Due to the road constructions, there are new access roads into Bukit Brown cemetery and the former entrance is closed and inaccessible.

As there are two roads going in, we have two new meeting points depending on which part of the cemetery the guided walk will cover. So, please check which meeting point is assigned to your tour to avoid confusion!



MEETING POINT A – Hill 2 & 5

The first meeting point is following the new access road to hill 2 & 5 and meet at the end of the access road. For photos of the location and parking info, see below.

BBC new access map-hill5n2 access


hill 2 & 5 access road entrance coming from Sime Road

hill 2 & 5 access road entrance coming from Sime Road

hill 2 & 5 access road coming from Kheam Hock Road side

hill 2 & 5 access road coming from Kheam Hock Road side

hill 2 & 5 access road, parking and meeting point

hill 2 & 5 access road, parking and meeting point

MEETING POINT B – Hill 1, 3 & 4 

The second meeting point is following the new access road to hill 1, 3 & 4 and meet at the platform at hill 1. For photos of the location and parking info, see below.

BBC meeting pt hill1n3

hill 1, 3 & 4 access road entrance coming from Sime Road

hill 1, 3 & 4 access road entrance coming from Sime Road

hill 1, 3 & 4 access road entrance coming from Kheam Hock Rd

hill 1, 3 & 4 access road entrance coming from Kheam Hock Rd

hill 1, 3 & 4 access road

hill 1, 3 & 4 access road

hill 1, 3 & 4 parking and meeting point

hill 1, 3 & 4 parking and meeting point

hill 1 platform meeting point

hill 1 platform meeting point





[Singapore] — Oct 3rd 2015 — An mobile application to discover sites of Sikh Heritage in Singapore is now available for iOS devices. This interactive medium has been created and launched by brownies Ishvinder Singh and Vithya Subramaniam, with funding support from the National Heritage Board’s Participation Grant. This mobile app is for those interested in exploring Singapore’s rich urban history in a new interactive and situated way, where one may revisit sites throughout the island while retracing the movements and lives of Singapore’s Sikh community.


Current trails feature the Sikh Guards of Bukit Brown Cemetery, and the Sepoy Lines of Outram. Whether the user follows these trails by foot or thumb, the app brings to life these sites through accessibly told histories and by situating them within a network of narratives that underscore the connections and nuances between spaces. Users are also encouraged to share their stories and memories of these sites towards building a collective archive of the Sikh community in Singapore (and later, Malaysia). This initial release will include the trails and sites within Singapore, with sites in Malaysia and other avenues for greater community interaction forthcoming. The android version is set to be released in March 2016.



App: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1038693610

Web: www.sikhheritagetrail.com

Email: sikhtrail@gmail.com

Social: https://www.facebook.com/sikhheritagetrail


Reading the Chinese years

Chinese years (Photo: Chee Hiang Chua)

Chinese years (Photo: Chua Chee Hiang)


For those of us Brownies stumped when asked by participants on the tours for the years of birth and death in an ancient counting system, one CHUA Chee Hiang  has kindly stepped forward with this handy guide. Thank you, Chee Hiang!

He says, “Most of the dates on the tombstones follow the lunar calendar format – the 年(lunar) (followed by xx月, 初xx) vs. the 岁(solar). The Chinese calendar is lunisolar as the lunar calendar is constantly being updated with the solar calendar to keep the festival dates in tune with the climate.”


And for the Imperial calendars, this is the guide, with the Emperor’s regnal year being Year Zero. So 13th year of the reign of Dao Guang (1821-1850) on Fang Shan’s tomb = 1833.


Regnal table (Photo: Chee Hiang Chua)

Regnal table (Photo: Chua Chee Hiang)


Fang Shan at Qing Ming (photo: Claire Leow)

Fang Shan at Qing Ming (photo: Claire Leow)

Happy deciphering!

For further reading:

The Chinese Calendar 


Bio: Chua Chee Hiang is a geomancer, or feng shui practitioner. He writes a fengshui blog and a personal blog.

The Info.Media Club from Henderson Secondary School would like to express their deepest and heartiest thanks to Leong Kwok PengFaizah JamalCatherine Lim and Alan OwYong for their tremendous help in their submission of the 5 minute documentary on Social Responsibility of Forgotten Places. The video focused on why we need to conserve public spaces like cemeteries in the fast paced lifestyle of Singaporeans.The team is humbled by the generosity of everyone in helping out.

Due to their assistance, the team obtained the Platinum Award for the School’s Digital Media Award, one of the highly acclaimed competition held by MOE and judged by a team of professionals from the media industry. Only 3 out of the 500 over submissions obtained the platinum award.

Watch the video here.

In their own words:

Social Responsibility of ‘Forgotten Places

This documentary aims to educate the public on the importance of cemeteries and graveyards. It showcases the reasons why it is our social responsibility to ensure that these places are conserved.


tree-lined path (Photo: Claire Leow)


So the time has come….


First published in the Government Gazette, Electronic Edition, on 28th February 2013 at 5.00 pm.

NOTE: Link is live for 1 week only. Pls save file before then.


Key points extracted from Gazette 

LTA would also like to inform claimants who have registered their claims of ancestors’ remains, that the exhumation of the Affected Graves will be carried out in stages after 15th April 2013. All registered claimants will be notifi ed via post prior to the exhumation date. No further notice or reminder will be issued after this Notice.


  • Each grave will be exhumed individually under the supervision of an officer from LTA.
  • All exhumed remains will be cremated individually.
  • The ashes will be placed in an urn and stored in a standard-size niche at a Government crematorium and columbarium.
  • A standard-size marble plaque, inscribed with the name of the deceased and dateof death, if made known to LTA, will be installed over the niche.
  • The above services will be provided by LTA without charge.
  •  Claimants may arrange to keep the ashes of the cremated remains at places of their own choice at their own cost.
  • Claimants may engage their own contractor to exhume the graves at their own cost before 31st May 2013. LTA will bear the cost of cremation and provision of niches at a Government crematorium and columbarium.
  • All Affected Graves which are not claimed by 14th April 2013 will be exhumed in accordance with Government practice for unclaimed graves and the remains cremated individually. The ashes will be kept by LTA and thereafter scattered at sea if they remain unclaimed within 3 years after the date of exhumation.

Some tombs are marked (staked) for exhumation including this tiled tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)


staked, hill 2 (photo: Claire Leow)


Staked for exhumation to make way for the proposed highway

This is the recording of the lecture by Lai Chee Kien on the material culture of Bukit Brown (click to access video).

Maintaining Heritage Series:
The Material Culture of Bukit Brown Cemetery 

A talk by Dr. Lai Chee Kien,
Department of Architecture,
National University of Singapore

16 May 2012 (Wednesday)


Lai Chee Kien of the documentation team (photo: Claire Leow)


Lai Chee Kien (photo: Claire Leow)

About NUS Museum:

NUS Museum’s mission is to actively facilitate the intellectual and cultural life of the NUS community. Focusing primarily but not exclusively on Southeast Asian art and culture, the Museum contributes to and facilitates the production, reception, and preservation of knowledge through collections development and curatorial practice, developing partnerships within NUS, the cultural and heritage industry, and the global knowledge community.

The roots of NUS Museum can be traced to the establishment in 1955 of the University Art Museum at the then University of Malaya located in Singapore. Under the direction of Michael Sullivan, the museum’s first curator from 1954 to 1960, the collection was instrumental in the teaching and study of Art History at the university. Established before Singapore’s independence, the University Art Museum may be regarded as a prototypical museum institution, its historical trajectory and collection reflecting the search for a Malayan identity situated within the context of Southeast Asia, China and India.

With its diverse collection ranging from classical Chinese and Indian materials to modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art, the NUS Museum today remains an integral part of the National University of Singapore (NUS). Its collections and curatorial practices make it a comprehensive resource for teaching and research, furthering NUS’ mission to transform the way people think and work through education, research and service. In 2004, the Museum became affiliated to the NUS Centre For the Arts (CFA) – a multi-faceted arts agency that promotes the quality and growth of the arts in NUS, Singapore and beyond.

The museum has over 7000 artefacts and artworks divided across four collections: The Lee Kong Chian Collection consists of a wide representation of Chinese materials from ancient to contemporary art; the South and Southeast Asian Collection holds a range of works from Indian classical sculptures to modern pieces; and the Ng Eng Teng Collection is a donation from the late Singapore sculptor and Cultural Medallion recipient of over 1,000 artworks. A fourth collection, the Straits Chinese Collection, is located at NUS’ Baba House at 157 Neil Road.

NUS Museum also manages the Baba House located at 157 Neil Road. One of the last surviving Straits Chinese houses in Singapore, it was launched in September 2008 after comprehensive research and restoration work done in partnership with the NUS Department of Architecture and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The Baba House was a gift from Ms Agnes Tan to the University to encourage appreciation of and research into Straits Chinese history, identity, iconography and architecture.




Group 13: Chew Joo Chiat

Chew Joo Chiat 



A picture of Chew Joo Chiat taken from “Joo Chiat – A Living Legacy” by Lily Kong & T.C Chang.


You can find his tomb on the DIY map under Group 13.

Chew Joo Chiat’s tomb (Photo: Andrew)


Read how Raymond and Charles God helped the great grandson find this tomb in this blog post, which features more photos.

The great grandson, Philip, writes on his blog:

“Chew Joo Chiat was born in 1857 at a place called He Shan (禾山) in Fujian Province, China. His father was a peasant and he married very young. At age 20 he already had 2 sons Chew Cheng Lian 周请廉 Chew Cheng Swee 周请水 and 2 daughters Chew Xian Neo 周羡娘 Chew Su Lan 周素蘭. In those days,  farmer’s children married young in order to have many children so that they could help out in the farm later. In fact, all the farm works were done manually from seedling to harvesting. At that time the Qing Dynasty government was corrupted and the people faced great hardship. A large number of them from the coastal provinces of south China risked themselves and left for South East Asia countries now known  as ASEAN. Many crossed over the borders to Thailand and Myamar. Others sailed overseas to Philippines, Indonesia and Malaya (now Singapore and Malaysia).

In 1877 at the age of 20 years, Chew Joo Chiat left his family in China and sailed to Singapore which took about 10 days by sailing boat. The boat was overcrowded and the people was badly treated. He landed in Singapore as a young man penniless. He experienced poverty and aimed to make a fortune for himself and also to better the lives of his family back home. He worked very hard to achieve his dream. Starting from a small business and  endowed with resourcefulness and business acumen he became a successful businessman.

He married a Peranakan girl Tan Quan Neo 陈颧娘 in 1890 and a daughter Chew Quee Neo 周桂娘 was born in 1891.”

To read more on the life of Chew Joo Chiat, click on his posts here and here.

P/S On your way to Chew Joo Chiat’s grave, you will pass by a cluster of graves for 8 nuns, in two rows of four graves. These Buddhist nuns are believed to have been killed during the World War II and the tiles before them feature flower-like symbols.



Student guide Zaiton speaks to participants at the tomb of Lee Kim Soo (Photo: Peter Pak)


An independent website, SchoolAsia.Org (http://schoolasia.org ), has featured three case studies on Bukit Brown.

The lessons are now here – Conservation Vs DevelopmentShifting the Paradigm, and a lesson plan on intercultural dialogue, based on the Bukit Brown case study.

The editor, Lisa Li, tells us some schools have taken up these lesson plans for use in class.

“We hope the new site is easier to navigate, with additional features such as a Calendar of Events (educational), Google Translate, more country tags and more regular content (contributed by editors, individuals, NGOs and other organizations),” she writes.

She asks for contributions to this site by:

1) Sharing your educational materials (lesson plans, opinion pieces) for publishing on SchoolAsia.Org.

2) Keeping us updated with any Asia-based educational events you know of, so that we can feature it on our Calendar (we’ve included 3 events by Peranakan Museum as an example). We’ll try to keep track of what’s going on on our own, but it is best to email admin@schoolasia.org.

Please note there are some basic Terms of Use for contributors & users to protect copyright etc.

About SchoolAsia.org:

The website: http://schoolasia.org is a free-access, crowd-sourced, carefully-curated storehouse of lesson plans, stories, discussions & ideas focused on improving education in Singapore. Lesson plan topics revolve around current affairs, humanities and the arts.

The unique feature of this website is that it crowd-sources good quality lesson plans with a local context that teachers can use straightaway in their classes. With this website, we hope to tap on the energy and resources of passionate individuals and organisations to support teachers.

Our aim is also to make it easier for academics, NGOs & other organisations to connect directly to the classroom through lesson plans for teachers. We believe such specialised knowledge would definitely enrich lessons in schools.

This is in line with a key objective of all things Bukit Brown, which was conceived as an educational tool for students and teachers to self-guide. Our blog was born out of the twin desire to record history and, in a nod to our pioneers, contribute to education by sharing what we learn and find. We urge teachers and students to look into these case studies provided by SchoolAsia.org.

Lai Chee Kien teaches student guides about tomb architecture (Photo: Chew Keng Kiat)

Learning while enjoying nature at Bukit Brown



Ancestry Tracing


Norman Cho previously shared the moving story of finding his grandfather’s final resting place. He recently built him a tomb. Here, he shares how to trace your lineage.

Where to begin?

  1. Oral communication
  2. Family documents (e.g. letters, bills)
  3. Public records (e.g. clan association records)
  4. Internet search engines (e.g. Google)
  5. Newspaper archives (e.g. newspaperSG) http://newspapers.nl.sg/
How to Search on newspapers.nl.sg site:
  1. Enclose names with quotation marks when submitting a search, e.g. “Tan Kim Huat”
  2. Remember that spellings were not consistent in colonial records. Try variations, e.g. Ki, Khim, Kheam, etc
  3. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software may misrepresent some alphabets, e.g. m= rn, e=o, b=6, g=9. Try variations.
  4. Verify against time and place. People may share identical names. Make sure the age, place and dates correspond to the search subject.
Obituary Columns
  1. An obituary is the best source for tracing your lineage
  2. A search for a grandchild’s name may yield names of grandparents and relatives
  3. Place of residence is often publicized
  4. Place of burial often stated
This is the obituary notice for Chan Whye Cheok, Norman’s maternal great, great, great grandfather:

Tour Guide: Group 1

A war hero who received a grand send-off when he died. A coolie honoured by his clan association when he was re-interred at Bukit Brown when it opened as a municapital cemetery. The paternal grandmother of the sitting Singapore president.

Group 1 on Block 5 near the cemetery gates is a good introduction to what lies within the vast grounds of Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, which closed as a municipal cemetery in 1973.

This DIY guide is to help you find your own way using this map.


Tay Koh Yat (1880-1957)


Tay Koh Yat’s grave


He was a pioneer in Singapore’s public transportation, but also a feisty patriot who started and led his own self defence force of 20,000 during the onset of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War 2. In 1938,  Tay noticed that local transportation was inadequate and started the Tay Koh Yat Bus Company. He built up his fleet to 120 buses and became the largest bus operator among the 10 other bus companies.Tay Koh Yat’s grave comes with a generous forecourt and benches.


Fang Shan (__-1833)

Fang Shan’s tomb (photo: Claire Leow)


This is the oldest dated tomb in Bukit Brown, and is a reburial, as Fang Shan died in 1833 and Bukit Brown became a municipal cemetery only in 1933.
He was probably an early immigrant that came from South China and worked as a manual labourer as many of the immigrants did. He died 14 years after Sir Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore. He was survived by a son, Li Eng, and was buried at a cemetery somewhere along Tortoise hill in Bukit Merah. There he would lie for more than 100 years, until the government then decided to develop the land.

At that time there was a small Fang Clan group of labourers (from Lieyu, little Kinmen)  calling itself Boon San Association. This Boon San Association was established for the welfare of coolies working around the Singapore River at that time whereby most of them have surname Fang. It is now known as Boon San Lian Ngee Association

Fang Shee is the clan association for the Fang Surname (different from Boon San Association). According to the Fang Shee Association archives, they mentioned that the current chairman of Fang Shee Association Fang Sui Kim once interviewed a senior committee member, Mr Fang Ma Teng (deceased), of Boon San Lian Ngee Association in 1983.

At that time, Mr Fang Ma Teng informed that in 1941, when he was around 30 years old, he remembered hearing about the history of this Fang pioneer from his seniors and the relocation of the grave. Apparently the group of coolies saw the the tomb of Fang Shang, and seeing the date of the tomb as 1833 and his surname Fang, recognized him as an early pioneer of their clan who came to Singapore.

The tomb was in a dilapidated condition due to so many years of abandonment, but the Fang Clan decided to relocate the tomb to Bukit Brown cemetery for two reasons:

1) To leave behind a legacy for the Fang Clan to remember their pioneer

2) To leave behind for the Singapore Chinese Community an important historical artifact.
Also note the reference to Singapore as Sin Chew  星 洲 on the headstone (read right to left):
“Sin Chew” is a sobriquet for “Singapore” coined by Nanyang literatus Khoo Seok Wan. Singapore is an island surrounded by the sea, and with vessels and boats large and small anchored around it; the glitter of artificial lights at night are like a crown of illuminated stars (“星”) when viewed from afar. “洲” (zhou, island) and “舟” (zhou, boat) are homonyms: while the boat lights are like stars, those on the island are like the Big Dipper to accentuate the constellation. This is why the term “Sin Chew” is widely known by folks here and afar. (Liang Shao Wen, “Nanyang Travels”, p. 62, circa 1920s, translated by Lai Chee Kien)
Raymond has a blog post here on life in Singapore then.
Fang Shan continues to get visitors, 179 years after he died:

Fang Shan at Qing Ming, April 2012 (photo: Claire Leow)

Fang Shan’s tomb is a reminder that Bukit Brown is home to the ordinary people who came and built early Singapore. We should not forget their toil. (Khoo Seok Wan’s tomb can be found in Group 9.)

Mrs Tan Cheng Siong (d. 1965)

Mrs Tan Cheng Siong (photo: Claire Leow)


Mrs Tan Cheng Siong, nee Lee Guay Eng, is mother of Tan Chin Guan, which makes her the paternal grandmother of Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Hers is a Christian tomb, using more secular design features such as the lotus seed. The tomb also features both English and Mandarin script. It uses the Ming Guo (Ming Republic) calendar, based on the 1911 Revolution as year zero. The revolution marked the end of the Chinese imperial dynasties and led to the establishment of the Republic of China.

(Members of Sun Yat Sen’s Tongmenhui (United League), part of the Chinese diaspora who helped in the cause of the revolution, are buried in Bukit Brown.)

Tan Chin Guan’s name is inscribed on her tomb.

(Raymond Goh, amateur historian, has also found the grave of Tan Cheng Siong, the grandfather of the president on Block 5. See his letter to the president here. )




December 2017
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