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.

 

Thank you for your interest. Registration is now CLOSED as all slots have been filled.

For those of you who missed the registration, you may still apply to be on a wait list.

For the successful participants, please inform us in advance if you are unable to make it so that your place can be released to those on the wait list. Thank you.

 

As we prepare for Liberation’70, the anniversary of end of Japanese Occupation of Singapore, join Jon Cooper, historian and archaeologist on the Adam Road Project for :

The Battlefield tour  

Sunday 26 Oct’14, 9am – 12pm

***We will cancel this tour should AQI/PM2.5 reach 100***

Meeting point is at the pedestrian bridge on Sime Road entering Bukit Brown, opposite the SICC traffic light. Tour ends at 12 pm in the grounds of Bukit Brown.  

REGISTRATION: Leave a comment on this  post to register for the tour with your name. You may register for up to 2 pax. Please note as spaces are limited to 15, please make sure you and your companions can attend and inform us early for cancellations as this tour is highly popular. It is suitable for children from  4 years upwards.

The size is kept small for safety reasons and for ideal interaction as Jon shares the maps, photos and stories of the battles. All things Bukit Brown is only the organizer as we  support the work that Jon and his team are doing out of respect for our common heritage.

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). The route is not difficult, still good hardy footwear is highly recommended and  depending on the weather it can be hot, so please wear sunscreen, a hat is advisable and plenty of drinking water. Be prepared as well for rain, bring umbrella and ponchos and Jon will assess whether the tour will continue should it get too heavy and there is lightning.

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About WW 2 at Bukit Brown

On Feb 15, 1942, Singapore fell just one week after Japanese forces landed. As they headed down south, fierce battles were fought in the Adam Park area and the fighting extended to Bukit Brown, then known as Cemetery Hill.

“On the evening of 14th February 1942, the rolling hills of the Bukit Brown Cemetery were suddenly engulfed in a barrage of flame and fire. It appeared like scene from Dante’s ‘Inferno’. ”

Jon Cooper, the battlefield archaeologist behind The Adam Park Project, wrote this gripping account as he retraced the battle ground route with all things Bukit Brown.

This is your chance to brush up on your history. Jon Cooper will take you through the paces. Don’t miss his energetic retracing of the movements on both sides, as we commemorate the fallen. You will be expected to do some walking in the sun, so wear good walking shoes and bring snacks and water. The tour ends at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, where you will see the graves among which the soldiers sheltered and fought.

Jon’s post on his interest in Bukit Brown and the missing soldiers is here.

For a visual guide to your route, cartographer Mok Ly Ying has done this wonderful guide map for you.

Previous tour reports here:

Sep 28 2014 tour

July 28 2013 tour

May 26 2013 tour

Oct 21 2012 tour

July 22 2012 tour here and here 

June 17 2012 Father’s Day Special

*****

To help you plan your Sunday morning and enjoy the tour, you can follow this map of a previous one: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=208524362450694978161.0004cc9d065f2a171893d&msa=0&ll=1.336901,103.817351&spn=0.003566,0.005681

Jon conducts the Battlefield Tour when time permits. For other war-related stories, you can join tours by All Things Bukit Brown on the heritage tours.

by Perry Tan

Standard Chartered Bank

In April 2014, in collaboration with All Things Bukit Brown, we conceptualised a guided walk with a  Clean-Up at Bukit Brown, where a team of 35 volunteers from Standard Chartered were taken on a guided tour, before spending  up to 4 hours cleaning  tombs. The organising committee were initially ambivalent about volunteer response and feedback, since such an unique CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) event at a cemetery was previously unheard of. Our ambivalence proved to be unfounded, as we were pleasantly surprised and heartened by the very positive volunteer feedback. This prompted us to plan 2 additional sessions for the year.

So on a cloudy but dry Saturday morning (13 Sept’2014) , we found ourselves back at Bukit Brown five months after our inaugural CSR event at the heritage cemetery. Read Perry’s report on Standard Chartered Bank’s first CSR @ Bukit Brown here.

Back for more (montage by Perry Tan)

Back for more (montage by Perry Tan)

The programme was similar –  starting with an hour-long tour the tombs of prominent pioneers guided by Claire Leow, co- founder of All Things Bukit Brown (bukitbrown.com) , followed by a clean-up of  tombs* in various stages of clean up needed,  hand-picked by  brownie Khoo Ee Hoon. A few of the volunteers were repeat volunteers, who found the initial session  April so enriching that they came back for more. Although we used the same programme, the beauty of Bukit Brown is that it is so rich in history that our guide easily customised our tour to be different from the first one by simply taking a new route and stopping by the tombs of different pioneers.

The presence of repeat volunteers meant that we had a cleaning crew that was semi-experienced. We identified 3 cleaning clusters, two of which were  heavily covered with undergrowth and trees. Volunteers were split into 3 teams, with those who were stronger and more experienced assigned to the more challenging clusters. The result was excellent – we were faster, more efficient and managed make quick work of heavy vegetation in our way. We even sawed down and uprooted quite a number of small trees that some of us could now moonlight as lumberjacks!

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The volunteers (montage by Perry Tan)

The day ended up with a light hike up to Ong Sam Leong’s magnificent tomb, where we were treated to a King of the Hill view of Bukit Brown, ornate designs of the tomb and stories of the Ong clan.

Hard at work (montage by Perry Tan)

Hard at work (montage by Perry Tan)

We went home sweaty and slightly filthy, but fulfilled by the meaningful work we did. Once again, a few volunteers enjoyed the experience so much that they indicated their interest to join us again in the next round – this certainly is starting to look like a sustainable CSR initiative that brings a very progressive heritage ring to tthe Bank’s “Here for Good”  brand promise!

Before and after the cleaning (montage by Perry Tan)

Before and after the cleaning (montage by Perry Tan)

 

Here’s what some volunteers had to say about their experience…

“It was a very nice experience, learning about the history of Singapore, and the people who built Singapore and gave opportunities to many others who follow. It is a very historical area – good place to visit for the people who want to know more about the history and preserve it.” Hari Natarajan


“I am very glad to be part of the team and it was a wonderful experience. I learnt a lot about Singapore’s history and enjoyed the physical exercise as well. Although the event dealt with graves, there was no taboo, but actually fun. And I think this heritage and history theme goes well with our slogan of “Here for Good”. We remember history, we are here for good.” Ye Yang

 

Editors note:

*Tombs selected for cleaning are those which -  for reasons unclear -  have been forgotten and have not been visited for a number of years. One reason shared with us by descendants who have been recently  reunited with their ancestors, is the main caregivers had themselves passed on. In respect for the tomb keepers whose livelihoods for generations  are dependent on  the services provided to descendants, All Things Bukit Brown, to the best of its abilities, ensures that no tomb selected for volunteer cleaning is not under the care of tomb keepers. Our hope is that a tomb once cleared will reveal information that will trigger a memory which will lead to a reunion. We believe in  Serendipity because it has happened.

We are heartened and encouraged by the experience of Standard Chartered Bank and thank them for initiating this project.  If you are corporation or a community group and are interested in sharing their experience, please drop an email to a.t.bukitbrown@gmail.com. Subject Title:  ” CSR @ Bukit Brown Programme”

 

 

Report for 28 Sept Morning Walk

 

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It was a good start to the lovely Sunday morning as there were a mix of familiar faces and enthusiastic participants who were there for the first time. 15 participants joined Simone and Steven for a stroll around Hill 3 and visited tombs of some of Singapore’s prominent pioneers; including Tan Keong Saik, Chew Boon Lay and Ong Sam Leong who all have roads named after them.

The group were taken  back to WW 2 , when leading up to the surrender on 15 February 1942, Singapore was bombarded by air raids resulting in over a hundred of deaths per day. Temporary mortuaries were set up in places such as Great World and the Clerical Union’s badminton hall to hold the overwhelming number of casualties. The bodies were  kept for just a few hours to allow identification before being buried. Unfortunately, many were beyond recognition. As a result,  few had proper tombstones erected at their burial site while others were either buried with just a plot marker or in communal trenches.

A numbered stone marks the plot of a buried war casualty

A numbered stone marks the plot of a buried war casualty

Further back in time, in the 1800s,  Singapore took off as  a thriving free-trade port, when Chinese immigrants traveled to the South Seas or Nanyang almost en mass  because of among other pull factors,  the political and economical instability in China. Many came to Singapore and were put up in coolie quarters with others from a common origin. With their fellow comrades, they form societies of their own. Such was the Chin Kang Association which was co-founded by Luah Kim Kway. He himself started-off as a coolie and worked his way up to being a successful businessman and a  powerful and respected headman of the Chinese society.

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Simone in front of the audience at Luah Kim Kway’s tomb

And to finish off the walk, participants were brought (a little) off-site to a newly furbished tomb for a special treat. This is the first time ever that a public group was brought to the tomb of Yap Geok Song at Lao Sua (Old Hill). The tomb was discovered in 2012 by a tombkeeper who then alerted the brownies. It wasn’t until late 2013 when a descendant found out about his great grandfather and later discovered a blog written about him by brownie Peter Pak in the Rojak Librarian. With his help, a group of descendants visited Mr.Yap for the very first time to pay their respects on 17 Aug 2014. 

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Steven telling stories of engravings on Yap Geok Song’s tomb panels

And as always, the walk ended with smiles  and growling appetites. Stay tuned for more guided walks this Hari Raya Haji weekend .

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Sun 28 Sep’14: The Sunday Morning Walk with Simone and Steven

Simone and Steven will be sharing some spirited stories and more at the coming walk on Sunday morning. Join them on this nostalgic and hearty stroll.

Sun 28 Sept’14 Time: 9am – 11.30am Meeting place : Gates of Bukit Brown at end of Lorong Halwa.

***We will postpone the tour should AQI/PM2.5 reaches 100.
Kindly check this event page on Saturday after 1pm, to see if the tour is on or off. Thank you*** If you have a FB account please help brownies keep track of numbers by registering here Or if you don’t just meet us at the starting point. We meet there rain or shine or exhumations. 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) Helpful tips and Important information on how to get there Please read if it is your first visit to Bukit Brown : Getting There/游览信息   About 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 ======================================== 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, covered 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.

 

The Story Behind Peg 2906

by Norman Cho

How many of us believe in the unexplained? There are reasons why certain things happen unexpectedly.  But are we receptive enough to take the cue from such signs?  One recent account was of tomb 481 which was pegged 2906 at Bukit Brown Cemetery, slated for exhumation to make way for the 8 lane highway due to slice the cemetery in half by 2017/

A post about the Ee Hoe Hean Club in the Facebook page of Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Cemetery, spurred me to do a search on my granduncle, Mr Tan Kay Tiang (ie) the husband of my paternal grandmother’s second sister, Mdm Yeo Say Neo. Grandmother had once told me that he worked for an exclusive millionaires’ club called the Ee Hoe Hean Club. No details of the position which he held or the period where he was under their employment were given.

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search over the internet and found to my astonishment that he was buried in Bukit Brown Cemetery and that his tomb was marked for exhumation with the peg number  2906.

Tan Kay Tiang Grave 1

The Grave of Tan Kay Tiang #2906

I made a few enquiries and discovered that the tomb had yet to be claimed and that it was due for exhumation in only three weeks! I tried to contact the deceased’s three grandchildren unsuccessfully to make a claim. They are in their fifties and sixties and I sensed their reluctance. They probably have their reasons to decide not to do anything about it.

Looking back, I realised that discovering his tomb just three weeks before the exhumation was no mere coincidence! Possibly, he was trying to reach out to someone to handle his exhumation and to relocate him during the desperate final few weeks. I felt very uncomfortable if I did nothing about it and so I decided to claim the tomb on behalf of the family. To make sure that I had identified the correct tomb, I verified the name of his only child on the headstone – 月娘which corresponded with the name of my late aunt, Guek (Guat) Neo. I found a newspaper article in the online digital archive (Newspapersg) which confirmed the identity of the tomb.

The tombstone of Tan Kay Tiang with closeup of daughters name 月娘 (photo Norman Cho )

The tombstone of Tan Kay Tiang with closeup of daughters name 月娘 (photo Norman Cho )

Family accounts has it that he died due to septic wound on his foot caused by a nail which he accidentally stepped on. He had concealed nails on the ground along the exterior wall of his house at Neil Road to deter thieves. The irony was not lost on me that these nails were what caused his death, A newspaper report in The Straits Times, 19 June 1938, “Nail Causes Man’s Death”  returned a verdict of misadventure. The date of death on the tomb was 10 June 1938.

Tan Kay Tiang married my grandaunt, Yeo Say Neo, in 1923 at his family home in Neil Road. He was 39 and she was 27. During those days when people commonly married in their teens, they were considered an old couple. The couple stayed together with Kay Tiang’s widowed elder sister and his mother.

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The wedding photo of Robert Chia and  Yeo  Guek  Neo ( courtesy of Family Archives of Tan Kay Tiang

My grandmother recalled visiting the 3-storey townhouse and was intrigued by the many carpets that she saw on each floor. The couple had their first and only child, a daughter, Guek Neo, in 1925. He was a doting father who was known to piggy-back his daughter till she was nine or ten. The maid would take over after he was tired. As a child, my aunt was thoroughly spoilt and there was an account where the maid was made to walk the dark alley to buy her favorite char siew pau for her supper.

After her father’s death when she was twelve, Guek Neo’s life took a drastic change. She had become a sensible young lady. The house was sold several years later and Guek Neo was arranged to be married to a Baba named Robert Chia, the son of a well-known nyonya medium in the 1920s and 30s who was known by the name “Ah Lian Potong Lemo” She could predict fortunes by reading the sliced limes.

Mrs Tan Kay Tiang (Yeo Say Neo) was the ideal wife and homemaker. She excelled in cooking and sewing. She was soft-spoken and mild-tempered. She did not gamble and hardly stepped out of the house. The maid would run all the family errands and do the marketing. To supplement her living expenses after the death of her husband, she made nyonya kueh which her maid would take to the coffee shop at Joo Chiat Road to sell. She eventually had to let her maid go as she could no longer afford to keep her but the maid was reluctant to leave her and stayed on for a few more years.

Yeo Say Neo circled (courtesy of Tan Kay Tiang family archives)

Yeo Say Neo circled (courtesy of Tan Kay Tiang family archives)

 ***

A footnote:

Every tomb is a repository of personal stories of the family that was left behind

Moving forward 76 years later, I had made a claim for the tomb to be exhumed on 14 July 2014 and the remains to be re interred at Block E0116-202 in Choa Chu Kang Columbarium. It would be easier for me to visit since most of my relatives are placed there. He was buried in the traditional Chinese coffin which was relatively intact and had several funeral artifacts which included miniature clay kitchen utensils and two pieces of circular glass which I suspect could be reading glasses – one concave and the other bi-convex.

TanKayTiang_CCK

The final resting place of Tan Kay Tian at CCK (photo Norman Cho)

TanKayTiang_Artifacts

Artifacts found at the exhumation ot Tan Kay Tiang’s grave (photo Norman Cho)

About Norman Cho:

Norman Cho is a regular contributor to atBB and  guest blogs about his search for his roots and Penanakan material culture. He is the founder of the facebook group Peranakan Material Culture

You can find out more about Norman’s search for his roots here and here and posts about Peranakan culture here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

SAA award

The Award (Photo: Theresa Teng)

 

All Things Bukit Brown is pleased to announce that it is the first recipient of the Civil Society Advocate Organisation of the Year Award in the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards. This is our acceptance speech at the ceremony on August 30, 2014. 

“We are honoured and humbled to have been deemed deserving to receive this award by a dedicated and diverse panel of activists, many of whom have worked tirelessly and for a much longer time on a variety of causes such as foreign worker abuse, AIDS awareness and education, the protection of women’s rights and the championing of the local arts scene.

While we are very much the “new kids on the block” among causes highlighted today, we have stalwarts before us who championed the cause of heritage preservation and protection. We look upon this award as encouragement and affirmation, that what we do in promoting awareness of the Habitat, Heritage and History  of the iconic Bukit Brown Cemetery is contributing to the growing voices of concern about how rapid development has resulted in the loss of our old places and a growing sense of alienation of what is home.

Our encounters on the ground talking to and documenting stories from tomb keepers to descendants have been enriching, and our wider Bukit Brown experience has led us to places we have never been, to temples and other areas of cultural and ethnic significance, and in observing the customary rites and rituals which are being practiced today, and further afield to maritime port cities linked to our past. By celebrating the rich diversity of a shared past which is being kept alive by sheer dint of devotion and effort, we find ourselves sharing in a larger collective act of preservation of our culture and identity. We are far from alone.

In receiving the honour of this award, we pledge to continue to engage in conversation and in concert with all stakeholders to make heritage a part of the development paradigm, and to re-imagine spaces which will reinforce memory and identity from one generation to another generation.

We would like to thank especially Raymond and Charles Goh, for leading the way and sharing with us so generously and so passionately all your research from when both of you started exploring Bukit Brown eight years ago. Our abiding gratitude goes to the community especially on Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown Facebook group which have encouraged and supported us, and which enlivens Bukit Brown daily with the members’ sharing of interesting articles and stories, anecdotes and sometimes grave discussions. It is your enthusiasm that led us all on this journey; unlike most online communities, we are glad to have met many of you face-to-face in on- and off- site events.

We thank the Singapore Heritage Society for nominating us and finally we thank the SAA for this honour, which we will endeavor to live up to. We have much to live up to.

We acknowledge and congratulate all the other nominees. For us, it was enough to have been nominated.

This initiative by SAA makes all of us nominees winners because it celebrates the acts and sacrifices made by volunteers across different communities. Volunteers are the heart of many communities, raising awareness, lifting spirits, affirming shared values, shaping aspirations, and connecting the different threads of society into a fabric that is stronger for weaving its constituents together. Volunteerism is often driven more by passion and purpose than resources, and demands us to be creative, persevering and collaborative. It is often, especially in the nascent stages, lonely and intimidating, confusing and almost crippling in the face of lofty expectations of what a few individuals can and should achieve.

We acknowledge and endorse the efforts of the SAA to bring voices to the communities that need encouraging, causes that need acknowledgement and affirmation, and issues that benefit from airing in public discourse. We do ourselves a service by taking ownership of issues and responsibility for making dreams a reality. This is our contribution to our society. It is humbling to be acknowledged.

Next year, we as a country will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Singapore as a republic, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Singapore from occupation during WWII. We salute all the communities and civil society activists before us who have taken our country to where it is today.”

 

Claire Leow & Catherine Lim, Co-Founders, All Things Bukit Brown

***

The Brownies with Constance Singam, one of the judges and a highly esteemed civil activist and writer

The Brownies with Constance Singam, one of the judges and a highly esteemed civil activist and writer

 

The symbol chosen is an inverted ‘A’ (for Advocacy) and stems from the idea of the ‘tipping point’, which in sociology is defined as ‘a point in time when a group —or a large number of group members— rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice’. Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point’, defines the tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”.Here, the inverted ‘A’ is placed in a transient state in which it may sway both ways. Its position and layout in relation to the text suggest that the ‘A’ will stand firmly over the text if you choose to tip it over.
The Judges:

  1. T. Sasitharan (Panel Chair) – Arts educator and Cultural Medallion winner
  2. Cherian George - Academic
  3. Richard Ho - Architect
  4. Faizah Jamal – NMP & Environmental Activist
  5. Sharon Siddique – Consultant
  6. Constance Singam - Civil Society Activist and Writer
  7. Wong Ting Hway – Medical Doctor
  8. Geoffrey Yu – Arts Supporter and Former Diplomat

 

“Activism and advocacy are the cornerstones of an active and vital civil society movement and the need to establish and protect free space for civil society has never been more urgent than it is now,” said Mr Sasitharan. “A strong civil society will lead to healthy, functioning democracies. Conversely, healthy, well-functioning democracies must allow strong civil societies to exist.”

“If civil society in Singapore is to grow and mature, then it is crucial that good advocacy work that makes an impact on society, that is engaged with the community and that empowers people, should be properly recognised, acknowledged and applauded.” (Source: TOC article here)

 

The Honours List:

ACRES * All Things Bukit Brown * Braema Mathi * Chan Li Shan * Damien Chng * Eugene Tay * Jeremy Boo and Lee Xianjie * Louis Ng * M Ravi * Pink Dot

 

SAA honorees

SAA honorees

 

 

Advocate of the Year: Braema Mathi (President of Maruah, a human rights advocacy group)

Advocate of the Year: Louis Ng (ACRES - Animal Concerns Research and Education Society)

Advocacy Organisation of the Year – All Things Bukit Brown

Most Promising Advocate – Chan Li Shan (mental health advocate, author of A Philosopher’s Madness)

Most Promising Advocate – Damien Chng (We Believe in Second Chances)

***

 The citation:

citation for SAA I

citation for SAA II

 

Postscript: It is worth mentioning that we acknowledged fellow nominee Eugene Tay, who supported us from the early days, and blogger Jerome Lim of The Long and Winding Road fame, for bringing us together. They inspired us in their railway walks, a precursor to the Green Corridor campaign.

 

Jerome Lim and Eugene Tay at SAA

Jerome Lim and Eugene Tay at SAA, with us and Constance Singam

 

We received the award from William Lim, one of the greatest honours we have experienced.

 

(Photo: SAA)

(Photo: SAA)

 

William Lim and his wife at the SAA

William Lim and his wife at the SAA

 

Lim Su Min, a Brownie and a descendent of Tan Tock Seng and Lim Boon Keng, sketched the historic inaugural awards:

 

SAA sketch (Credit- Lim Su Min)

Related Posts:

Bukit Brown named World Monuments Watch site

 

“Ullambana” Festival by Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong @ Tangling Halt.

by Sugen Raniah

The Ullambana Festival is observed and celebrated by the Buddhists during the Seventh Lunar Month. The Sanskrit term, ‘Ullambana’, refers to the compassion for all beings suffering in the realms of misery. The observance of this festival is based on a discourse by the Buddha – where Maudgalyayana, a disciple of the Buddha, discovers that his mother, Lady Niladhi, had been reborn into the realms of misery. The troubled Maudgalyayana then seeks the Buddha for help. The Buddha advises him to make offerings to the Sangha, as the merit of doing so would help relieve the suffering of his Mother, and that of other beings in the same state.

Here in Singapore, it is a common sight for Teochew sian t’ngs (temples) to perform these rituals during the seventh lunar month. I observed and documented the Ullamabana Festival at Tanglin Halt Market and Hawker Centre by the members of Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong.

There are three temporary ceremonial altars set up in the tentage – the main altar of the three Buddhas, the altar for the Patron Deity, Du Di Gong and the last for Da Shi Ye (King of Ghosts). Offerings of dried goods and drinks, vegetables, a variety of meat and paper offerings are assembled in the centre of the tentage. Here associate members of the market and members of public are invited to offer joss sticks to the wandering spirits. There are also smaller areas around designated for the spirits for ‘lodging’, ‘washroom’ and ‘leisure’ purposes.

A Main Altar of the Three Buddhas

Main Altar of the Three Buddhas (photo Sugen Ramiah)

B Food offerings of meat (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Food offerings of meat  and seafood (photo Sugen Ramiah)

C Meat Offerings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Meat Offerings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Unlike the elaborate Taoist salvation rituals by Xuan Jian Dian, the Buddhists embrace the recital of Ulka Mukha Sutra. Men, draped in red vestments, are represented as the Sangha (the community of disciples). The Sutra recited is an amalgamation of the mind, body and mouth. Mind in absolute contemplation, with hand gestures of the mystical Mudras and together with the recitation of esoteric words of the Sutras- they invite the wandering spirits to listen to the teachings of Buddha and liberate them from all sufferings. These men sing the Sutra in Teochew and the lyrics are accompanied by beautiful Teochew styled music. It is meant to work like a beautiful charm that draws the spirits to listen and attain liberation.

Men draped in red vestments are represented as the ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Men draped in red vestments are represented as the ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

E The ‘Sanghas’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The ‘Sanghas’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

F The ‘Sanghas’ paying homage to the Patron Deity of the market and hawker centre – Du Di Gong (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The ‘Sanghas’ paying homage to the Patron Deity of the market and hawker centre – Du Di Gong (photo Sugen Ramiah)

G The assembly of ‘Sangha’ and the recital of the Ulka Mukha Sutra (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The assembly of ‘Sangha’ and the recital of the Ulka Mukha Sutra (photo Sugen Ramiah)

H Performing a Mudra while in deep contemplation by the head ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

Performing a Mudra while in deep contemplation by the head ‘Sangha’ (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The tossing of longevity buns to liberate the wandering from all sufferings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The tossing of longevity buns to liberate the wandering from all sufferings (photo Sugen Ramiah)

J – A happy supplicant

A happy supplicant (photo Sugen Ramiah)

The day ritual comes to a close with the tossing of longevity buns. The food offerings are then packed and distributed to contributors and friends. Members of the temple take a break before preparing for the dance of the auspicious lanterns later in the evening.

****

Sugen Ramiah a teacher by training, has been observing and documenting Chinese festivals and rituals conducted by temples for the past one and half years.

More on  the Hungry Ghost Month from Sugen  here  and here .

 

 

I am Jing Xiang, an architecture student from NUS. I would like to dedicate a drawing of Bukit Brown I did in 2013 to Bukit Brown, those interred there whose histories precede their death and of histories yet discovered, and to All Things Bukit Brown for raising awareness of this rich heritage site.
****
About the Drawing…..
It’s not an accurate depiction of the physical landscape, but rather it represents the landscape as imprinted onto my mind that which is then translated into a drawing. In short it is my memory of the landscape. The section drawing also reveals the underground, a condition that we cannot see but doesn’t mean it isn’t present. The roots of the trees intermingle with some remains of the body. This relationship is open for interpretation, one obvious one is the connection between bodies (pioneer/ancestors) and ‘root’.

Some elements in the drawing are all too familiar landmarks in the cemetery, while others suggest hidden secrets, or things that,as of the present moment, has disappeared due to the roadworks. The drawing straddles between what is real and what is imagined, what is there and what is not there, or ‘not there’ because we can’t see it (yet) like other intangible (forces or) values of Bukit Brown.

(please click to view and appreciate full image)

sectional landscape Jing Xiang jayx89@msn.com

Sectional landscape by Jing Xiang

Copyright:
“The use of the image for private or educational purposes is permitted, however, for public related matters that involves making the image physical such as publication, mass-printing, or for other forms of commercial purpose; I would appreciate that the relevant person would first seek my consent”  Jing Xiang

 

Singapore is 49 and Bukit Brown is 92! The invitation went  out weeks before on the blog, on Facebook, the event of the year at Bukit Brown, celebrating the nation’s birthday. Thank you to all who  came,  regulars, first timers, old and young, singers and well wishers.  The official NDP’14 theme was a good fit :

NDP ’14 (Nations Deceased Pioneers) @ Bukit Brown this year honours the “can do” and caring spirit of our pioneers who helped to forge bonds which built the foundations for SG 50. It is the story of how “Our People” in Bukit Brown made Singapore, “Our Home”.

We promised 3 guided walks, goody bags, eats and music. But the highlight as always is the singing of the National Anthem – this year led by Brownie Mil Phuah, the reciting of the Pledge – this being Raymond Goh’s first ever NDP@Bukit Brown (previous years he was away on business trips)  it fell on his shoulders, followed by a minutes silence to remember especially the 4,153 pioneers who have had to make way for the highway. Our resident videographer James Tann captured  an NDP  on the celebratory Hill 1 festooned by flags large and small, and the pride of over 50 voices.

It has been a momentous past year for Bukit Brown  from being on the World Monuments Fund watchlist to be being voted by Singaporeans as their top 3 sacred sites . The good news continued as Claire Leow, co founder of All Things Bukit Brown, shared some more developments .

“We are humbled and honoured to announce that thanks to the nomination by the Singapore Heritage Society, all things Bukit Brown has been shortlisted for the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards 2014, under the category of Civil Society Advocate Organisation of the Year.

The winner will be announced Aug 30, but let us say now for the record, just being nominated has been a real honour as a recognition of all that this community has achieved since early 2012.

To date, the Brownies have guided more than 12,000 people, staged two exhibitions, and tried to connect descendents, academics, students and teachers, docents, heritage bodies and communities. We don’t always succeed but we surely give everything a passionate shot! Your unstinting support as a community has sustained us. We have guided rain or shine or exhumations. Behind the scenes, many work hard to raise awareness of the intrinsic value of this historic site, and a few have worked patiently with the authorities for a better outcome.

We thank all of you for your support in our endeavour. It is an understatement to say it has not been an easy mission. But driven by conviction, we have carried the heart of this community. We have become good friends, and made good friends. Inspired by the early groundwork laid by Raymond Goh and Charles Goh, the Brownies have built on a solid foundation to spread the word: this is our heritage, habitat and history – and we appeal to you to join us, and honour our pioneers and save this sacred site.

On this, the 49th birthday of Singapore, we say, Majullah!” Claire Leow, Co Founder, All Things Bukit Brown.

***

Bukit Brown was also highlighted in the national daily Today   August 9th Special issue  Preserving Memories of a Changing Nation

“In 2012, the two women created a blog, all things Bukit Brown, to provide a platform for people to share memories of the area as well as to raise awareness of the walks they were planning there. Since then, the blog has garnered more than 550,000 views and more than 4,000 members on its Facebook page.

With the help of 40 volunteers called Brownies, the two women have also guided more than 11,000 (now 12,oo0)people on their Bukit Brown heritage trails.

“This shows we made the right move and have won the hearts and minds of the public,” said Ms Lim, now a freelancer in broadcast media. She attributed the positive response to the blog and heritage trails to more than just nostalgia. “It’s a much deeper meaning — a yearning, post- sickness, when old places have to move for new ones.”

Since 2012, all things Bukit Brown has also added a unique twist to the National Day celebrations: While others get ready for the National Day Parade, its members have their own National Deceased Parade. This year, they plan to go on a heritage trail in Bukit Brown to commemorate Singapore’s pioneers for their resilience, contributions to and sacrifices for the country.”

****

Here are highlights from  the different heritage trails, behind the scenes set up and the camaraderie and conviviality that took the celebrations from dusk to moonlit night. Thank you to all who  came,  regulars, first timers, old and young, singers, photographers  and well wishers.  the Brownies are grateful for your support.  Here are your memories:

Such a beautiful day for a celebration Lawrence Chong

Such a beautiful day for a celebration! (photo !Lawrence Chong)

The Guided Walks by Claire, Bianca, Fabian, Simone and Walter

Start of tours Garden Hill

Claire giving a general briefing before the they split into 3 heritage routes (photo Garden Hill)

Fabian _ Garden Hill

Fabian Tee, Brownie guide for NDP’14 (photo Garden Hill)

Double Dutch Angeline Lee

Bianca doing double dutch in the poetry trail she co-led with Claire (photo Angeline Lee)

Guess whose grandmother lies over yonder Garden Hill

“Guess whose grandmother lies over yonder” (photo Garden Hill)

Hush little baby don't you cry

Hush little baby don’t you cry (photo Garden Hill)

It's a girl Garden Hill

It’s a girl! (photo Garden Hill )

James Tann by Garden Hill

James Tann our videographer captured by Garden Hill

Lets talk about the coolies of Christmas Island _Garden Hill

Lets talk about the coolies of Christmas Island (photo Garden Hill)

Oh yes its true, it took 3 years to build this grave _Garden Hill

Oh yes its true, it took 3 years to build this grave (photo Garden Hill)

one gets away _ Garden Hill

One attempts a getaway (photo Garden Hill)

Philip Holden

埋骨何須 故里 盖棺 便是吾盧 Why is it necessary to bury my bones in my ancestral land? The place where my coffin is sealed is my home Tan Ean Kiam, on his tomb at Bukit Brown(photo Philip Holden)

Simone Lee @Chew Boon Lay Garden Hill

Simone Lee @Chew Boon Lay (photo Garden Hill)

the Chinese tour Victor Yue

The Chinese Tour led by Walter Lim, had some Hongkong visitors, so Cantonese was also the lingua franca of the day (photo Victor Yue)

The God is in the Details Garden Hill

The God is in the Details (photo Garden Hill)

The next generation garden hill

The next generation of Brownies? (photo Garden Hill)

When I grow up.....Garden Hill

When I grow up….. (photo Garden Hill)

Young cub in the Lion CIty Garden Hill

Cub in the Lion City (photo Garden Hill)

 Behind the Scenes, A Team of Brownies Setting the Stage for Celebration

A Brownie moment 1 Garden Hill

In he lull while waiting, a Brownie moment for Mil Phuah ( photo Garden Hill)

A Brownie Moment 2 Garden Hill

A brownie moment for Victor Lim (photo Garden Hill)

Lets flag everything ! Khoo Ee Hoon

Lets “flag” everything ! ( photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

lighting up with a smile ee hoon

Peter “strung up” with a smile (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

My country oh my country Garden Hill

My country oh my country (photo Garden Hill)

Planting the Flag Garden Hill

Steven Planting the Flag (photo Garden Hill)

Preps 1 Lawrence Chong

Patriotic Jade Girl (photo Lawrence Chong)

Preps 21 Lawrence Chong

Like we said “flag” everything! (photo Lawrence Chong)

Preps Lawrence Chong

Festooned with flags (photo Lawrence Chong)

Hey bro lets tie the knot Ee Hoon

Hey bro lets tie the knot (Khoo Ee Hoon)

Hi@ Happy Birthday Singapore!

Hi Happy Birthday Singapore! (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

stringing it up in a row Khoo Ee Hoon

Stringing it up in a row (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

We are ready! Garden Hill

We are ready! (photo Garden Hill)

Celebrations!

Jubilation Garden Hill

Jubilation (photo Garden Hill)

National Anthem as recorded by  Albert Ong

Raymond Goh (photo James Tann)

The photo speaks for itself. Raymond Goh leading the Pledge (photo James Tann)

National Anthem 2 _ Lawrence Chong

( photo Lawrence Chong)

National Anthem Huat Ah _ Lawrence Chong

Huat Ah ! (Lawrence Chong)

Food glorious food _Peter Pak

Makan! (photo Peter Pak)

Making Music Garden Hill

Music ! (Garden Hill )

Happy Birthday Singapore Cake Ee Hoon

Birthday Cake! (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

Not Just Singapore’s  birthday but 3 Brownie Birthdays in August!

Blow! Ee Hoon

Left to right “Uncle Foo aka Garden Hill” 9 August, Simone Lee 10 August and Keng Kiat 11 August- HUAT AH! (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

Now serve...ee hoon

And the youngest gets the honour of serving (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

Hands up for BB photo Kerk

Hands up for Bukit Brown ( photo Kerk Eng Huat)

Good night, see you next year at NDP'15 Peter Pak

Goodnight, Peace be with You and See you at NDP’15 (photo Peter Pak)

” Deeply reflective and moving National Day observance at Bukit Brown today, with graves already exhumed and half the site sectioned off for the road. There are some things that money can’t buy. A big thank you to Catherine Lim, Claire Leow and others!”  Philip  Holden.

A big shout out to those behind the scenes and catering:Brownies Victor Lim, Sugen, Mil Jonathan, Raymond, Ee Hoon, Peter, Steven, Mitch, Andrew and tombkeeper Lim Ah Chye. To Lee Kok of Asia Pac Publishers for contributing goodies to goody bags, National Heritage Board for the bags and National Library Board for commemorative books on Khoo Seok Wan.

 ****

More photos from the album of Garden Hill here

From the album of Lawrence Chong here

 

 

 

Preamble : Hungry Ghost Festival

Saturday, 26th July was the eve of what is popularly known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, and less well known by its traditional name of  Zhongyuan Jie, which in essence is also about honouring ancestors.    It takes place at the start of  the Chinese 7th lunar month, and it is when the gates of hell  open and the spirits of dead are free to wander among the living  for a month. To appease them, offerings and entertainment is laid out  by  descendants at their homes, but  also by temples,  business and clan  associations. This year, the prediction was that  hell’s gates will open at 11pm on the eve of the festival.

The Salvation Rituals

At Bukit Brown,  devotees from the Taoist temple  Xuan Jiang Dian (Heng Kang Tian ) conducted a “chao du” or “salvation rituals”  -  considered an act of compassion – specifically for the forgotten and lost spirits there.

This is the 3rd year in a row, Xuan Jiang Dian  have done this,  ever since in fact news of the building of the highway across Bukit Brown in 2011 was announced. Exhumations of the some 4.153 graves which are in the way of the highway are drawing to  a close.  So there was added interest in this year’s ritual which was covered  by our national newspapers. The National Heritage Board (NHB) shared that a specially commissioned video on rites and rituals at Bukit Brown will be uploaded soon to you tube.

A First Hand Account of “chao du”

The ” chao du”  ceremony which was witnessed also by Brownies and other well wishers, started at around 8.3opm . It consisted of the setting up of  an altar table with offerings at the major  junction of  the 4 roads in  Bukit Brown which leads to Blocks 1, 5, 4 and 3.

The Taoist priests from China, resplendent in their robes, chanted and walked several ceremonial  rounds  in the area calling upon lost spirits. There was something soothing in their chanting and the air was redolent with the scent of what must have been a hundred lighted joss sticks. Each participant carried  3 sticks each throughout  the 40 minute long chanting.

There was a stillness in the air and the smoke and swish of the robes  carried the movement of the night.  It ended with the burning of paper offerings and just as quickly as it was set up, the devotees packed up and left, with the  the candles planted still burning  and the last vestiges of the paper offerings smouldering down to embers.  

******

Photo Gallery  :

Beauty shot_Ai Lin

The arrival of devotees making their way to the ceremonial site for the set up (photo Chua Ai Lin)

beauty shot_Teremce Heng

Chao-du (photo Terence Heng)

Burining offerings _Zhi Hao

Paper offerings (photo Zhi Hao)

candle lit_Claire Leow

Path of candle lights to show the spirits the way (photo Claire Leow)

Candle_Zhi Hao

(photo Zhi Hao)

Tablets _ Chua Ai Lin

Side View : Off site 3 tablets,  set up by  Xuan Jiang Dian at Bukit Merah Blk 123 for the wandering spirits of Kopi Sua aka Bukit Brown. [right] for animals killed during agricultural activity (prior to it becoming a cemetery)[centre] for wandering souls[left] for animals killed during construction works (photo and caption by Chua Ai Lin)

Paying my respects to my late father and also the uncared, wandering and uncrossed over souls of Kopi Sua during the seven month pudu festival of Xuan Jian Dian

Front View : Off site 3 tablets,  set up by  Xuan Jiang Dian  at Bukit Merah Blk 123 for the wandering spirits of Kopi Sua aka Bukit Brown. [right] for animals killed during agricultural activity (prior to it becoming a cemetery)[centre] for wandering souls [left] for animals killed during construction works (photo Raymond Goh)

Report in the Straits Times on last night's ritual by Heng Kang Tian at Bt Brown_Victor Yue

Report on the Straits Times 27 July,’14 on the ceremony

ZB report_YH

Report on Lianhe Zaobao, 27th July’14

Report on  Lianhe Zaobao on a ritual conducted last night at Bt. Brown which marked the opening of the 7th month:  A group from Heng Kang Tian including 8 Taoist priests conducted the ritual to invite spirits to a salvation ceremony conducted today in front of Bukit Merah View Block 123. The group has been going to Bt. Brown for the past two years to invite spirits from tombs which are not tended to by descendants. The event was attended by Brownies and participants of tours at the cemetery. It was also recorded by the Bt Brown Documentation Team. NHB is currently preparing a 10-15 min documentary on the rituals carried out at Bt Brown cemetery. This will be uploaded to the NHB channel on youtube, “yesterdaysg”, around end next month. (summary by  Ang Yik Han) Full report in Chinese:

文物局到武吉布朗坟场 记录“招魂”仪式

王舒杨
联合早报2014年07月27日

今天是农历七月初一,华人传统节日“鬼节”今起开始。昨晚,武吉布朗坟场文史记录小组和国家文物局人员特地到武吉布朗坟场,记录一场由道教团体进行的祭祀仪式。

昨晚约9时,应道教宗教团体玄江殿邀请的八名道长和一名唢呐乐师在武吉布朗坟场进行“招魂”仪式。在道路两侧点亮“引魂”的香火后,他们在锣鼓声中唱诵经文。今明两天他们将在红山景第123座前的道场举行大型超度法会。

数十名积极参与保护武吉布朗文化遗产的公民团体成员也到场目睹仪式。除了这些“武吉布朗人”,不少报名参加坟场导览活动的外国人和游客也纷纷拿起相机拍下这个独具特色的活动。

玄江殿自1996年起多次在武吉布朗坟场举行农历十月初一的“寒衣节”祭祀活动,并从两年前开始在武吉布朗坟场举行七月鬼节的法事,目的是在坟场进行招魂,为他们超度。

根据武吉布朗坟场文史记录小组整理的资料,武吉布朗坟场里的中元节如同一项社区活动,是一种灵界上的慈善事业。信徒所祭祀的亡魂通常与他们没有任何亲属关系,尤其是孤魂。

玄江殿主持陈荣兴(45岁)说,武吉布朗一些坟墓主人没有子孙祭拜,所以希望能为这些孤魂超度。

此外,道家也相信所有生灵皆可超度,而坟墓挖掘过程中伤到蚂蚁等生灵,超度法事也怀有对它们的尊重。

国家文物局目前正在筹备一个10至15分钟长的纪录片,介绍华人社群在武吉布朗坟场的仪式,包括七月鬼节、清明节以及较少人知道的寒衣节。短片料下月底上载到文物局的YouTube频道“yesterdaysg”。

文物局总司长(政策)陈子宇说:“武吉布朗坟场不仅仅是一个埋葬地点,也是华人社群进行祭祖等仪式的地方。我们会记录这些仪式,以继续丰富我们有关新加坡非物质文化遗产的数据库。”

公众可通过在国家图书馆大厦9楼展出的“武吉布朗:记录新知识 开拓新视野”中英文展览,了解武吉布朗坟场上世纪的演变、坟墓设计和民间风俗等。图书馆大厦展览在10月10日结束后,将陆续在宏茂桥、裕廊、蔡厝港和大巴窑图书馆展出至明年1月底。

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