Join Beng Tang on a guided walk of Bukit Brown cemetery and learn more about the edible fruits and vegetables that you can find there.

During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, the Japanese kept the rice to feed their armies so the civilians of Singapore survived on tapioca, sweet potato and yam. Come on a tour of Bukit Brown to see some of these plants and others that can be eaten.

—————————————————————————
This guided walk starts at 09.00am and ends at 12.00pm

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa
—————————————————————————
Difficulty: Average, some trekking required
Please bring umbrella or poncho / sun block / mosquito repellent.
Please wear covered footwear.

Please note: 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)

Meeting point is within the cemetery, just beyond the gates of Bukit Brown as you enter on the left where the site offices are located.

Please register at Peatix.

Places available are capped at 30 for better engagement.

Beng explaining about edible plants

Beng explaining about edible plants

 

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.

my_sample_image

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).

DSC_0007

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.

 

10516787_10152246002503831_9122197253058005558_n

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.

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

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.)

“Legally Yours”

(Sat 20 Jun’15 9am – 11.30am)

 Join Fabian and Chyen Yee as they tell you more about the lives  and wills of pioneers and how some of them tied up their fortunes in legal clauses to help counter an old Chinese saying that  “fortune does not survive beyond 3 generations.

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa
—————————————————————————
Difficulty: Average, some trekking required
Please bring umbrella or poncho / sun block / mosquito repellent.
Please wear covered footwear.

Please note: 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)

Meeting point is within the cemetery, just beyond the gates of Bukit Brown as you enter on the left where the site offices are located.

Please register your attendance at Peatix and get a free ticket  here

 

He was an old  trustee of the Soon Thian Keing (Temple)  who together with his wife is buried at Bukit Brown. Through his personal memories, Ho Siew Tien (1864-1960) helped shed light on the temple’s history.

This story by Ang Yik Han begins with the origins of one of the oldest temples in Singapore.

***************************************************************************************

In the 1980s, a debate took place in the local newspapers over the age of an old Chinese temple dedicated to the earth deity Tua Pek Kong in Malabar Street. Historians argued over an ambiguous phrase in one of the temple’s old stelae, which stated that the temple, the Soon Thian Keing (順天宮), was established during the years of the reigns of Jiaqing and Daoguang (“嘉道之際”). As the Jiaqing Emperor ruled from 1796 to 1820 and Daoguang from 1821 to 1850, proponents of an earlier dating for the temple argued that its establishment may have predated the founding of Singapore in 1819. However, there was no direct evidence to support this claim. No artefacts survived from the temple’s earliest days and the stele in question was erected only in 1902 when the temple was reconstructed.

Soon Thian Keing Temple stelae (photo Yik Han)

Part of the 1902 stele still preserved in the Soon Thian Keing today. It shows the main temple sponsors and major contributors to the temple’s building fund (photo Yik Han)

One the earliest known accounts of the Soon Thian Keing before its reconstruction was an interview given by one of its trustees, Ho Siew Tian (何秀填), in 1949. He recalled that when he first arrived in Singapore in 1882 at the age of 18, the temple was only a small shrine located next to a tree which housed the Tua Pek Kong statue. The shrine was refurbished by two merchants in 1888. It was only in 1902 (28th year of Guangxu’s reign) that some merchants based in the Sio Po area (the colloquial Chinese term for the part of town north of the Singapore River) came together to construct a proper building for the temple.

Ho Siew Tin_Yik Han

A photo of Ho Siew Tien taken in 1950

Other than getting a new building, the turn of the 20th century was significant for the temple for another reason. Some Hokkien merchants started a school in 1903 and then turned to the temple committee for funding to sustain the school. Thus began the decades long association between the temple and the Chung Cheng School (崇正学校) [not to be confused with Chung Cheng High (中正學校) which was managed by the Hokkien Association].

Every year, the temple provided for the school’s upkeep from the money paid by the resident monk who was contracted to run the temple. In 1916, a school for girls, the Chong Pun Girls School (崇本女校) was started and likewise funded by the temple. Committee members of the Soon Thian Keing sat on the boards of both schools. Prominent alumni members of the Chung Cheng School over the years included Lee Kong Chian and President Ong Teng Cheong.

As the number of students increased, the need for new premises for both schools was keenly felt. In 1938, the construction of a new school building at Aliwal Street was completed. This housed both the Chung Cheng School as well as the Chong Pun Girls School under one roof. It was recorded that Ho Siew Tian was a prime driver in the construction of the new school building along with the then temple chairman. A trustee of the Soon Thian Keing since 1933, he was concurrently the treasurer of the temple and the two schools, a position he held till after the war.

Hailed as one of the most modern Chinese school buildings of its day, the building has been preserved and is today the Aliwal Arts Centre.

Chung Cheng School now Aliwa Centre (Photo Yik Han)

The Chung Cheng wing now Aliwal Arts  Centre (Photo Yik Han)

Chong Pun Girls School Hall at Aliwal Arts Center (photo Yik Han)

Chong Pun Girls School Hall at Aliwal Arts Center (photo Yik Han)

As Aw Boon Haw donated substantial funds towards the building’s construction, the school hall was named after his company, Haw Par.

Old photos dating from 1950 which showed girls of Chong Pun exercising in the school field, today a carpark. Sultan Mosque can be seen in the background.

Girls excising in Chong Pun School, Sultan Mosque in the background chongpun_exercises_Source

Girls excising in Chong Pun school field, with  Sultan Mosque in the background.

Ho Siew Tian ran a thriving hardware and building materials business under the chop Ho Hock Ann (何福安) at Beach Road. He also owned a number of twakows for transporting goods. As his wealth grew, he made substantial investments in properties. In 1948, he incorporated his firm as a limited company and handed over its running to his sons, who subsequently expanded the business to firearms.

 Advertisement for Ho Hock Ann Company Ltd in 1950

Advertisement for Ho Hock Ann Company Ltd in 1950

It was urban redevelopment which spelled the end for the temple and the schools. In 1980s, the temple was acquired by the government for building the MRT. It moved successively to various temporary sites before its present building at Lorong 29 Geylang was completed. With the resettlement of the urban residents in the area, dwindling student enrolment led to the closure of Chung Cheng School in the 1980s as well. Its name was transferred to a primary school in Tampines.

Soon Thian Keing today in Lor 29 Geylang (photo Yik Han)

Soon Thian Keing today in Lor 29 Geylang (photo Yik Han)

Ho Siew Tian is buried at Hill 4 together with his wife who died 12 years before him. According to obituaries in the Straits Times and the Singapore Free Press, he was one of the oldest men in Singapore at the point of his death at the age of 96. He was survived by 5 sons (2 other sons died before him), 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, 7 daughters-in-law, 81 grandchildren, 8 grand sons-in-law, 4 granddaughters-in-law and 37 great grandchildren.

 Tomb of Mr and Mrs Ho Siew Tian at Bukit Brown Cemetery Hill 4

Tomb of Mr and Mrs Ho Siew Tian at Bukit Brown Cemetery Hill 4 (photo Yik Han)

Ceramic portraits of Mr and Mrs Ho Siew Tian on their tombstone (photo Yik Han)

Ceramic portraits of Mr and Mrs Ho Siew Tian on their tombstone (photo Yik Han)

Join Keng Kiat for a little trek around the biggest hill in Bukit Brown, and hear him share stories of pioneers who are buried there, such as Lim Teck Kim (of Lim Teck Kim Road), Tan Chew Kim, and Gan Eng Seng (of Gan Eng Seng School).
—————————————————————————
This guided walk starts at 4.30pm and ends at 7.00pm

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa
—————————————————————————
Difficulty: Average, some trekking required
Please bring umbrella or poncho / sun block / mosquito repellent.
Please wear covered footwear.

Please note: 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)

Meeting point is within the cemetery, just beyond the gates of Bukit Brown as you enter on the left where the site offices are located.

Please register at Peatix.

Places available are capped at 30 for better engagement.

[photo credit: Chew Keng Kiat]

Hill 3 [photo credit: Chew Keng Kiat]

Ang Kok Kian – A Pioneer of the Soap industry

by Ang Yik Han

It is not clear if Ang Kok Kian (洪轂堅) grew up in Penang or he travelled there from his ancestral village in Nan’an county, Fujian province. During the 1910s, he moved to Taiping with his family but left after two years for Singapore, where he felt there were better prospects.

Of the businesses he established in Singapore, the most successful was the See Sen Soap Factory (時鮮肥皂廠), one of the local firms which rose to challenge the dominance of the market by Western manufacturers then. Although sales trailed behind another local firm Ho Hong Soap Factory, its distinctive “Dog’s Head” (狗頭標) brand soap was popular in Singapore, Malaya, Borneo and Hong Kong, both before and after the war.

Dog Brand _Source

Dog Brand Trade Mark (Source https://moulmeincacc.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/castle-at-no-19-barker-road/)

Ang Kok Kian passed away in 1939, leaving behind 4 sons. By then, his eldest son Ang Hai Sun (洪海山) was actively involved in the family business. Not content with expanding the soap factory, he went into oil milling to ensure a stable supply of raw materials for the factory.

Although “Dog’s Head” soap has disappeared from the market for decades, the mark of this locally produced soap can still be seen today adorning the house which Ang Hai Sun built, where his descendants still reside.

19 Barker Road _Source

Home of the present descendants of Ang Kok Kian (source https://moulmeincacc.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/castle-at-no-19-barker-road/)

More information on his descendants here

Double tomb of Ang Kok Kian and his wife at Bukit Brown Hill 4

Ang Kok Kian Tomb cu _Yik Han

The double tomb of Ang Kok Kian and his wife (photo Ang Yik Han)

Ang Kok Kian Tomb_Yik Han

The double tombs of Ang Kok Kian and his wife (photo Ang Yik Han)

Ang Kok Kian 1

Eactract from : A short biography of Ang Hai Sun published in 1950, from which information on his father can be gleaned.

 

We kicked off the first Bukit Brown Tour & Clean-Up Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) event of 2015 on 16 May 2015 with a record number of 50+ volunteers. The volunteer sign-ups were overwhelming and the organizing team had to cap the group size due to logistical limitations.

Heritage preservation is certainly a CSR theme that is catching on at Standard Chartered Bank! Read on to find out what one of our volunteers experienced…

By Hemanshu Parekh

(photo credit : compilation of StanChart & All Things Bukit Brown)

briefing

Pictured: Supported by 35 volunteers when this initiative first started out in 2014, the Bukit Brown Tour & Clean-Up effort is seeing growing interest from Bank staff and has hit a record of 50+ volunteers at the fourth session held on 16 May 2015.

New to this event, most of the volunteers signed up for this event not knowing what to expect. At the end of the day, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying CSR effort we have ever experienced!

The day started with volunteers assembling at the gates of Bukit Brown Cemetery, which was also the starting point of our tour of the heritage site. We were split in 2 groups – newbies and repeat volunteers. While repeat volunteers were taken on a tour route that included the nearby kampong (village), newbies like myself went on an “orientation” route, with Catherine as our guide.

Catherine – like all other guides –is a ’Brownie’ who is dedicated to conservation work and conducting tours for Bukit Brown. ’Brownies‘ have been investing their weekends on this project for over 3 years now.

Catherine started the session by giving us basic education on the cemetery and Chinese tombs.

The layout of Bukit Brown Cemetery, first followed a grid system,  meticulously drawn by the British for the Chinese during colonial times. The cemetery is known as the “mother cemetery” as it also hosts the graves from other cemeteries which have been taken over by development.

As the resting place of many pioneers of Singapore, some of the bigger and elaborate tombs hold tremendously historical value, particularly since many Chinese tombs in China were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

The Chinese did not like the structured grid pattern laid down by the British, as that did not conform to the all-important Feng Shui  or geomancy considerations for burial, such as elevation, the presence of water bodies, the direction the tomb faces, etc. Obviously, the stature and wealth of the deceased would determine whether the tomb could incorporate all the desirable Feng Shui elements. Historians have noted that while the initial tombs are laid out in a structured pattern, subsequent ones had more generous layouts – obviously Feng Shui took precedence over orderliness.

Standing beside a tomb, Catherine proceeded to explain the layout of typical Chinese tombs. The tombstones of Chinese tombs were actually the foot stones. At burial, the body was slightly elevated such that the head was higher than the feet. Tombs belonging to the Hokkiens, were constructed in a rounded shape so as to resemble a tortoise – which has positive Feng Shui connotations.

Granite was the most commonly used stones for constructing tombs, and they were sometimes imported from China for the purpose. Marble stones were also used at times.

Couple tombs always had the husband positioned on left and wife on the right. A pair of lion statues was usually installed as tomb guardians, where male lions were depicted with a foot standing on a ball, while female lions had a cub by its side. The “gender” positioning for tombs are male  always on the left and female are always,  right.  The plot for tomb had to be purchased in advance and would cost about Straits$  6 – 30 per plot in 1924.

As Singapore became an important trading port where many cultures intersect, some Chinese tombs incorporated non-Chinese cultural elements. Some tombs emulated aesthetic practices of the British like the use of decorative tiling. In the later years, tiles were imported from Japan and bore Asian- inspired designs –European tiles used abstract designs while Asian tiles featured auspicious motifs like flowers and fruits.

When we stopped by a majestic hill tomb, Millie, another guide, took over the story telling. This was her great grandfather’s resting place. About 4 years ago, she learnt that her great grandfather was laid to rest in Bukit Brown. She spent time researching his tomb and eventually located it in the vast cemetery. She then spent time restoring the tomb, which was overgrown with vegetation.

Her story is not an unique one – in recent years, a number of people have located the tombs of their ancestors through research and search, restored dignity to the forgotten tombs, reunited the living with the deceased and uncovered intriguing stories of the past. Often, the experience of locating one’s ancestors’ tomb is an emotional one. The amalgamation of numerous personal stories and anecdotes form a deep historical narrative for the heritage cemetery.

Standchart 2

Standard Chartered volunteers doing our part in preserving heritage

We saw another tomb where turban clad Sikhs statues took the place of the typical lion guardians. Years ago, one of the traditional professions that Sikhs took on was that of policemen and guards to the wealthy – and they were revered for their bravery and dependability. Hence, the erection of Sikh guardian statues was a way of paying homage to the Sikhs professionalism. There are to date 26 pairs of Sikh guardians found in Bukit Brown cemetery.

We came across a few tombs which had various mythical creatures as tomb guardians. We were told that in China, there were strict rules governing the use of mythical creatures as tomb guardians as they were reserved for government officials or even royalty. As the Chinese saying that goes “Far from the Emperor, Far from Judgment” – the Chinese in Singapore had the liberty of flaunting these rules without fearing the Emperor’s wrath.

The tour lasted almost one hour and ended at a clearing where an array of equipment were neatly laid on the grass for the second part of the event – tomb cleaning.

After a comprehensive safety briefing, we were split into 5 teams of 10 volunteers. The teams were tasked with different duties: 2 teams were assigned to heavy duty tomb cleaning work, which involved clearing dense overgrowth and tree cutting; 2 teams were tasked with clearing and cleaning tombs with moderate undergrowth; and one team was to pick up rubbish along the trails. I volunteered for the heavy duty work.

My team was tasked with cleaning the neglected tombs in the Cheang Hong Lim family cluster. There were a total of 8 tombs and half of them were almost completely covered by undergrowth, shrubs and small trees.

The task seemed daunting at first and the undergrowth was very thick, oftentimes colonised by unfriendly red ants. We gritted our teeth, picked up our equipment and started work under the guidance of veteran volunteers. After a while, we got the hang of the work, and progressed faster.

The first sense of satisfaction came when we hit concrete and uncovered the forecourt of the first tomb we worked on. After that, it became a drill: cut the shrubs and trees, clear the undergrowth, find the forecourt, then clear the vegetation off the forecourt and tombstone.

Teamwork was the order of the day, as we alternated between the tasks of cutting, cleaning and disposing of debris.

Prakesh

Hemanshu in action

We were drenched in sweat and hard at work when we were told we had only 10 minutes left – time really went by quickly when you are engrossed in work! Not wanting to do slipshod work on the few remaining tombs, we doubled up our efforts like schoolboys during the last 10 minutes of their exams.

When we were done, we high-fived one another and admired our work with a strong sense of achievement and satisfaction. We took group photos and shared smiles and cheers with fellow volunteers and the Brownies. Some volunteers claimed that this was the most challenging and satisfying CSR ever. Most of us agreed it was definitely a unique, educational and satisfying experience!

Pictured: Before and after the tombs we cleaned

Before and after the tombs we cleaned

We reached the end of the official activities and most volunteers left. A handful of us, who had not had enough, decided to take a final tour to the famous Ong Sam Leong tomb, reputed to be the biggest and most majestic in Bukit Brown. We reached the tomb after a 15 minute hike up a hill. The size of ten 3-bedroom  HDB flats, it truly was a majestic tomb. The tomb belonged to yesteryear phosphate magnet Ong Sam Leong’s family. It was constructed with high quality granite, adorned with numerous intricate carvings (the stories behind the carvings could easily fill a book), and it even had a moat where once contained fishes! Our guide Claire highlighted that this is the only tomb that can be seen from Goggle Earth.

The day ended with us being a little more educated on history and exhausted from the laborious morning. Besides leaving with a tremendous sense of satisfaction for our heritage preservation work, I’m sure we also left with the blessings of the many pioneers resting on Bukit Brown!

Standchart 4jpg

The exhaustion did not show on our faces at all!

********************************

All Things Bukit Brown and the  Brownie volunteers would like to say a huge “thank you” to  the Stanchart crew for their heart and hard work.

Researched by Ang Yik Han

Hou Xiu Xi at Hill 1 (photo Yik Han)

Hou Xiu Xi at Hill 1 (photo Yik Han)

Died in the year of the Horse, 19 July 1942 and survived by one son named Kah Bo (嘉謀),  Hou Xiu Xi ( 侯秀西 )located at Hill 1 was said to be a good orator and a staunch supporter of the China Relief Fund led by Tan Kah Kee.

He spoke at public rallies and occasions such as  temple celebrations to exhort the local Chinese to support the anti-Japanese cause. According to an account, he was beaten to death during the Japanese Occupation for refusing to cooperate with the Japanese authorities.

 

 

 

Darren Koh 2_ Mr. Foo

Darren Koh at the tomb of Chew Geok Leong (photo Mr. Foo)

It has been a long time coming, 3 years in gestation but Darren Koh – a pioneer member and solid contributor of the FB group community Singapore Heritage Bukit Brown Cemetery - has finally joined the ranks of Brownies who conduct guided walks. All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) caught up with Darren – whose day job is lecturing  on taxation in a tertiary institution – and asks why now and what took him so long?

atBB : You have been following and contributing to the community online for a number of years, why have you now decided to join the ranks of brownies who conduct guided walks?

Darren I blame Chew Keng Kiat!  Some time ago, we were chatting and I asked him if he recalled when the “brownies” came into being.  He dated the Brownies back to one evening in Sago Lane – in fact the funeral of Raymond Goh’s father.   Keng Kiat mentioned there was this group of people at a table at the end of the tentage. I reminded him I was there too – I was sitting with Mil, Su-Min and Vicky at one end. Keng Kiat mentioned that everyone at the table agreed that the Goh brothers could not possibly hunt down tombs and spread the knowledge of Bukit Brown all on their own.  Plans for the 8 lane highway  had just been announced and time was short.  That was about when everyone at the table agreed to take on the guiding so that Raymond and Charles could focus on the tomb hunting.  “Teach us.  Let us do this for you.”   And so – to the memory of Keng Kiat at least, the Brownies were born.  Unfortunately for me, my asking when the Brownies was born also pencilled in his memory that I had not guided any walks.  Since my conversation with him about that evening, he has often taken the opportunity to ask when I would actually guide.  Even as recently as this year’s Chinese New Year dinner, Keng Kiat nudged me again and said “Look around you – everyone at that table so many years ago has gone on to guide. You are the only one who hasn’t. When are you going to do so?”

Truth of the matter was that it was always going to be a matter of time. I was in the midst of getting a new programme running at the university, and that was just soaking up my time.  I did not have many people helping me teach then, and I was teaching many of the courses myself.  And the courses took place at the weekends.  So I really could not go out to the hills as often as everyone did. As you point out, I have been keeping in touch with the Brownies and following the discoveries, the developments, the joys and the lows.  But always once removed.  I must say, the Brownies were kind enough to include me in many of the offsite events (read – dinner!, etc) and it was at one event when one of our guests asked if I was a Brownie that I sort of blurted out “Not really – I have helped out in some walks but have not guided one myself.  I do not think I can wear the title until I have done that.” And that I think was when Catherine jumped in an said, “He’s an Associate Brownie!” So yay!  I had a place!

Now that the programme at the university is more settled, I can breathe again, and I was looking to get out of the air-conditioned world, and maybe get more exercise, and do something I like…. I realised why not just guide walks.  It ticks all the right boxes – it’s in the midst of  nature, it’s out of the artificial world of the office, I will walk a lot, and I will get to do what I like – tell stories.  A perfect fit. And so, after a couple of weekends of doing my homework (i.e. walking the hills, trying to find the tombs, getting lost amongst the stones), I started guiding.

atBB  Share what has been your experience like so far after 3 guided walks.

Darren  It’s been great! Each one has been different: the routing, the tombs we visited and therefore the story that was told was different. And in the last walk, I even had to abort a visit to two tombs and think of rapid replacements as the tombs I had wanted to visit were inaccessible.

It is usually good to have people ask questions – although sometimes that is scary as you never know which angle they will come from.  But the good thing about being a volunteer guide is that I can say “I don’t know – will have to get back to you on that.” A bit more difficult to say that in my normal classes!

The one thing I am reminded of, is a piece of advice shared with me by a good friend Tony Oldham, whom I got know well while we were travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway.  He was an archaeologist and anthropologist, and was also a tour guide in Europe. He said, “Never let a few facts stand in the way of a good story.”  Something which I have since learnt is very true:  the people who come for the walks are not here for a history lesson, or a degree in decorative arts.  The finer details therefore do not exactly matter.  What matters however, is the story of the person we are calling upon:  we bring that person to life when we relate their life and times.  Even more so if we can weave a line from the person we are calling upon, to the visitors today.  You can see for instance, the change in people when I reveal that we know so much about how Soh Koon Eng died because the daughter of the boy Koon Eng shielded with her body told us the story.  Or when they realise the man in the small grave I am talking about was none other than Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather … All links from the past to the present that they know.

The one regret to date?  I wish I had more time to share more with the visitors, but we have 3 hours before we tire.  There is only so much we can share in each session.  The only problem is when there are certain expectations – just as Frances Yip will never be allowed to have a concert where she does not sing the theme song from the Bund/Shanghai Beach, there are certain tombs that visitors ask for.  Then you are stuck in who else to call upon with the time you have left in the walk after up have visited those “top tombs to visit”.  I think I will have to be a bit more creative in routing my walks, or just learn to say “Not this time.”

atBB What would you say is your main interest in Bukit Brown?

Darren It’s  the transmission of culture and the understanding of history!  There is much to be told from the stones: they tell of the person.  From the research we get the story to enable us to link the person from the past to what it means today.  That is the job of the storyteller – that’s why I love it when people get the stories!  Personally – I’m not the greatest fan of bush bashing – the effort undertaken to find the tombs of people.  I think my mechanical-pencil hands were not meant for hacking through forests with machettes.  But give me the facts, and let me tell the story – that is my forte.  Right now, we need to tell as many as possible the wealth of history and culture that lies in Bukit Brown.

atBB notes: bush bashing does not involve machettes as such, more walking sticks and some Brownies carry a small cutter to help them clear vines.

atBB Tell us a little something about yourself.

I have been telling stories since I was young – I even won a school prize and represented the school in a story telling competition when I was in primary school!   I think the best way to tell an idea is to put it in a story that the listener gets.  The question is how the listener gets it:  and I have to tailor the story to the listener.

Darren In many ways, all my past I have been a story-teller: as a lawyer and a chartered accountant who specialises in taxation, I have learnt to use the skill to help in negotiations, in drafting documents, in preparing defence files and in tax audits.  Since I switched to academia – it is all about telling stories again, although this time I tell them to students, in the hope they will learn to tell their own stories themselves.

Having dissected a snake in school, I am not that worried about them.  But I do fear cockroaches – don’t ask me why – so thank goodness they are not one of the worries i have out in Bukit Brown.

I used to be able to say that I have worked in all the northern continents except where the polar bears roam – but the bears are now roaming further down south into North America so I will probably have to revise that statement now.

atbb observes : As you can tell from his interview, Darren is quite a wit and most diligent, the bonus is  he  comes with a wealth of knowledge about Chinese culture and temples and is also one of the pioneer membersof the yahoo heritage news group. His next guiding session is at the first regular first weekend guided walks, atBB is launching,  starting in June on the morning of Saturday 6 June, 2015, so please register here if you want to “experience” him in person.

Darren Koh 1_ Raymond Goh

Darren Koh at the tomb of Chew Geok Leong (photo Raymond Goh)

For more photos of Darren, the brownie in action please click here and note that you need to have a facebook account to view these photos.

 

 

It’s All Things Peranakan for this guided walk  in a nod to the exhibition at the Peranakan Museum’s exhibition on “Great Peranakans”

Join Catherine and Bianca as they take you to tombs of well known Peranankans and not so well known.

Known as the “King’s Chinese”, the Peranakans straddled the challenges of twin loyalties to their ancestral roots and their colonial masters, expressed in the” fusion” or some might argue the “confusion”  of their customs, traditions and thinking and what emerges is a unique culture which still have experts debating just what makes one a Peranakan?

But rising above the debate, there is no doubt, they led remarkable lives and their contributions to the political and social landscape of  Singapore and the region have earned them a place in  history, and a place  in Bukit Brown which is also known as The Peranakan Cemetery.

This guided walk  starts at 4.00pm and ends at 6.30pm

Please note: 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)

Meeting point is within the cemetery, just beyond the gates of Bukit Brown as you enter on the left where the site offices are located.

Please register at Peatix.

Places available are capped at 30 for better engagement.

—————————————————————————
Difficulty: Average, some trekking required
Please bring umbrella or poncho / sun block / mosquito repellent.
Please wear covered footwear.

 A great granddaughter remembers her great grandfather (photo: Catherine Lim)

The tomb of Tan Boo Liat, great grandson of Tan Tock Seng, sketcher is Stella Kon, great granddaughter of Tan Boo Liat (photo: Catherine Lim)

 

 

 

Archives

July 2015
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031