It all began when a descendant asked for help in the FB group Heritage Singapore Bukit Brown in locating the grave of his maternal grandmother Yang Shu Hua 楊淑華, whom he just discovered was buried in Bukit Brown.
Madam Yang it transpired is the first wife of  Prof Lim Hui Siang (pinyin Lin Huixiang, 林惠祥) who was a co founder together with Tan Yeok Seong of the Amoy Anthropological Museum in 1935. The museum still exists today.
Lim Hui Siang with Tan Yeok Seong  ([hoto Alex Tan Tiong Hee

Prof Lim Hui Siang with Tan Yeok Seong (photo Alex Tan Tiong Hee)

Tan’s son Alex  then contributed a photo of both, followed by a calligraphy by Prof Lim dedicated to his father. 
Lim Hui Siang Calligraphy _Alex Tan

Lim Hui Siang ‘ calligraphy dedicated to his colleague Tan Yeok Seong  (photo Alex Tan Tiong Hee)

Jason Kuo a member of the group,  impressed by the calligraphy started to unravel its meaning. Together with inputs from Khoo Ee Hoon, this is  the translation arrived at with disclaimers.
 By Jason Kuo:
As far as we can decipher, these are the character in the piece (all transcriptions in traditional characters):
國破家傾名利空
飄零尚未嘆途窮
王師北定中原日
眼福猶能勝放翁
 Translated:

When the country is broken and families are upturned, fame and fortune mean nothing.

Although I am forced to wander, I am not yet lamenting that our cause is hopeless.

My eyes may be luckier than that of Lu You, for I may (live to) see the day when the righteous army sweeps north and pacifies the central plains

[i.e., when we have driven out the Japanese].

A line by line breakdown:
國破 guo2 po4, the broken country
家傾 jia1 qing1, the family fallen (families upturned)
名利 ming2 li4, fame and fortune
空 kong1, emptiness, nothingness (also with Buddhist connotations)
Probable translation:
When the country is broken, and families upturned, fame and fortune become meaningless
飄零 piao1 ling2, wandering (often used as in “forced to flee”)
尚未 shang4 wei4, yet, not yet
嘆 tan4, lament, sigh, cry
途窮 tu2 qiong2, no more paths, dead end, no way to go.
Probable translation:
(Although) wandering (as a refugee), (I am) not yet lamenting that (we have; China has) reached a dead end (i.e., that our cause is hopeless)
王師 wang2 shi1, literally, the king’s army, imperial army, also implies righteous army, since 王道 is the righteous (Kingly/ Princely) Way. Here a reference to the Chinese army.
北定 bei3 ding4, literally, “north pacify”. Pacifying the north (much of which was then occupied by Japan).
中原 zhong1 yuan2, the Central Plains, the heartland of traditional China and the cradle of Chinese civilization.
日 ri4, day
Probable translation:
The day when the righteous army sweeps north and pacifies the Central Plains.
*(Note that this is a verbatim copy of a line from the famous Southern Song Dynasty patriot, Lu You 陸游, whose style name is Fang Weng 放翁 (man who has discarded everything?),
眼福 yan3 fu2, gift for the eyes, i.e., lucky enough to get to see ….
猶能 you2 neng2, can even
勝 sheng4, victorious, be better than
放翁 Fang4 Weng1, the patriot Lu You, or Lu Fangweng
Probable translation:
My eyes may be lucky enough than those of Lu Fangweng (to see the day when the Chinese army triumphs).
The poem was written in 1938, one of the darkest periods in modern Chinese history. However, though defeated in many battles, and with its capital Nanjing routed, the Chinese army continued to defy the Japanese, and achieved a few brilliant victories such as Taierzhuang. Lim’s poem alluded to two Southern Song patriots. The first one, Lu You, was born in the Northern Song era but died during the Southern Song, and saw northern China being conquered by the Jurchen (女真) Jin 金 dynasty. Throughout his life Lu advocated the re-conquest of the north, but the Southern Song court, having fled the north (and with two of its emperors held hostage under the Jurchens), was in no mood for such an undertaking. (Some also speculate that the Southern Song emperor may not have wanted his captured father and brother to return to the throne.) Compare one of Lu’s most famous poems against our 1938 poem:
死後元知萬事空
但悲不見九州同
王師北定中原日
家祭毋忘告乃翁
Rough translation: Although I know that when I die, all will be empty (notice use of word 空, as in 1938 poem), but I am saddened that I cannot see the reunification of China. When the righteous army sweeps north and pacifies the Central Plains (note direct copy by 1938 poem), do not forget to tell this old man (of the good news) during your ancestral rites.
The second patriot is the famous Wen Tianxiang 文天祥. He lived much later than Lu and saw the conquest of the Southern Song by the Mongol Yuan dynasty. He died while in prison in the Yuan capital, modern Beijing. (In fact, it was the Mongols who made Beijing the capital for the first time of all of China. Before then Beijing had often been a capital for divided regimes.) Wen’s most famous work is the Song of Righteousness 正氣歌. In any case, (thanks to research by Khoo Ee Hoon,) he also wrote these words in his poem, En Route to Yangzhouli 至揚州里: 飄零無緒嘆途窮, roughly, Endlessly wandering, I lament that our cause is lost. Compare this against the 1938 poem, where the author is much more optimistic about China’s prospects (but using the exact same words except replacing “endlessly” with “not yet”).
It is somewhat interesting that Mr Lim chose two tragic figures as his role models. One saw the destruction of northern China, while the other saw the conquest of the remaining part of China still under Han rule.
Bonus points: Mongol rule in China has been deeply influential. It was the first time that the historically Han areas of China and the Tibetan areas came under one ruler. Since the modern Chinese states (both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China) both view the Mongol Yuan dynasty as a continuous Chinese (though not Han) dynasty, Chinese sovereignty over Tibet is traced to the Mongol period. Some Tibetans have a different view: they argue that China was conquered by the Mongols, and that the Mongols ruled both China (i.e., what Chinese nationalists would call the Han areas of China) and Tibet as parts of their empire. Under this view, after the Mongol defeat, China (under the Ming) and Tibet became separate countries again. This argument is compounded when the Manchu dynasty (a successor to the Jurchen Jin dynasty, ironically) conquered Ming China, the Mongols, and Tibet. When the Republic of China defeated the Qing in 1912, the new state’s view was that it had succeeded to all of Qing territory, which it viewed as indelibly “Chinese”. Many Tibetans, however, believed that the Qing were also an alien empire, and that its defeat meant that “China”, Tibet and Mongolia would go their separate ways. In modern times, this view has become academic as the People’s Republic has firmly secured its hold on Tibet (while northern Mongolia, under Soviet support, has long been independent. It’s ironic that most ethnic Mongolians still live within China’s borders, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region). It is still an emotional issue, though. The Dalai Lama now accepts Tibet as part of the People’s Republic, and only argues about the degree of autonomy Tibet ought to have. However, he is very reluctant to state that Tibet has been part of China “since ancient times”. Yet this statement has been insisted upon by the PRC government.
Further comment: Because the Republic of China, in the form of the Kuomintang regime, was later defeated in the Chinese civil war, the contributions of China during World War II has been muffled for much of the last 70 years. But with greater openness in mainland China and more Western scholarship of that era (see Rana Mitter’s excellent work), the Chinese war effort under Chiang Kai-shek’s government has generated renewed interest, and usually a more favorable assessment. Throughout Chinese history, it has been extremely rare for southern regimes to reconquer the north. If anything, the thrust of history has been for the north (often non-Han regimes) to conquer the south (almost always a Han regime), and with reunification leading to hanification of the non-Han, and ironically expanding China’s territory (so one could say China expands its territory through defeats). The ROC was the only Chinese regime in centuries to accomplish total victory over an alien aggressor. On top of that, it had regained control of both Manchuria and Taiwan, which were thought to be long lost to the Japanese.
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So what became of the search for Madam Yang’s grave at Bukit Brown? It was found to be one of the tombs affected and already exhumed for the highway. Her grandson is arranging to claim her remains to be interred by family.
All remains not claimed are kept for a duration of 3 years for any claimants before it is cast to sea
Keng Lecks Maternal grandmother Yang Shu Hua 楊淑華

Yang Shu Hua 楊淑華  #1146 (photo Bukit Brown Documentation)

 

By Zhang Jiayi

In the early afternoon last Sunday (2 August, 2015) I dreaded my decision to go for a guided walk  around Bukit Brown cemetery. However, I have promised my friends that I will turn up, so grudgingly, I made my way to the meeting point for the walking tour. Three hours and a lot of mosquito bites later, it is a decision that I did not regret.

Tombstones don’t lie. All aspects of the tombs – from the layout, the materials used, the carvings and statues around the tomb – give us snippets of information about the individuals and the Chinese immigrant community in early Singapore. The tour shed light on the stories of the individuals; after the tour, the occupants of Bukit Brown turned from random people to dignified individuals who made a difference to the social reality we experience today. Our history and social studies curriculum doesn’t do justice to the various individuals who made a difference to Singapore. While we know a significant bit about Tan Tock Seng, we overlooked the contributions of his eldest son, Tan Kim Ching, who is also buried in Bukit Brown. Tan Kim Ching not only participated actively in philanthropy, just like how Tan Tock Seng did, he also had a close relationship with the royal family of Siam (known as Thailand now), and played an important role in diplomatic relations between the Straits Settlements and Siam. It is also to my surprise that the 72nd generation of Confucius also set foot in Singapore, and is also buried in Bukit Brown cemetery *.

The diversity of the ‘residents’ of Bukit Brown was jaw dropping. Tombs of Hokkiens, Teochews, Cantonese, men, women, the rich and the poor can be found in Bukit Brown cemetery. A range of calendars was used in the inscriptions of headstones in documenting the time of birth and death of individuals. Some Chinese pledged allegiance to the Ming dynasty of China and at their time of death dreaded the fact that they would be buried in a foreign land, while others were content to call Singapore home and to be buried here.  I saw for myself the intricate Peranakan tiles laying some of the tombs of wealthy Peranakan Chinese, who chose to be buried in Bukit Brown as they did not identify with their Chinese dialect clans. It was also fascinating to gain an insight on how the early Chinese viewed death – many of them viewed their tombs as their homes in afterlife, and the layout of the tombs resembled the layout of homes. Much thought was put into the building of tombs; some tombs had carvings transmitting values like filial piety, some had intricate statues symbolizing prosperity, fertility and abundance, while other had inscriptions revealing how they felt when they were buried in Singapore. The trip was especially meaningful for me, as a female.

I learned more about the contributions of early Chinese women to the cause of gender equality we have today. Ms Lee Choo Neo, the founder of a Chinese Ladies Association, lobbied for the right of females to live a more enriching life. The Association taught domestic skills, supported education for females, and sponsored a rescue home for women. She was in her teens when she started these big projects. She can be rightfully known as, according to my understanding, the grandmother of the civil society in Singapore. The experience exposed how much I didn’t know about the history of Singapore, beyond what was taught in our social studies and history textbooks. I was deeply humbled by the number of times I widened my eyes in surprise as the volunteer guides (Brownies) dropped nuggets of trivia about prominent early Chinese immigrants. There is just so much the cemetery revealed about who we are as Singaporeans before Singapore’s independence, and the place unjustified the sweeping claims about how Singapore is ‘cultureless’.

As we celebrate 50 years of Singapore’s independence, let us remember, as the guides rightly pointed out, that it is also our 70th year of liberation from the Japanese Occupation, and almost a century from the time we were first part of the Straits Settlements. It is my hope that the stories told during the tour are documented and made available to a wider audience, lest our social history be like those resting in Bukit Brown cemetery – buried six feet underground, never to be seen or heard by the future generations of Singaporeans.

*Editors Clarification:  The 72nd direct descendant of Confucius had prepared his grave with the intention of being buried beside this wife who passed away before him, but he was buried at Bidadari instead.  We thank Jiayi for taking time to pen her thoughts on her first visit to Bukit Brown and invite anyone who would like to contribute a blog post to write to a.t.bukitbrown@gmail.com. For information on guided walks please visit bukitbrown.com for weekly updates.

About Jiayi: Jiayi is a young Singaporean still in search of what makes her Singaporean. She is interested in issues relating to the Singaporean society as a whole, including social stratification, education and national identity.

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Preps 21 Lawrence ChongNational Anthem 2 _ Lawrence Chong

“Remembrance” : NDP 2015@Bukit Brown

Time: Between 8am and 7.30pm

Meeting Point: Various.

Remembrance Ceremony : 6.30 pm to 7.30pm @Block 1, as you enter on your right of new access road, you can’t miss us. We have flags!

This NDP 2015 @Bukit Brown, we remember and pay tribute to the space that embraces the touch stones of our memory, 100,000 tombstones. 100,000 lives; from Coolies to Community leaders, Paupers to Poets, Social Reformers to Socialites with a cause.

Bukit Brown is a microcosm of life at the turn of the 20 century – a collective narrative of hardship, struggle and triumph against the odds. So come celebrate Remembrance and lest we forget, we will remember the victims of war and our war heroes in this, the 70th anniversary of Liberation from Occupation with 2 walks from outside Bukit Brown leading to Bukit Brown. There will also be 2 guided walks within Bukit Brown starting in the late afternoon.

There have been drastic physical changes to the landscape since we started commemorating our Nations Deceased Pioneers (NDP) @ Bukit Brown in 2012. We lost  the roundabout, then the ‘ole raintree and by 9th August 2015, the old road to Bukit Brown will be closed and a new road a few meters away is slated to open.  But we endure and we will remember.

So join us for a simple commemoration,  simple food, but  rich stories. Look out for registration details for 3 walks on peatix which will be forthcoming at the end of this week 25/26 July, 2015. But available now for registration is:

1) NDP  Guided Walk : Former Rail Corridor to Bukit Brown

Please register here

Facebook  page here

Starting 8am – eta @Bukit Brown 4pm Meeting point is Kranji MRT station

Join us as we start walking from Kranji MRT, down the former rail corridor, past Rail Mall, along Rifle Range Road, into MacRitchie Reservoir, and finally into Bukit Brown.

There will be a toilet break at Ten Mile Junction (approx 7km Walk)
There will be a lunch break at Rail Mall (approx 10Km Walk)

There will be activities planned in Bukit Brown as we celebrate National Day in a unique way.

As the entire walking distance is about 20km, participants are advised to:
– wear comfortable clothes, and walking shoes
– bring a cap / hat, in case of sun
– bring an umbrella / raincoat, in case of rain
– bring insect repellent / spray, in case of bites
– snacks, in case you go hungry …
– WATER WATER WATER

Looking forward to seeing you all on National Day!” From Keng Kiat and Beng Tang, your volunteer guides on this long walk.

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2) NDP  Guided Walk : Heritage Walk: From Singapore Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown Cemetery

Join Simone and Bianca on a walk through the heritage lane, starting from the Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown Cemetery. The Brownie ladies will share stories of WW2 heroes and prominent personalities at heritage landmarks, including the Jacob Ballas garden, the old Raffles College and the old Command House. The trail continues into Bukit Brown cemetery while we explore remnants and stories of the ‘kampung’ life that was once there
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This guided walk starts at 3.30pm at Botanic Gardens MRT and we will end the walk near the entrance of Bukit Brown Cemetery, in time for the Remembrance Ceremony at 6.30pm. http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=10040
Meeting Point: Botanic Gardens MRT Exit at ground level (near Cluny Court). We will be holding a sign to identify ourselves.
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We’ll be walking on paved roads as well as trekking through the jungle so make sure you wear proper outfit for a light jungle trek. There are no bathrooms along the way and no places to buy water, so make sure you bring some snacks and drinks along and visit the bathroom before we start. And apply the mosquito repellent!

Sign up on Peatix:

3) “Founding Fathers” Guided Walk with Fabian Tee @ 4pm

Join Fabian as he shares stories on the lives and times of :Founding Fathers” of revolution and reform, in honour and humility. and #lestweforget those who perished in WW2.

Please register on peatix here

4) Mandarin Guided Walk with Yik Han @ 4pm

由Yik Han负责的华语导览将介绍几位安葬在武吉布朗坟场,来自华社各领域的先贤以及他們鲜为人知的事迹。

集合地点:坟场正门(即Lorong Halwa入口处)

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报名:

请在我们的Facebook活动页面按‘参加’/ ‘加入’,同时让我们知道总共有多少人与您一同参加活动。

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3) and 4) guided walks start at 4.00pm and ends at 6.30 pm at Block 1.

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance at new access road parallel to former entrance at Lorong Halwa
All participants to NDP 2015@ Bukit Brown will receive a World Monument Fund watch day bag while stocks last, and light snacks and water will be provided  at the Remembrance ceremony.Watch this space for details of the other walks! Please register when its up, to help us prepare enough food and drink and minimise wastage. Our pioneers do would not approve of  wastage! 

"The Way We Were" (photo Zhi Hao)

“The Way We Were” (photo Zhi Hao)

The Way We Were: 

NDP @Bukit Brown 2012

NDP @ Bukit Brown 2013

NDP @Bukit Brown 2014

 

 

 

 

 

By Sally Hall

Super Trees @ ukkt Brown (photo RJ Mitchell)

Super Trees @ Bukit Brown (photo RJ Mitchell)

The Amazing Health Benefits of a Walk, Run or Romantic Stroll through Bukit Brown Cemetery

Those who visit the Bukit Brown Cemetery often have very different, personal reasons for their attachment to this serene area. For some, it is all about connecting with others and discovering their roots; for others, it is about visiting a loved one and recalling the importance of those who have gone; still for others, Bukit Brown offers a unique escape into a paradisiacal area filled with heritage trees, a plethora of ecosystems and lush greenery, which instils a sense of peace and spiritual connection. If you find that every visit to this Cemetery leaves you feeling invigorated and renewed, there are documented reasons why this is the case. Time spent in Nature is more than a pastime; recent studies indicate that it is a necessary part of our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. These are just some of the reasons why visiting Bukit Brown Cemetery affords surprising benefits that will help you live a longer, healthier life:
Time spent in Nature boosts our immunity: A fascinating study carried out at Kyoto University, Japan, showed that those who regularly head for the Great Outdoors to walk, garden or perform yoga and meditation, have a stronger immunity and a better quality of life. In the study, participants took part in these activities weekly for four months, with results showing that these therapies combatted fatigue, improved mood, and enhanced function and immunity.

Nature battles stress: Chronic stress has been proven to be a causative factor for disease such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, yet owing to the competing demands most of us have to face in daily life, it is vital to find ways to release anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that simply contemplating a beautiful natural scene in a photograph, can lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol, as well as lessen levels of aggression and post-operative anxiety. When we add more senses into the equation (by touching, listening to and using our sense of smell), these benefits are heightened. It is interesting to note that many of us try to protect our health by taking out health insurance, or following a healthy diet, yet we pay little heed to the negative effects stress can cause in our life. In addition to affecting us physiologically, chronic stress can also lead to anxiety, the most common mental condition in the world today.

Being in nature imparts important physiological benefits:In Japan, the simple yet enjoyable process of shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing) has grown exponentially in popularity, because of the many documented physiological benefits, including the lowering of blood pressure, the breathing rate and heart rate. To take part in shinrin-yoku at Bukit Brown, simply walk through the verdant areas in a mindful manner, trying to be as aware as possible of the trees and wildlife around you and using controlled breathing techniques to instill a profound sense of calm.

Nature improves the way our brain works:In many centers for the elderly and those suffering from anxiety, therapists are using horticultural therapy to connect patients with Nature and improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and dementia. This type of therapy has been found to increase cognitive and psycho-social functioning of elderly persons battling dementia, which is no surprise, since other studies have shown that simply working in an environment containing plants and flowers boosts creativity and enhances problem solving abilities. It comes as no surprise that so many Fortune 500 companies in the US are taking to filling their work spaces with plants.

Exercise is more effective in Nature:An important study carried out by researchers at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in the US found that compared to indoor exercise, physical activity in the Great Outdoors gives us a heightened sense of vitality and positive engagement; to put it simply, we enjoy ourselves more when we are brisk walking or running in the midst of beautiful natural surrounds, than when we work out on a treadmill within the four walls of a gym. All these studies show that human beings have an inexorable link to Nature which should be fostered if we are to achieve a state of greater health and happiness. Fortunately, Bukit Brown Cemetery is accessible to so many people who wish to experience the majesty of Nature in a uniquely beautiful setting.

References

Quotezone.co.uk, Health insurance, accessed April, 2015.
Naturelearning.org, Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature, accessed April, 2015.
Childrenandnature.org, Health Benefits to Children from Contact with the Outdoors and Nature, accessed April, 2015.
A Taylor et al, Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2001. doi:10.1006/jevp.2001.0241
Sciencedaily.com, Benefits of outdoor exercise confirmed, accessed April, 2015.
Brighthubeducation.com, Managing Your ADHD Students: Taking It Outdoors For Nature Therapy, accessed April, 2014.

About Sally Hall

FullSizeRender“Sally Hall worked for many years in the travel sector – firstly in hospitality and latterly on cruise ships. She met and married her now husband and they settled down to family life with their two children, although she has, for the present moment, given up globetrotting, she hopes when her kids are old enough she can get them as enthused about traveling as she is. Sally is now a writer and editor and works from home”

Join Keng Kiat for a walk around the North-Western wedge of Bukit Brown, soon to be seperated from the main part of the cemetery due to the building of the highway … and hear him share stories of pioneers who are buried there, such as Tay Koh Yat, Cheong Koon Seng (of Koon Seng Road) and the Neo Tiew Family.
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This guided walk starts at 4.30pm and ends at 7.00pm

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa. In the event that the old main Gate has been closed, kindly wait / meet at the new connecting road which is before the old road.

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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)

Please register at Peatix.

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The Last Stand – relive the final hours before the fall of Singapore. Andrew will bring you to the site of the battle of Bukit Brown whereby the Japanese routed the British. You will walk the same paths where the combants have fought.
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This guided walk starts at 7.00pm and ends at 9.00pm

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa. In the event that the old main Gate has been closed, kindly wait / meet at the new connecting road which is before the old road.

—————————————————————————
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)

Please register at Peatix.

Andrew guiding a tour

Andrew guiding a tour [photo: Bianca Polak]

Becoming Bishan: A Heritage Exhibition

What is Bishan? A concrete jungle of million-dollar HDB flats? The futuristic, award-winning architecture of SkyHabitat and Bishan Library? Or even the bustling activity of Junction 8? These are the conventional perceptions of the young, vibrant town of Bishan – an ex-cemetery transformed into a heartland showpiece.

Our team, however, felt that there just had to be more to this rising area. Whether we were lifelong residents of the district or saw it as a mere part of our daily commute to school, we became increasingly curious about how this place came to be. Why was there even a cemetery in Bishan in the first place? Did people live in Bishan before the HDB flats were built? What was Bishan’s place in the Singapore Story?

Driven by overwhelming curiosity, we, in conjunction with the Raffles Archives and Museum, embarked upon the Becoming Bishan Project, hoping that the outcomes of our research would be able to provide a poignant contribution to our country’s jubilee celebrations.

Our first step was to analyse the development of Bishan through maps. One of our members, Yilun, is an avid map enthusiast with an especial interest in urban redevelopment. With gusto, he surfaced many old maps of the area, the oldest dating back to 1924.  Through painstaking effort, he managed to highlight the stark changes in the landscape of the area, as well as match old landmarks of the area to more familiar present-day ones. The topographical studies revealed many details about the geography of the Bishan area. Today, the land that makes up Bishan is rather flat. However, the contours of old maps suggest that pre-redevelopment,

Bishan was covered by rolling hills. Many photographs also show the grave-covered hills with the HDB flats of  Toa Payoh in the background. This explains the how the name “Bishan” (“Jade Hills” in Mandarin) came about. One of our interviewees even compared the view from a Toa Payoh flat to a green dragon, because of the undulating hills and the scale-like tombs on them.

Students setting up the maps of Bishan through the years _Photo RI Student Team

The highlight is a series of maps of Bishan tracing the landscape of changes from 1924 to the present (Photo RI Student Project Team)

There were several kampongs within the cemetery, the most notable one being Kampong San Teng, whose kampong association members still meet regularly today. Interviews with the old residents revealed a rather self-sufficient community, with a school, farms, a teahouse and a market. There was also a cinema, Nam Kok cinema, in the Bishan area that screened Chinese and Western films. A worker in the KPT coffee shop in Bishan North told us of how he used to work there, proudly showing us his old posters of Elvis Presley and actors from Hong Kong. But when we asked about people’s impressions of Bishan before redevelopment, the greatest fears were not ghosts and spirits, but secret society activity.

We also made several exciting discoveries along our research journey. One was that Bishan was once a World War II battlesite! Jon Cooper, who also runs the Bukit Brown battlefield tours, managed to surface the battalion diaries and hand-drawn maps of the Second Cambridgeshire Regiment. These documented the action at Braddell Road in the dying days of the Battle for Singapore (1942).  Further research revealed that the battle positions occupied by the British troops are the present-day locations of Junction 8 shopping mall,  Bishan Library and Raffles Institution. This story was corroborated by many residents, who recalled the sounds of gunfire through the rolling hills of Bishan. Another revelation we made was that the philanthropist Wong Ah Fook was once buried in the Peck San Theng cemetery and his ashes now lie in the columbarium, something that even those running the columbarium had been unaware of.

Student explaining the WW 2 history of Bishan_Photo RI Team

A RI volunteer explaining the WW2 history of Bishan. (photo RI Project Team)

Along the way, our team has also met and befriended many diverse characters, who each have their own personal stake in Bishan. From the intriguing Mr. Molay, a Cantonese-speaking Indian man whose father once owned a hundred cows in Bishan, to the unabashed Mr. Loh, who once ate human flesh to survive the deprivation of the Japanese Occupation, it is the stories of these people who make the Bishan Story come alive. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to these individuals and learn more about the almost-foreign land that is the past. Later, we also spoke to current residents who told us about their thoughts and memories about this place. Though it is hard to say that the HDB dwellers of today have the same community spirit as kampong residents did, it was interesting to note how people develop, or fail to develop, attachments to Bishan.

Oral interviews from residents before developments_Photo Ri Team

Visitors to the exhibition have a chance to listen in on their memories of Bishan as a cemetery and its social community life then (photo RI Project Team)n

We feel immensely privileged to have had the experience of exploring Bishan’s story and curating this exhibition, and hope that you might find meaning of your own in our fruits of labour and love.

Becoming Bishan Exhibition at the Bishan Library _Photo RI Team

Becoming Bishan Exhbition now at Bishan Library (photo RI Project team)

The Becoming Bishan exhibition will be officially launched on 11 July (Saturday), from 9 am – 12 noon, at the Bishan Community Library. This event will be graced by Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo. The exhibition will run at the Bishan Community Library from 1 July to 23 August, Ang Mo Kio Public Library from 24 August to 30 September and Toa Payoh Public Library from 1 to 31 October.

This is a student project from Raffles Institution, as part of the South cluster schools’ contribution to the SG50 celebration efforts.

This blog post is a team contribution from the  students of Raffles Institution involved in Becoming Bishan.

atBB reviews:

atBB visited the exhibition and we are struck by the sheer breath of the history and heritage  the students have been able to uncover of Bishan and how it has evolved into what it is today. From the old to the modern, the curated posters capture more than a snap shot, but with carefully chosen quotes, it has emotional resonance such that, one can be transported to a different time and space in Singapore.

Becoming Bishan (photo Catherine Lim)

Becoming Bishan (photo Catherine Lim)

Of particular interest was the coverage on how the community coped with WW 2 and provided refuge for other residents in other areas in war torn Singapore. 

Becoming Bishan 2 (photo Catherine Lim)

Becoming Bishan (photo Catherine Lim)

The exhibits on  WW II was an eye opener with artefacts from both Japanese and British sides.

War Rations (photo Catherine Lim)

War Memorabilia  (photo Catherine Lim)

Augmented with video recordings of residents interviewed makes this exhibition a exemplar template for exhibitions on other neighbourhoods to emulate.   Accompanying the exhibition is a pictorial booklet which value adds the exhibition and makes for a treasured   keep sake for those interested in history and heritage and the transition to the modern. 

Video Interviews (photo Catherine Lim)

Video Interviews (photo Catherine Lim)

Becoming Bishan Booklets (photo Catherine Lim)

Becoming Bishan Booklets (photo Catherine Lim)

atBB has been following the development of this project  since the students first approached us for help in understanding cemetery culture and symbolism. We are proud to have made a small contribution to this project and have to say that full credit go to the students for taking it so far from when they first began. Congratulations and well done!

Professor Dan Beachy-Quick said that poems are thresholds. Poems open doors that lead to other doors that lead to new rooms, new perspectives. Poems should always endeavor to exist in that doorway between chaos and calm.

For 93 years, these gates have welcomed the dearly departed and their descendants in their final passage. Come join Claire and Darren as they retell stories of the lives of our pioneers, through prose and poetry, on their passages of life. Familiar words, unfamiliar settings. Feel what our pioneers felt, and what the place holds through poems from poets East and West.

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This guided walk starts at 4.00pm and ends at 7.00pm

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa.

Bukit Brown gates [photo: Theresa Teng]

Bukit Brown gates [photo: Theresa Teng]

[photo of Bukit Brown gates: Theresa Teng]

This is part of the regular “First weekend” walks that are held by the “Brownies” every first weekend of the month.

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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)

Please register at Peatix.


Places available are capped at 30 for better engagement.

Join Peter as we visit a temple in the jungle of Lao Sua and check out remnants of an old kampong and old tombs around that area. We will then make our back to Bukit Brown cemetery and end our tour there.

Please note that this tour includes some jungle trekking.

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This guided walk starts at 09.00am and ends at 11.30pm

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.

peter tour

“Jungle” Temple [photo: Peter Pak]

 

Mdm Chng of the Pang Family – A Mother of Journalists, Educationists and Revolutionaries

by Ang Yik Han

The tombstone of Mdm Chng, who died in 1936 at the age of 77. The characters on the tombstone were written by Lin Sen, KMT President. (photo Yik Han)

The tombstone of Mdm Chng, who died in 1936 at the age of 77. The characters on the tombstone were written by Lin Sen, KMT Chairman. (photo Yik Han)

Located at Hill 4 in Bukit Brown, the Teochew style tomb of Mdm Chng of the Pang family (方母莊太夫人) is simple and nondescript.  A sharp-eyed observer will notice however that the calligraphy on the tombstone came from the hand of Lin Sen (林森), Chairman, of the ruling pre war Nationalist government in China.

Another sign of her family’s close connection to the Kuomintang was the fact in her obituary in the Nanyang Siang Pau, she was described as the mother of a martyr. This was in reference to her second son, Pang Nam Gang (方南岡), whose story was recorded in Feng Ziyou’s “Anecdotal History of the Revolution《革命逸史》” published in 1948.

Although two of Mdm Chng’s sons passed away before her, the names of all her sons were inscribed on her grave: Siao Cheok少石 (deceased), Nam Gang 南岡 (matyred), Chee Dong 之 棟, Huai Nam 懷南, Chee Cheng 之楨. Also present were the names of two daughters, though her obituary only mentioned one surviving daughter.

Sons Names

The sons’ names on Mdm Chng’s grave (photo Yik Han)

Pang Nam Gang had a good grounding in classical Chinese education. However, he spurned the traditional path of becoming a mandarin and chose to pursue his studies in Japan. There, he joined the Tongmenghui. Deeply committed to overthrowing Manchu rule, he devoted his time outside of studies to learning how to make bombs.

In 1905, Pang and eleven of his compatriots in Japan were ordered by Sun Yat-Sen to return to China to assist in the Huang Gang uprising in the Teochew region. Injured while preparing bombs, he was brought to Hong Kong and hospitalised, hence missed out on the action. When the uprising petered out, Pang decided to join his uncle who was a local governor in Gansu, with the intention of seeking opportunities to incite the local Hui people to rise against the Qing. His uncle was initially pleased to see his nephew, but flew into a rage when word reached him that Pang was a revolutionary. Locked up by his uncle, Pang escaped with the help of other relatives, stealing two horses and riding to Hankou, where he sold the horses and boarded ship for Japan to continue his studies. Eventually, he made his way to Penang where he became the editor of the Kwang Wah Yit Poh newspaper which was linked to the Tongmenghui.

The young revolutionary could not sit still for long. When news of the successful 1911 uprising in Wuhan reached the Nanyang, Pang rushed back to China where he raised a fighting force in his home county of Pho Leng. When Yuan Shikai was elected the first President of the nascent Chinese Republic, Pang felt that Yuan could not be trusted as he had too many links with the old regime. Disgruntled, he returned to Penang where he took up his old job at the newspaper.

Pang’s worst fears came true in 1915 when Yuan Shikai assumed the title of Emperor. This time, he could no longer abide the situation and returned to China again to fan the flames of revolution. Unfortunately, he was captured in Macau by Yuan Shikai’s agents and smuggled across the border and imprisoned. At first, he assumed a false identity and did not divulge any information even under torture. However, his fervent preaching of revolutionary ideas to his fellow prisoners gave him away and he was summarily executed. So perished a martyr of the Chinese Revolution at the age of 29.

Photo of Pang Nam Gang (reproduced from the book “The Teochews in Penang: A Concise History” by Mr Tan Kim Hong)

Photo of Pang Nam Gang (reproduced from the book “The Teochews in Penang: A Concise History” by Mr Tan Kim Hong)

The house of Pang Nam Gang in Pho Leng (taken from the site 方益森的博客 http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_756c1ab90101ipv2.html)

The house of Pang Nam Gang in Pho Leng (taken from the site 方益森的博客 http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_756c1ab90101ipv2.html)

Mdm Chng’s obituary also mentioned that her three surviving sons were active in the areas of  journalism, education and social works. Her youngest son, Pang Chee Cheng (方之楨), was in the limelight as well for his involvement in politics. A journalist, he was a KMT cadre who actively canvassed support for the party as one of the main committee members of the Nanyang branch headquarters.

In 1930, Sir Cecil Clementi became the Governor of the Straits Settlements. He had a dislike of the KMT due to its instigations of strikes during his previous posting in Hong Kong. On the day that he arrived and assumed office in Singapore, it was unfortunate that the KMT Nanyang branch headquarters chose to hold its general meeting at the same time.

One of the first acts of the Governor was to summon the KMT representatives to his office where he told them in no uncertain terms that the KMT was not allowed to operate local branches in the Straits Settlements and Malaya. A few months later, the Governor upped the ante by issuing orders to deport Pang Chee Cheng and another KMT stalwart; well aware of the situation, they left on their own for China first.

Quiet diplomacy between the British and Chinese governments behind the scenes eventually led to the deportation orders being rescinded. In later years, Pang Chee Cheng was based largely in China where he was active in the Overseas Community Affairs Council (僑務委員會) set up by the Nationalist government.

Pang Chee Cheng often met with renowned personalities of the day. So it was that when the Indian poet Tagore visited in 1927, Chee Cheng arranged for him to travel to Muar and visit Zhonghua School (中華學校, a forerunner to today’s 中化), where Tagore was received by his brother Pang Chee Dong (方之棟) who was the principal then.  A graduate of a university in Beijing, Chee Dong was successively principals of Chinese medium schools in Kajang, Muar and Batu Pahat. In 1933, he may have worked as editor of a Chinese newspaper in Rangoon as well.

After the Japanese invaded, he perished during Sook Ching in Singapore, leaving behind his widow and 2 sons.

A short biography of Pang Chee Dong in the 8th anniversary commemorative publication of the Nanyang Pho Leng Hui Kuan published in 1948.

A short biography of Pang Chee Dong in the 8th anniversary commemorative publication of the Nanyang Pho Leng Hui Kuan published in 1948.

The fourth son Pang Huai Nam (方懷南) was the first editor of Nanyang Siang Pau (南洋商報) established by Tan Kah Kee in 1923. Slightly less than a month into its publication, he left the newspaper as the Straits Settlements authorities found his writing too political for their liking. He was also a committee member of the Poit Ip Huay Kuan and principal of Choon Guan School. It was mentioned in Phua Chay Leong’s “The Teochews in Malaya” that he shared the same sad fate as his elder brother Chee Dong during Sook Ching.

Mentioned as well in Mdm Chng’s obituary was one of her grandsons, Pang Say Hua (方思法). Born in Singapore to her eldest son, he was “fostered” to his uncle Pang Nam Gang; his father was convinced that his second brother would come to no good end with his revolutionary ways and hence it was better that he had a son to his name. Pang Say Hua went back to China to study and subsequently became a signaler in the Nationalist Army. He was one of the many caught up in the tumult of the times. Due to his  background, he suffered after the Communists took over, being imprisoned for over ten years. After his release, he worked at various jobs and retired in 1980. His story became known when a civic organisation in the Teochew region which sought to recognize veterans of the Sino-Japanese War found him and publicised his story.

Single for life, he attended church regularly and spent his last days in a Christian old folks’ home where his favourite pastime was to watch Teochew opera. He died in Jan 2015, a month after he celebrated his 104th birthday.

Source: http://www.stcd.com.cn/html/2013-09/21/content_464908.htm

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