by Szeto Hiu Yan
The World Monuments Fund (WMF) select sites that are under threat on its watch list once every 2yrs. 3 days ago, they announced the 2014 list which included 67 sites from 41 countries selected from a list of 248 applications.
At a news conference held on location yesterday, a.t.BB (All Things Bukit Brown) said that the successful listing did not imply that it is putting pressure on the government or is attempting to block the impending construction of the road which would affect some graves.
As one of the founders of atBB, Claire Lim said “I hope to use this opportunity open a dialogue with the government and find a sustainable path to development. I do not think that conservation of heritage monuments and development has to be confrontational. On the contrary, we hope that conservation can aid development and vice-versa. “
She pointed out that at present, talks about development and conservation are always framed in terms of trade-offs – e.g. do we want to keep land for our ancestors or make room for our descendants. Why do we not talk about other issues, e.g. are we not willing to let go of a site that could potentially be a world heritage site? In the face of global warming and the need for nature to maintain stable temperatures, can we afford to lose a site of certain environmental value to us?
Claire is of the opinion that government and society should take this opportunity to reframe the conversation and exercise our mutual imaginations to allow more perspectives to bear on this matter. This frame of mind will expand the possibilities in our dialogue.
a.t.BB also shared its plans for Bukit Brown in their application to WWF. They hope to collaborate with National Heritage Board (NHB) and NParks and turn Bukit Brown into a cultural heritage site and a nature park to attract visits. Bukit Brown will retain most of its original state with the addition of basic facilities such as rest rooms. a.t.BB will continue to provide free guided walks and to increase its community outreach especially towards the young.
With the listing, a.t.BB hope to heighten overall public awareness of BB’s repository of cultural heritage both locally and abroad. E.g. instead of expensive overseas trips to learn about culture and heritage , educational institutions could look first at visits to local sites. a.t.BB also hopes to promote edu-tourism by attracting more visits by foreign students and overseas academic scholars.
As the a.t.BB current expenses are still manageable, it does not have any plan to apply for WWF funding.
According to Catherine Lim, another founder, WMF routinely provides assistance to countries that wish to elevate WMF sites to UNESCO sites. She therefore hopes that Singapore’s current UNESCO application for Botanical Gardens could in future be twinned with Bukit Brown to increase the chances for both sites to be listed. a.t.BB also hopes that it could work closely with Penang and Malacca as UNSECO sites, to raise the profiles of both countries’ cultural heritage
Catherine said that since the founding of BB in Dec 2011, over 7,000 people have been acquainted with Bukit Brown, through the free tours conducted by it. a.t.BB could also learn from the other WMF listed sites about how to raise awareness of BB.
The report first appeared in Zaobao on 11 October 2013 and is translated by Brownie Fabian Tee.
Zaobao’s Sunday 13 October round-up of quotable quotes also included the quote by Claire Leow:
“I absolutely do not think that the dialogue between preservation and development is necessarily confrontational. I hope that preservation of cultural heritage can aid urban development and vice-Versa.” – said co-founder of all things Bukit Brown Claire Leow who expressed the hope that that the listing of BB in the World Monuments Watch 2014 would open more channels of dialogue to find a common path for sustainable development.
The Chinese report follows:
世界历史遗址基金会（World Monuments Foundation）每两年选出濒危的世界遗产，将之列入观察
武吉布朗学会（All Things Bukit Brown）昨早在武吉布朗举行的记者会上表示，武吉布朗成功申
Dateline 6 October 2013
A tomb with a loving epitaph was found by Brownie Simone Lee at Kopi Sua today . It reads:
A bitter grief
A shock severe
to part with one
I love so dear
My loss is great
I wont complain
But hope through God
to meet again
Gone but not forgotten
Kopi Sua – a clan cemetery – is part of the Greater Bukit Brown Complex which includes Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery and the adjoining clan cemeteries of Seh Ong and Lao Sua. Together they have a combined total of 200 tombs
At Bukit Brown, one often finds couplets on the “pillars” of the tombs. They embed auspicious meanings and also tributes to the departed.
The tomb of Chen Yen Soon has a pair which speaks of the rewards which await those who live a good life.
为善百世興 Hundred years of prosperity for kind acts.
積德千年好 A good thousand years for those who accumulate good deeds.
An inscription found in a temple in Silat Road on a photo of the Earth Deity or Tua Pek Kong, evokes the same sentiments.. Brownie Fabian Tee summarises:
The couplet reads fortune with virtue inspires respect from a thousand families (from many) the uprightious shall inherit the earth as deities for innumerable (ten thousand) generations. When read together, it’s an allegory to 福德正神。
More examples of couplets here
Mian-Yu-Ting Cemetery, Johor (Part II)
by Choo Ai Loon
(Ai Loon continues from part one of her blog post on Mian-Yu-Ting Cemetery )
Among the tombstones at the Mian-Yu-Ting , is one belonging to Wu You-Xun (邬有询), which pays tribute to his alma mater, Chinese High School (華僑中學 in traditional Chinese characters)
A student with a promising future, Wu You-Xun (邬有询) aspired to become a doctor, In 1920, after completing his Senior Cambridge examination (equivalent to GCE “O” levels) , he enrolled at Chinese High. He graduated among the first batch of students, two years later. In the graduation year book, he was described as a hardworking student who “had no time to chit-chat as time was too precious”.
Wu excelled in English and was a committee member of an English speech society, which I presume was the “Nanyang version of the Toastmasters Club”, and chief editor of an English magazine.
But alas! Wu passed away at just 22 years old, a year after graduation. Inscribed on his tombstone is “graduate of Chinese High School” is a reflection of how proud he must been of his school
In contrast, one grave has only 3 characters inscribed but no name. Gu-ren-mu (古人墓), literally means “the tomb of someone who has passed away”.
This typical Teochew tomb which resembles an arm chair, a pair of couplets in red on the scroll pillars.
The arms of the tomb curve gracefully and there is a dragonhead carved on it The usual practice of depicting the whole dragon it seems has been adapted to just a dragon’s head. I have observed these variations in motifs and representations. This dragon appeared benign compared to the fierce-looking ones found in older tomb carvings.
Another grave had steps leading up the tombstone perhaps imitating a stupa, influenced by Buddhism.
The Tomb of She Mian-Wang
She Mian-Wang (佘勉旺), belonged to a wealthy Teochew family. The surname “She” is more commonly spelt as Sia or Seah.
The She Mian-Wang family profile in Johor parallels that of the Seah Eu Chin in Singapore. Both families had made their fortune from the cultivation and trade of gambier.
Seah Eu Chin’s tomb was discovered in 2012 within Greater Bukit Brown, in a forested area called Grave Hill in Toa Payoh West, Singapore. He co-founded and led the Ngee Ann Kongsi in Singapore, to look after the religious needs and welfare of early Teochew migrant workers.
Similarly, She Mian-Wang was an important figure in the Ngee Heng Kongsi The enormous plot size and the expansive tomb arms of She’s grave reflects his status and wealth in those days. Interestingly, his tablet is enshrined and worshipped at Pu Zhao Chan Si Temple (普照禅寺) in Singapore.
So could these two powerful families in the Teochew community be related? I leave you with this parting thought .
My thanks once again to Mr Bak Jia How and Mr Pek Wee-Chuen for the insightful and enjoyable tour of Mian-Yu-Ting.
Thanks to Mr Bak Jia How and Mr Pek Wee-Chuen for the insightful and enjoyable tour.
Choo Ai Loon, works as a translator and is passionate about art and heritage, She supports Hair for Hope for children with cancer. She blogs at http://chooailoon.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/hair-for-hope-2013/
霹靂州太平華聯中學初中三畢業，自中學開始對本邦歷史民俗 深感興趣，畢業後，一面協助父親小販事業，一面進行田野調查工作。並以李桃李、峇峇球等筆名，發表文章於報章雜志上。2004年成為全職的文史田野工作 者，足迹踏遍我国多个地方及国外多个国家。他也是《星洲日报·田野行脚》專欄作者。
English Introduction to the talks :
1) The Architecture and Culture of Tombs Belonging to the Five Dialect Groups in Perak
Lee Eng Kew
Eng Kew’s interest in local history and traditional customs manifested itself when he was in secondary school. After graduation, he helped out at his father’s hawker stall while pursuing his interests. In 2004, he became a full time researcher. He also writes a column for the Sin Chew Jit Poh.
This talk focuses on the architecture of tombs in Chinese cemeteries in Taiping, Ipoh and Sitiawan. The tombs examined belong to the Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew and Hock Chew styles.
2)A Study of the Chinese Cemetery and Tombstones in Pengarang
Bak Jia How
A graduate of Jinan University in Guangzhou, Jia How obtained his Masters in the School of International Studies in Beijing University. He was a history teacher in the Kulai branch of Foon Yew High School. He is currently a freelance historian.
Although there were Chinese settlers in Pengarang by the 1830s, historical texts make scant mention of them. In view of this, the old tombstones found in the cemeteries in the area are an invaluable resource for historical research on the chinese communities of Pengarang.
As part of Bukit Brown : Our Roots, Our Future, a series of talks were programmed to enrich the exhibition which was held at the Chui Huay Lim Club, the co-organiser of the exhibition.
Speaker Dr Imran bin Tajudeen gave insights into Singapura’s Historic Cemetery at Jalan Kubor which has royal roots. Several old settlements existed in Singapore besides the Temenggong’s estuarine settlement at Singapore River before Raffles’ arrival in 1819. Among these, Kampung Gelam and the Rochor and Kallang River banks were also sites of historic graveyards related to old settlements of Singapura both before and during colonial rule. The Jalan Kubor cemetery is the only sizable cemetery grounds still largely undisturbed. It belongs with Kampung Gelam history but has been excluded from the “Kampong Glam Conservation District” boundary, and is important for several reasons. It forms part of the old royal port town that was developed when Tengku Long of Riau was installed as Sultan Hussein in Singapore, and is aligned along the royal axis of the town. It is also the final resting place of several traders of diverse ethnicity from the old port towns of our region – neighbouring Riau, Palembang, and Pontianak, as well as Banjarmasin and the Javanese and Bugis ports further afield. Some of these individuals are buried in family enclosures, mausolea, or clusters. Conversely, there are also hundreds of graves of unnamed individuals from Kampung Gelam and surrounding areas. The tombstone forms and epigraphy reflect this immense socio-cultural diversity, and were carved in Kampung Gelam by Javanese and Chinese stone carvers, except for a number of special cases. Several large trees of great age are also found in this lush ‘pocket park’. The talk discusses the histories that can be retrieved from this important site and the dire need to protect it.
Dr Imran bin Tajudeen is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, NUS. His research interests centre around vernacular urbanism, house and mosque architecture in Southeast Asia, and critical perspectives in urban heritage studies. Of relevance to this talk is his article, ‘Reading the Traditional City in Maritime Southeast Asia: Reconstructing the 19th century Port Town at Gelam-Rochor-Kallang, Singapore,’ published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Architecture in 2005. His research papers have won prizes at major international conferences, including the ICAS Book Prize 2011 for the best PhD paper in the field of Social Sciences.
The iBBC App Guide is a FREE App to accompany you when you visit Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery. It has been developed by the The Bukit Brown Cemetery Documentation Project led Dr Hui Yew Foong. Brownie Khoo Ee Hoon designed the artwork of the map. There will be physical markers on site to guide the way.
Download your App from the Google Android store now, here
Check out a video demo on how it works here
And once you have downloaded you can test the application here before heading to Bukit Brown!
Note: This is a sample of a few tombs. The the App itself has data of over 20 tombs introducing you to the pioneers buried there.
Those with accompanying numbers e.g. Tok Cheng Tuan 1948 are staked and and will be exhumed. to make way for the eight lane highway. You only have a few months left before you can catch this tomb in all its magnificent glory.
The Wayang in the Tombs
by Ang Yik Han
(Popular tales performed in Chinese Wayang carved in iconic scenes on tomb panels.)
In the ” Romance of the Three Kingdoms” General Guan Yu is immortalised as the epitome of loyalty and righteousness. He played a significant role in the establishment of the state of Shu Han during the period of the Three Kingdoms.
Legend? Embroidered truth? It does not matter, over the ages from at least the Ming Dynasty, the image of Guan Yu smiling and sipping his wine while Hua Tuo scrapped his arm bone has been a source of wonder and encouragement for many.
This tomb is located in Hill 2 and belongs to the Teo Family.
More tombs featuring Guan Yu, here
From Madam White Snake :
From Nezha conquers the Dragon King :
The panels can be seen at the tombs of Poh Cheng Tee and his wife, and mother, in Hill 1, stake numbers 1017 – 1019. Exhumation of staked tombs in the way of the 8 lane highway is expected to begin after April 15th
The editor, Lisa Li, tells us some schools have taken up these lesson plans for use in class.
“We hope the new site is easier to navigate, with additional features such as a Calendar of Events (educational), Google Translate, more country tags and more regular content (contributed by editors, individuals, NGOs and other organizations),” she writes.
She asks for contributions to this site by:
1) Sharing your educational materials (lesson plans, opinion pieces) for publishing on SchoolAsia.Org.
2) Keeping us updated with any Asia-based educational events you know of, so that we can feature it on our Calendar (we’ve included 3 events by Peranakan Museum as an example). We’ll try to keep track of what’s going on on our own, but it is best to email email@example.com.
The website: http://schoolasia.org is a free-access, crowd-sourced, carefully-curated storehouse of lesson plans, stories, discussions & ideas focused on improving education in Singapore. Lesson plan topics revolve around current affairs, humanities and the arts.
The unique feature of this website is that it crowd-sources good quality lesson plans with a local context that teachers can use straightaway in their classes. With this website, we hope to tap on the energy and resources of passionate individuals and organisations to support teachers.
Our aim is also to make it easier for academics, NGOs & other organisations to connect directly to the classroom through lesson plans for teachers. We believe such specialised knowledge would definitely enrich lessons in schools.
This is in line with a key objective of all things Bukit Brown, which was conceived as an educational tool for students and teachers to self-guide. Our blog was born out of the twin desire to record history and, in a nod to our pioneers, contribute to education by sharing what we learn and find. We urge teachers and students to look into these case studies provided by SchoolAsia.org.
By Norman Cho
My Grandfather – Cho Kim Leong
Someone once told me that no one is truly dead until the last person who remembers him is gone. This statement is one I totally agree with! I may not have known my grandfather directly, but he still lives in the memories of those who knew him and in the stories of him that I learned from them. Far from be any luminary in the social history of Malaya, he was just an ordinary man-in-the-street with his own personal story…
Cho Kim Leong was born in Malacca in 1902, into an upper-middle class Peranakan family who lived in Heeren Street, a popular residential district amongst well-to-do families. The two known addresses that the family occupied were 84 Heeren Street and 151 Heeren Street. It was not known which of these two townhouses he was born in, but documental references in his adult years suggested unit 151. He was the son of Malaya’s pioneer plantation-owner (for gambier, tapioca and rubber), Cho Poo, and his third wife Kong Moey Yean. He later became the manager of his father’s rubber estates in Johore. Little else was known about his early years.
Starting His Family
He was married in Malacca around 1924 and had one son and two daughters. This was his first marriage. He became a young widower in 1933 when his wife fell ill and died. Soon, he looked for a second marriage in hope for a wife who could care for his young children. In 1934, he was introduced to my grandmother – a Singapore nyonya, Yeo Koon Neo (1913 – 1995), whom he married after several months of courtship. A typical date could consist of sightseeing via a trishaw ride, a leisurely stroll along the Esplanade, a movie at the Capitol Theatre or a casual chat over a meal. Their marriage took place in Singapore but he whisked her off to his hometown in Malacca to settle down. They had their first child, Charlie Cho, in 1935, the man who would become my father. During the same year, his mother passed away and left him the rubber estates in Johore. My cosmopolitan grandmother was feeling bored in the sleepy town of Malacca and longed for her Singapore family. She managed to successfully persuade grandfather to resettle in Singapore.
Life in Singapore
Grandfather relocated his family to Singapore in 1936 and settled down at modest bungalow in 421, Joo Chiat Road (Katong). Grandmother was very pleased as she had many relatives living in Joo Chiat-Katong, an enclave of the Peranakans. My maternal great-grandmother came over and lived with them. I suppose she wanted to be close to my father, her toddler grandson. This was the year that great-grandmother turned 60 years of age, a very important age for the Chinese. It is known as the Tua Seh-Jit (Grand Birthday). Grandfather, being a filial son-in-law, threw a big birthday party for her and invited chong poh (Hainanese chef) to cook for friends and relatives who had come in attendance. Trays of kueh koo were served to symbolically mark the occasion. These red-coloured pastries in the shape of the tortoise symbolize longevity. Earlier in the morning, grandfather had personally prepared the longevity noodle and served it to his mother-in-law for breakfast. This noodle (mee suah) was prepared with an egg and served with the sugar syrup that had been boiled with the Pandan leaves.
The following year, another son was born. They named him George. Life was looking rosy for grandfather and his family. Grandfather would indulge in simple hobbies like solving crossword puzzles, reading, collecting coins, listening to music and indulging in his regular dose of Guinness Stout. I recently learned that he was quite good at solving crossword puzzles as he had won the first prize for a submission in 1927. (http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article.aspx?articleid=singfreepressb19271029.2.100.1)
I eventually inherited grandfather’s cache of coin-collecting which included coins that dated back to the reign of Queen Victoria. I also inherited grandfather’s Guinness bottle-cap opener in the shape of a nude female. It was a gift from Guinness Stout for drinking a specific number of bottles. For some strange petty reason, grandmother confiscated it from him. She did not like the idea of him being tantalized by nude female, even if it was in the form of a bottle-cap opener! Another prized possession that I had inherited from grandfather is the commemorative plate of the coronation of King Edward VIII in 1936. Grandfather was a loving father who had my dad weaned on Quaker Oats until he was almost one year old! The plate was given after six cans of Quaker Oats had been purchased. Not only was he a loving father, he was an affectionate husband as well.
Grandmother was the Elizabeth Taylor of the family… While grandfather was busy earning money, Grandmother would be busy collecting jewellery. He simply could not understand why she needed so many pieces. He had already given her a fair collection of jewellery. Whenever grandmother was not given money for her jewellery spree, she would give him the cold shoulders. The soft-hearted man would eventually give in to his wife’s indulgence.
The War Years
In the late 1930s, grandmother’s fifth sister and her brood of seven children had come to live with our family. Her husband’s business was not doing well and he had to travel to Malaya to solicit for business. Grandfather was a man with a golden heart. He took in his sister-in-law and her children, and looked after them. With war imminent in 1942, two more of grandmother’s sisters and two of her brothers took refuge in their matrimonial home.
Grandfather became the sole provider for his family and his in-laws. With commodities at black-market prices, his money was fast running out by 1944. He asked if grandmother would be willing to part with some of her jewellery but she strongly protested. She gave an excuse that they would not be worth very much anyway. Reluctantly, he sold his rubber estates in May 1945, not knowing that the war was going to end in a mere three months.
The war ended in August 1945 and grandfather had lost his inheritance and was left with bundles of worthless Japanese Banana banknotes. The depressed and frail man who had not been in good health during the war years finally died on 16 December 1945, exactly four months after the war. His penniless widow with two sons (aged 10 & 8) in tow, hurriedly buried him and left him in an unmarked grave for the next 66 years…
(Norman had earlier written about finding this grave.)
His Children Remember
There are not many living relatives who remember Cho Kim Leong personally. However, I managed to find out a little more of the man from his children – my father and my aunt. They remembered him as a stern father and a traditionalist who staunchly upheld his principles. They also thought that he was a loving and caring family man who was filial to his elders. He was generous to everyone who needed help. This Father’s Day, the descendants salute Cho Kim Leong for being an exemplary human being and an outstanding father!
Norman wrote earlier about building a tomb for his grandfather.
Editor’s note: Norman has documented how he searched for his grandfather’s final resting place, researching his life, and shared how you can trace your own ancestry. His journey continues as he builds on his knowledge of his roots. Do you have a similar story to share? Whatever the stage of your quest, we support your quest and will blog your journey. We have introduced long-lost cousins to cousins, paired different branches of families. We honour your stories, and will help you share them here as you seek more answers. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org