, which were in somewhat of a rundown state. Together with family members, the Tans have done an magnificent job of restoring the tombs with an impressive marble structure.

Descendant, Serene at Tan Quee Lan's family cluster (photo by Simone)

Descendant, Serene at Tan Quee Lan’s family cluster (photo by Simone)

Dr Lim Su Min once again led us to the last tomb of the tour, which belongs to the eldest son of Tan Tock Seng called Tan Kim Ching, who was successful in further expanding the family’s business empire with rice mills and tin-mining in Siam. The size and stature of the tomb was very impressive and Tan Kim Ching was clearly an important man. After gaining the trust and respect of the King of Siam, Tan Kim Ching was appointed a Singapore-based diplomatic representative of the court of Siam. We learned that he also represented Japan and Russia in diplomatic relations in Singapore. One of the most intriguing things I learned was that Tan Kim Ching was responsible for the posting of British governess Ann Leonowens to Siam to famously teach the children of the King.

 

A group photo at Tan Kim Ching's tomb

A group photo at Tan Kim Ching’s tomb

I found Bukit Brown majestic in both the grandeur of the tombs and the beauty of nature which has enclosed or almost seemingly protected the site in its forgotten years. When one of my friends who came along mentioned that he was visiting Bukit Brown to some Singaporean business associates, he was met with wide eyes and trepidation! While I wouldn’t want to go there at night, it wasn’t as eerie as I suspected so I would strongly encourage those with an interest in Singapore’s history and culture, and strong sense of family values, to visit this special place. My friends and I will pass the word on about the tour to our friends – foreigners and locals alike – in the hope that more people will come and experience Bukit Brown. Who knows whether they will find an ancestor of their own.

A stream in Bukit Brown (photo by Sally T)

A stream in Bukit Brown (photo by Sally T)

 

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The Descendants’ Stories – A Guided Walk at Bukit Brown (English)

Saturday, 8 November 2014, 4 pm – 6.30pm.

All Things Bukit Brown* is pleased to curate a guided walk in conjunction with the roving exhibition “Bukit Brown: Documenting New Horizons of Knowledge”

Registration is required and all queries is through the NLB website here , spaces are limited to 28.

About the Walk:

News that a highway was to be built across Bukit Brown in 2011 led some descendants who had lost touch with their ancestral tombs to embark on a quest to find them. Some of those who were successful shared their stories of reconnecting with their ancestors and family oral history with the volunteers on the ground, called Brownies.

For this special walk, 3 descendants of prominent figures in business, philanthropy and diplomacy in the 19th and 20th centuries will be sharing their stories first-hand at the tombs of their ancestors.

  • Dr. Lim Su Min’s maternal lineage can be traced back to Tan Tock Seng, whose eldest son Tan Kim Ching grew the family’s fortunes, expanding into Siam with rice mills and tin-mining. He became a confidante of the King of Siam, and was appointed a diplomatic representative of the court of Siam. (He held similar positions representing Japan and Russia.) Among the stories Dr. Lim will share at Tan Kim Ching’s tomb is his introduction of a young English widow, Anna Leonowens to the Siamese King, a story which became immortalized in an Oscar winning musical.
  • For Serene Tan, the journey of discovering her family’s cluster of tombs at Bukit Brown started the night a man in traditional Mandarin robes came into her dream and passed her a note that simply said “Why no one visit?”. Serene will share how she was finally able to find the tombs of Tan Quee Lan of whom she is a direct descendant on her paternal side after a few years and in the process connected with a long lost cousin. Both then went on to restore and refurbish the family cluster of tombs at Bukit Brown, which had for so long been forgotten.
  • Noreen Chan comes from a long line of influential and wealthy “compradors” – the business relationship managers of the old banking regime. At the tomb of Chia Hood Theam, Noreen will recount stories of her maternal great-great grandfather’s frugality and contributions to women’s education from family oral traditions and historical records

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Please read if you are attending our guided walks for the first time, useful info on safety : Getting There/游览信息

*All Things Bukit Brown is the banner for a community of volunteers called “Brownies” who conduct regular weekend guided walks and do independent research on the heritage, habitat and history of Bukit Brown. They have guided over 13,000 people since they started their guided walks at the beginning of 2012.

 

 

In Bukit Brown, one can find various forms of art, structure and inscriptions, auspiciously incorporated within individual tombs to enhance the happiness and prosperity of the deceased’s family.

Tomb whisperer, Raymond Goh translates a poem found on the couplets from a tomb in Bukit Brown:

金羊恆率舞
土牛畫來潮
坤輿呈秀氣
艮岫献英靈

The Golden Sheep leads the eternal dance 
The Earthen Ox draws the rising tide 
The earth presents the elegant vigor
The hill offers the heroic spirit

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Poem 1: Photos and translation by Raymond Goh

On a different tomb, Raymond translates the poem engraved on its couplets, with the help of Alex Loh and Tan Kim Hong, members of the Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Cemetery Facebook group:

青龍(去來)寶案
白虎會佳城
靈山鍾地脉
秀水啟人文

The green dragon forms the mountain in front of the tomb
The white tiger meets with a good water formation

The spiritual mountain concentrate the earth veins
The elegant water produces academic descendants

 

Photo by Raymond Goh

Poem 2: Photos by Raymond Goh

 

Do join the discussions in the Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Cemetery Facebook group page, a platform for all members to learn, as well as contribute and share their knowledge in all things related to heritage, habitat and history.

 

 

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take walking tours  of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward) Please read if you are attending our guided walks for the first time, useful info on safety : Getting There/游览信息 If you have a facebook account please register on the FB links provided  unless otherwise stated. There is also a walk by post museum in the after, please see details below for registration.

***Haze: We will cancel  tours should AQI/PM2.5 reach 100. Please check this post 7.30am for any changes on the days of the tour.

For all walks:

Please bring umbrella or poncho and sun protection.
Please wear covered footwear.
Please bring mosquito repellent.
Please bring sufficient drinking water.

Meeting place for all Walks : At the Lor Halwa Main gates at Bukit Brown

Sat 4 Oct’14 :  8.30am – 12 pm :

从洋务运动开始,中国陆续兴建新式学堂,1898年,张之洞写了一篇《劝学篇》之后,全国的热烈讨论,连光绪皇帝也爱不释手,张之洞 “中体西用”的主张得到广泛认同。为了顺利推行新式教育,1905年,政府废除了实行千多年的科举制度。

这项教育改革计潮也吹向南洋,1905年,广东总督岑春煊先后派遣商务大臣张弼士、视学刘士骥南来劝办商会及学校,促成新加坡华人学堂纷纷建立。先后有养正学堂 (后改名为崇正学校)成立、广肇学堂(后来改称养正、启发学堂、应新学堂、端蒙学堂和育英学堂。

教育改革的推广,和维新革命先驱有紧密的关联,在十月革命纪念日来临之际,让我们一起在武吉布朗听听他们的革命事迹,说说他们对教育事业的贡献。

集合地点:

坟场正门(即Lorong Halwa入口处)。

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报名:

我们在周末为公众提供免费的导览服务
理想人数为一团三十人(平均一名导览员十五人)

请在我们的Facebook活动页面按‘参加’/‘加入’,然后告诉我们共有多少人与你一同参加活动,或直接在活动当天上午9时在集合地点与我们会合。风雨无阻,不见不散。

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Sun 5 Oct’14 :  5pm – 7pm : A Walk into Twilight with Beng Tang

Follow Beng Teng for an evening stroll through Bukit Brown cemetery where he will share stories of the Past. 

PLEASE BRING TORCH LIGHTS FOR THIS WALK

FB registration here

Mon 6 Oct’14: 9am – 11.30 am: Hill 5 and 2 Tour

This Hari Raya Haji public holiday, join Keng Kiat for a walk around Hill Five and Two and uncover stories that are sometimes less heard of from the regular tours. 
We will not be visiting the biggest tomb in Bukit Brown, that of Mr Ong Sam Leong’s.

FB registration here

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 by Ang Yik Han

Chua Chwee Oh (蔡水湖) photo Yik Han

Chua Chwee Oh (蔡水湖) (photo Yik Han)

Born in Kulangsu Island off Amoy, Chua Chwee Oh came to Singapore at the age of 14. He studied till 17 or 18, after which he went into business. Beginning with trading between Singapore and Medan, he founded the firm Hock Heng in 1920 which had branches in Rangoon, Annam and other cities. It dealt mainly in local produce like dried fish and provisions. The biggest segment of his business was in French-controlled Annam, followed by British Malaya and the Dutch Indies. He was the second chairman of the Amoy Association (1940-1941) after its founding, and also a chairman of the Goh Loo Club.

Active in the China Relief Fund’s efforts in raising funds to support the Chinese forces against the Japanese, he was known for donating $100,000 single-handedly under his firm’s name. He also encouraged others to contribute by setting an example when the need arose. It must have been a bitter blow for him during the Japanese Occupation when he was forced to join the Hokkien section of the Overseas Chinese Association (OCA), the umbrella body set up by the Japanese to force the Chinese community to pay war reparations.

Chua Chwee Oh (蔡水湖) 1 photo Yik Han

Chua Chwee Oh (蔡水湖) (photo Yik Han)

Chua Chwee Oh died in 1960 at the age of 64. His first wife Mdm Tan passed away at the young age of 32 and is buried together with him. His second wife was Mdm Ng. The place of origin inscribed on his tombstone is “Si Ming” (思明), another name for Amoy coined by Koxinga when the island was his base of operations against the encroaching Qing forces. This name evokes Koxinga’s longing for the glory days of the Han Chinese Emperors in the  Ming Dynasty. Barred from use after the Qing Dynasty consolidated its control over all of China, this place name was revived after the Qing Dynasty was overthrown.

The tomb is at Hill 3, about 10m behind and to the left (facing uphill) of Tan Boo Liat’s tomb.

 

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