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.

Zaobao report 11 Oct quote

Zaobao round-up of quotes for 13 October 2013

The Chinese report follows:

Zaobao report 11 Oct

武吉布朗学会: 武吉布朗列世遗观察名单并非向政府施压

司徒晓昕 报道
szetohy@sph.com.sg

武吉布朗坟场成功列入世界历史遗址观察名单后,负责申遗的武吉布朗学会希望它接下来能获得更多本地和外国人的关注,促进更多本地社群参加保留文化遗产的活动,以及推动本地教育和文化旅游。

世界历史遗址基金会(World Monuments Foundation)每两年选出濒危的世界遗产,将之列入观察名单。基金会三天前公布了2014年世界历史遗址观察名单(World Monuments Watch),共有41个国家和地区的67处文化遗址从248份申请书脱颖而出。
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,武吉布朗成功申列世界历史遗址观察名单,并不意味着要向政府施压或阻止部分坟墓让路给明年初展开的道路建造工程。

学会创办人之一廖雪珠说:“我们希望趁此机会展开更多对话,一起找出更具永续的发展方式。不过,我绝对不认为保留文化遗产和城市发展的对话应该是对立的。我希望保存文化遗产能协助城市发展,反之亦然。”

她指出:“我们在讨论这个课题时总要提到权衡的问题,而这最后往往延伸辩论要给子孙留下更多居住空间,还是保留先人安息的空间。我们为何不能谈谈其他问题,例如我们是否愿意失去一个有可能成为世界历史遗址的地方?在本地因全球暖化而更需要大自然来维持气温稳定的情况下,我们是否愿意失去一个对本地有一定环境价值的地方?”
廖雪珠因此认为,政府和社群应趁此机会重塑对话的方式,大家应该发挥想象力扩大这个课题的视角,找出更多对话的可能性。

武吉布朗学会也叙述了申列过程中,向世界历史遗址基金会提出的未来计划。他们希望能与文物局和国家公园局合作,把武吉布朗打造成一个文化遗产和自然公园,吸引更多人到访。公园将尽量保留坟场目前的面貌,并在入口处增添一些基本设施如厕所。学会也会继续提供免费导览团,希望增加与社区的合作,尤其是年轻人。
如今武吉布朗列入了观察名单,学会希望这能提高国人和国际人士对这个文化遗迹的认识。例如,为学生策划活动时,本地教育机构可以借助国内的文化遗址,而不是优先考虑让学生参加昂贵的海外游学团。学会也希望吸引更多海外的学生和学者探访武吉布朗,从而推动本地的教育旅游。
由于学会目前的经费不高,因此不打算向世界历史遗址基金会申请资金。
另一名创办人林雪芳说,世界历史遗址一向为希望申列世界遗产名录的国家提供申遗准备工作的协助,他们因此希望武吉布朗将来能与新加坡植物园,提高申列联合国教科文组织(UNESCO)世界遗产名录的胜算。他们甚至希望能与列入世界遗产名录的槟城和马六甲有更紧密的合作,一起提高两国文化遗址的知名度。

她说:“学会自2011年12月创立后开始提供免费导览团,至今已让超过7000人认识武吉布朗。我们也可从其他列入观察名单的国家,学习如何让更多人认识武吉布朗。”

武吉布朗学会希望在武吉布朗坟场成功申列世界历史遗址观察名单后
本地和外国人对武吉布朗的认识能有所提高。(谢智扬摄)

 

 

 

 

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
In memoriam
my dearly
beloved father
Gone but not forgotten

Epitaph Kopi Sua _ Simone Lee

The moving epitaph at Kopi Sua (photo Simone Lee)

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.

Chen Yen Soon 为善百事兴 Ee Hoon.jpg 1

積德千年好 A good thousand years for those who accumulate good deeds.

Chen Yen Soon 积德万年好 Ee Hoon

積德千年好 A good thousand years for those who accumulate good deeds. (photo Khoo Ee Hoon)

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。

 

Temple in Silat Rd with inscriptions_Fabian Tee

Temple in Silat Rd with similar inscriptions (photo Fabian Tee)

 

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)

1

The tombstone of Wu You-Xun (邬有询) (photo Choo Ai Loon)

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”.

Tomb with (photo Choo Ai Loon)

Gu-ren-mu (古人墓) (photo Choo Ai Loon)

This typical Teochew tomb which resembles an arm chair, a pair of couplets in red on the scroll pillars.

Teochew Tomb with couplets ( photo Choo Ai Loon)

Teochew Tomb with couplets ( photo Choo Ai Loon)

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 view of Teochew tomb (photo Choo Ai Lin)

Another view of Teochew tomb (photo Choo Ai Lin)

Close up of dragon motif (photo Choo Ai Loon)

Close up of dragon motif (photo Choo Ai Loon)

Another grave had steps leading up the tombstone perhaps imitating a stupa, influenced by Buddhism.

Tomb with steps (photo Choo Ai Loon)

Tomb with steps (photo Choo Ai Loon)

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.

Tomb Of  She(photo Choo Ai Loon)

Tomb Of She Mian-Wang (佘勉旺)(photo Choo Ai Loon)

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.

She (photo Choo Ai Loon)

She Mian-Wang (photo Choo Ai Loon)

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.

Mian-Yu-Ting Cemetery (photo Choo Ai Loon)

Mian-Yu-Ting Cemetery (photo Choo Ai Loon)

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/

 

霹雳五帮籍贯坟墓的造型与文化

李永球

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。

本课题主要调查霹雳州太平、实兆远及怡保等地的华人坟墓,囊括福建、客家、广府、潮州及福州五帮籍贯之坟墓造型。霹雳州是个华人聚居的州属,早在十九世纪中叶,就有华人到来这里开采锡矿,并聚居于此。

边镇遗石:边佳兰义山与墓碑考察

莫家浩

2002年寬柔中學畢業,負笈中國大陸,先後畢業於廣州暨南大學與北京大學國際政治系,獲碩士學位。回國後,曾執教寬柔中學古來分校歷史科,現為業餘文史工作者。

邊加蘭在1830年代便有華人活動的記錄,卻異常缺乏文字記載。至今仍保存較為完整的義山群,早至1870年代的上千座墓碑,記錄了先民的籍貫、名字與宗族關係,為研究者提供了珍貴的一手資料。

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.

Speaker’s Bio
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.

Dr Imran bin Tajudeen( photo Bianca Polak)

———————————————————————————————————

Part 1 and Part 2 of theEnglish  talks from other speakers are also available.

 

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.

Tok Cheng Tuan & Oon Tuan Cheng (photo: Claire Leow)

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.

Guan Yu took a poisoned arrow in his right arm when he was besieging the city of Fanzheng. Determined not to retreat, he called upon the services of the famed physician Hua Tuo to treat him on the battlefield. Hua Tuo saw that the poison had spread to Guan Yu’s bones and he had to operate on his arm and cleanse the poison by scrapping his bones. Undeterred, Guan Yu subjected himself to the ordeal, all the while sipping his wine and playing a game of chess. ( photo by Yik Han)

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 :

A panel possibly of the White Snake parting with her husband after he was taken in by the words of the monk Fa Hai. (photo Yik Han)

The White Snake and her companion the Green Snake (the two ladies in the boat) leading the creatures of the sea in an attempt to flood Jinshan Temple and rescue her husband Xu Xian (许宣) from the clutches of the monk Fa Hai (法海). (photo by Yik Han)

From Nezha conquers the Dragon King :

Nezha storming the palace of the Dragon King with his signature Qiankun ring in one hand, his spear in the other and riding on his “fire wind wheels”. The Dragon King flanked by his courtiers are seated on his throne on the right, a bumbling turtle is trying to resist Nezha, and on the left is a shellfish nymph. (photo Yik Han)

Nezha storming the Dragon King’s domain as the Dragon King riding on a magnificent dragon beats a hasty retreat covered by his underlings. The armed figure on the right may be Nezha’s father Li Jing (李靖), furious with the havoc created by his son (Photo Yik Han)

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

She asks for contributions to this site by:

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

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

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

About SchoolAsia.org:

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

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

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


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

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


Learning while enjoying nature at Bukit Brown

 

Jun
16
1

Father’s Day Tribute

By Norman Cho

My Grandfather – Cho Kim Leong

 

Cho Kim Leong (Photo: Norman Cho’s collection)

 

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…

Family Background

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.

 

Cho Kim Leong and His Bashful Bride

 

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 Marital Home of Mr & Mrs Cho Kim Leng. (Source: family album)

 

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.

 

Angel from grandparents wedding cake, nude female bottlecap-opener, photo of grandpa and grandma with their sons (taken at 421 Jo Chiat Road), some old colonial coins left behind by grandfather (Photo: Norman Cho)

 

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

 

Japanese troops in Fullerton Square on 16 Feb, 1942, the first full day of occupation. (National Archives)

 

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…

 

Cho Kim Leong’s unmarked Grave as found in 2011 (photo: Norman Cho)

 

(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!

 

Cho Kim Leong’s tomb (photo: Norman Cho)

 

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 a.t.bukitbrown@gmail.com

A Grandson Remembers

 

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