All Things Bukit Brown broke the news that Bukit Brown had been included on the list of the World Monuments Watch 2014, on the evening of Tuesday 8th October, 2013. It was the first listing for Singapore, and international recognition of Bukit Brown as a heritage site.
24 hours later, on Thursday 10th October, 10 am, a media session to meet the Brownies behind the submission to the World Monuments Fund, was held at Bukit Brown, under the rain tree at the roundabout. It was an appropriate setting, as this is the spot where all our guided walks begin.
Full video recording by Jasmine Ng here
This is a compilation of highlights and quotes of the media coverage online, in the press and in the broadcast media from 9 October to 13 October, 2013
10 October Channel News Asia TV report on Bukit Brown’s World Monuments Watch listing.
Interest group hopes that this(the listing) will lead to more engagement and a more sustainable strategy for development. Claire Leow “We hope this listing by shining international attention on Singapore will also help Singapore’s bid to get UNESCO listing for Botanic Gardens and of course eventually Bukit Brown as well and eventually other sites as well in Singapore”
The full CNA TV report here
Claire Leow, co-founder of All Things Bukit Brown, said: “It goes beyond what we’ve done for Bukit Brown; it’s more like what we can do for Singapore.
She added: “I hope it shows that we are serious, that we want a seat at the table, just so we can present what we have heard from the community, what we have heard from the people who have encouraged us, and we can share their voices too.
The full online CNA report here.
10 October Zaobao
“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 Leow.
The full Zaobao report with translation here
10 October The Online Citizen (TOC)
“There’s more to Bukit Brown, than my own family. And I realised the things I do not know about this place and it’s going to go. And that nothing will be left for my children, grandchildren and great grand children. ” Ong Hui Lin (descendant with 3 ancestors buried in Bukit Brown)
“Yes Bukit Brown is now on the World Monument Watch but it is more than that. We nominated Bukit Brown because it is significant to our history, culture and society. I hope that this will prompt people to look into all 3 aspects.” Claire Leow
The full video report on TOC here
10 October Razor TV online
“Now with the listing, it gives credence to the fact that this is a world class heritage site. So my sense is that one has to think again about the questions,, I appreciate the challenges that urban planners face. But maybe they don’t have a larger picture and that larger picture is history and heritage, history that affects out identity” Chew Kheng Chuan (descendant with 8 ancestors buried in Bukit Brown”
“I am very mixed because I am a road user and I love homes. Homes for my children. But for Bukit Brown, it is very painful because when we lose it, we would never get back the very essence. the soul” Ong Hui Lin (descendant with 3 ancestors buried in Bukit Brown)
The full online video of Razor TV here
10 October the breakfast network
“They (All Things Bukit Brown) hope more researchers, historians, cultural studies students et cetera would step up and get involved in Bukit Brown in one way or another. “We need to think differently; we need to reframe the conversation,” said Ms Leow, who wanted people to stop seeing the trade-off as space for the living vs space for the dead. Rather, she wants to foreground Bukit Brown as a potential world monument site, with environmental value, that is at stake.
The full report of the breakfast network available here.
All Things Bukit Brown clarifies on the report : We did not submit the application for World Monuments Watch listing to “throw a spanner in the roadworks”. We submitted it because we wanted recognition, to heighten awareness and draw attention to Bukit Brown as a heritage and nature site worthy of preserving.
10 October (The Economist) Banyan Blog
“In an interview republished in his latest book, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s elder statesman, who left the cabinet two years ago but still reflects the views of many in the government he led for so long, is, characteristically, yet more blunt in an interview reprinted in his latest book: “if we need the land, and we have to dig up the whole of Bukit Brown to build on it, and put the ashes in a columbarium, we will do it.”
The Brownies point out that the government presents a false choice between space for the dead and space for the expanding population that Singapore needs to sustain its growth. Bukit Brown is also for the living, and for future generations interested in how Singapore became what it is today.”
The full report on the Banyan here
10 October : Singapore Heritage Society statement on the listing:
This is the first time a Singapore site has been included in the World Monuments Watch. Together with the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ UNESCO nomination, Bukit Brown’s inclusion represents widespread international recognition of the historical importance of local heritage sites. Indeed, Bukit Brown’s narrative of early immigrants and regional histories complements the Botanic Garden’s narrative of colonial empire to provide a more complex and complete story of Singapore.
13 October Yahoo News
“With the World Monuments Watch listing, the first time a site in Singapore has been included, atBB thinks that Bukit Brown and the Gardens, which are located fairly close to each other, could be paired up for a stronger nomination, said (Catherine) Lim.
“What we’re saying is there’s an opportunity here to relook our application (to UNESCO),” she said. “It has started, but it’s going to take two years (to complete), so why not explore? We’re offering up an opportunity of a possibility… It’s for the government to consider this. I’m not sure whether they actually have considered the actual status that’s accorded Bukit Brown being on the list.”
The full report on Yahoo News here
A Question of Public Value : Bukit Brown . a thought essay by Z’ming Cik was submitted for the “My Say” category of the blog on 13th October.
9 October 2013 Straits Time (ST) Report
SINGAPORE’S Bukit Brown Cemetery has been named as an at risk site on the 2014 World Monuments Watch – a biennial listing by the World Monuments Fund which compiles cultural heritage sites that are threatened around the world.
Bukit Brown Cemetery, where the graves of pioneering Chinese immigrants to Singapore since the mid-nineteenth century stand, is one of 67 sites from 41 countries and territories.
More on the ST report here
9th October Channel News Asia (CNA) Report
SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Bukit Brown Cemetery has been placed on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, which compiles cultural heritage sites threatened around the world.
More CNA report here
All Things Bukit Brown clarifies on the report below by ST News October 10, 2013 : When asked by the reporter about the call for a moratorium to stop road works issued in March 2012, the a.t.bb’s response was “we have moved on from that” as opposed to what was reported ” the group, which hosts weekly guided tours at the site, is also sticking to a call it made last year for a moratorium on plans for Bukit Brown and for more public engagement with the Government.”
ST News Oct 10, 2013
All Things Bukit Brown, an interest group which is keen to preserve the site’s heritage and habitat, nominated it to the New York-based World Monuments Fund watch list. It was picked from 248 nominations – making it the first time that a Singapore site has made it to the list. The WMW citation said of the road and redevelopment of the site: “In destroying the cultural landscape of Bukit Brown, it is a loss to all of society.”
The non-profit World Monuments Fund has issued its watch list since the 1990s to raise awareness about threatened cultural sites. It has helped to helped restore sites in more than 90 countries, including the historic enclave of Georgetown in Penang .
The full ST report here
Abstract : “We must be reminded that there are other land uses that take up enormous amounts of space, yet hardly anyone is questioning the utility of those spaces. Singapore has 18 golf courses, one of the highest numbers per country area in the world. They take up a total of 1,800 hectares. By contrast, Bukit Brown takes up 233 hectares; one-ninth of that area. Does Bukit Brown seem very big now?”Else Teo, a freelance researcher specialising in history and heritage issues.
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.