Remembering Yeo Bian Chuan

by Simone Lee

Qingming or Tomb-Sweeping Day is a traditional festival on the Chinese  calendar in remembrance and respect of ancestors. Families visit their ancestors’ ‘home’ – the grave,  for a ‘spring clean’ and replenish their needs by leaving ‘worldly’ offerings. This year, the festival fell on the 5th of April and 10 days before and 10 days after is the period where rituals are conducted.

Smoke from burning incense sticks blankets the fauna at Bukit Brown Cemetery

Smoke from burning incense sticks blankets the flora  at Bukit Brown Cemetery (photo Simone Lee)

Bukit Brown is busiest at this time of the year. Jams are not uncommon.  Throngs of people drive around the historic cemetery to look for their ancestors’ tomb. They carry with them bags of offerings and cleaning tools. Yet, for another year, Yeo Bian Chuan’s grave laid forgotten.

Almost a miss, Yeo Bian Chuan's tomb has been neglected

Almost a miss, Yeo Bian Chuan’s tomb has been neglected (phone Simone Lee)

In February 1915, during the Indian Mutiny in Singapore, Yeo Bian Chuan saved 17 Europeans’ lives by hiding them in their home from a bloody massacre. For this he was awarded a commemorative gold medal but died before receiving it.

The headstone of Yeo Bian Chuan's dilapidated tomb

The headstone of Yeo Bian Chuan’s  tomb

Today, Yeo Bian Chuan’s tomb is in a state of neglect, not what a hero deserves. We can only hope that soon a descendant would identify him and restore the glory of his ‘home’, one which he deserves.

The loyal guardian of Yeo Bian Chuan's tomb

The loyal guardian of Yeo Bian Chuan’s tomb (photo Simone Lee)

Read more on Yeo Bian Chuan’s story at Peter Pak’s blog here.

 

 

As we prepare for Liberation’70, the anniversary of end of Japanese Occupation of Singapore, join Jon Cooper, historian and archaeologist on the Adam Road Project for :

The Battlefield tour

Sunday 29 Mar’15, 9.30am – 12.00pm

Meeting point is at the pedestrian bridge on Sime Road entering Bukit Brown, opposite the SICC traffic light. Tour ends at 12 pm in the grounds of Bukit Brown.

REGISTRATION: You may register for up to 2 pax via PEATIX. Please note as spaces are limited to 20, please make sure you and your companions can attend and inform us early for cancellations as this tour is highly popular. It is suitable for children from 4 years upwards.

The size is kept small for safety reasons and for ideal interaction as Jon shares the maps, photos and stories of the battles. All things Bukit Brown is only the organizer as we support the work that Jon and his team are doing out of respect for our common heritage.

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). The route is not difficult, still good hardy footwear is highly recommended and depending on the weather it can be hot, so please wear sunscreen, a hat is advisable and plenty of drinking water. Be prepared as well for rain, bring umbrella and ponchos and Jon will assess whether the tour will continue should it get too heavy and there is lightning.

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About WW 2 at Bukit Brown

On Feb 15, 1942, Singapore fell just one week after Japanese forces landed. As they headed down south, fierce battles were fought in the Adam Park area and the fighting extended to Bukit Brown, then known as Cemetery Hill.

“On the evening of 14th February 1942, the rolling hills of the Bukit Brown Cemetery were suddenly engulfed in a barrage of flame and fire. It appeared like scene from Dante’s ‘Inferno’. ”

Jon Cooper, the battlefield archaeologist behind The Adam Park Project, wrote this gripping account as he retraced the battle ground route with all things Bukit Brown.

This is your chance to brush up on your history. Jon Cooper will take you through the paces. Don’t miss his energetic retracing of the movements on both sides, as we commemorate the fallen. You will be expected to do some walking in the sun, so wear good walking shoes and bring snacks and water. The tour ends at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, where you will see the graves among which the soldiers sheltered and fought.

Jon’s post on his interest in Bukit Brown and the missing soldiers is here.

For a visual guide to your route, cartographer Mok Ly Ying has done this wonderful guide map for you.

Previous tour reports here:

Oct 26 2014 tour

Sep 28 2014 tour

July 28 2013 tour

May 26 2013 tour

Oct 21 2012 tour

July 22 2012 tour here and here

June 17 2012 Father’s Day Special

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To help you plan your Sunday morning and enjoy the tour, you can follow this map of a previous one: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=208524362450694978161.0004cc9d065f2a171893d&msa=0&ll=1.336901,103.817351&spn=0.003566,0.005681

Jon conducts the Battlefield Tour when time permits. For other war-related stories, you can join tours by All Things Bukit Brown on the heritage tours.

Every city has its underbelly. Bright lights have dark corners. Join Fabian as he shines a light into the dark side of SG’s past.

Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa

Tour starts at 9am and ends at 12pm.

facebook event: click here

fabian tour
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Difficulty: Average, some trekking required
Please bring umbrella or poncho.
Please wear covered footwear.
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Bukit Brown is on the World Monuments Watch list 2014 . Find out what makes this a heritage site worthy of preserving. http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7930

“We guide rain, shine or exhumations”
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Bukit Brown. More than a cemetery. More than a Chinese cemetery. Come discover our habitat, heritage, history. Exhumations have started. Many areas have been cordoned off.

How to get there and handy tips here: http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7250

http://goo.gl/maps/qgKL8

http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=1170

http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/1.3354/103.8224

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)

Registration: Our weekend public tours are FREE …
Optimally the group size is 30 participants (15 individuals/guide).

Please click ‘Join’ on the FB event page to let us know you are coming, how many pax are turning up. Or just meet us at the starting point at 9am.

Brownie Code: We guide rain or shine.

Please take note:
1. We will be walking through the undergrowth so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.
2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.
3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.
4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place (e.g. BukitBrown.com)
5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.
6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.
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How to get there by MRT / Bus:

Bus services available: 52, 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855.

From North: Go to Marymount MRT and walk to bus-stop #53019 along Upper Thomson Road. Take Buses 52, 74, 165, 852, 855
Alight 6 stops later at bus-stop, #41149, opposite Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Walk towards Sime Road in the direction of Kheam Hock Road until you see Lorong Halwa.

From South: Go to Farrer Road MRT and walk to bus-stop #11111 at Farrer Road, in front of Blocks 2 & 3. Take Buses 93, 165, 852, 855. Alight 5 stops later at bus-stop, #41141, just before Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Cross the bridge, walk towards Sime Road, follow the road until you see Lorong Halwa.

By car:
Turn in from Lornie Road, to Sime Road. Then, turn left into Lorong Halwa, where parking is limited. Try to use public transport to get there.

Bukit Brown Watch Day 2015

All Things Bukit Brown, a civil society group of volunteers, will mark World Monuments Watch Day for Singapore’s first and only World Monuments Fund watch site, Bukit Brown Cemetery, on Saturday 14 March 2015 in a programme of exclusive events to raise awareness on the Heritage, Habitat and History of Bukit Brown.

Watch Day marks the listing of Bukit Brown Cemetery by the World Monuments Fund in October 2013, putting the site on the watch list with 66 other sites globally for 2014 to 2016, in a bid to raise global awareness of sites under threat and encouraging community engagement to take ownership.

On the Bukit Brown Watch Day, we celebrate community at the site with a choice of  guided walks from nature trails to unravelling the ties of kin and clan, deciphering the stories of the exquisitely carved stones, storytelling for children, a sketch walk  and stations to play some traditional games or try your hand at painting your own tiles inspired by the “Peranakan” tiles of the graves.

This is a ticketed event and registration on Peatix at this link bbwatchday.peatix.com opens on 1 March, 2015, 12 pm. Participants will receive a limited edition Watch Day Tote Bag with a magnet tile and a snack pack of traditional sweets. Registration for this specially curated morning of guided walks and activities is capped at between 20 and 25 pax to ensure maximum engagement with your volunteer guides. There are guided walks targeted at the first time visitor and those who have a deeper interest in history, and something for children of all ages.

The event is organised by All Things Bukit Brown with the support of the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society of Singapore.

Bukit Brown Watch Day 2015 Programme

Date and Time: Saturday March 14, 8am – 12.30pm

Meeting Point and Registration: Open air-area, approximately 200 meters as you enter the main gates of Bukit Brown at Lorong Halwa, on your right just pass the green hoardings, there will be directional signs at various vantage points.

Please note ticketed events are limited to one event, the schedule and geography of Bukit Brown does not lend itself for attendance to more than one ticketed event. There will however be additional activities scheduled for ticket holders to participate in.

A Introduction to Bird Watching with Wing Chong

8.30am – 11.30am (20 tickets)

Home to over 90 resident and migratory birds, Bukit Brown in the morning greets with a chorus of bird song and flashes of colours from pink and green neck pigeons to the cobalt blue of kingfishers.

Join Wing Chong, Chairman of the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) bird group and you may just catch more than a glimpse of the 13 endangered species which include the red jungle fowl and the Changeable Hawk. (binoculars recommended)

B Unravelling the Connections of Clan and Kin – by Ang Yik Han and Raymond Goh (20 tickets)

Part 1 8.30 am – 10 am with Yik Han

Part 2 10.15 am – 12 pm with Raymond

Conducted in English, this is highly recommended for those with knowledge of Mandarin who want to delve deeper into the familial and socio-economic ties of the past. Both tours will cover tomb inscriptions which are the stone thumb drives of the past. This is a 2- part tour with Yik Han conducting Part 1 covering Chinese clan connections and in Part 2, Raymond will share his new discoveries found just weeks ago during his “bush bashing” on the genealogy of pioneer families.

Raymond and Yik Han are the keen researchers of “All Things Chinese Past” among the Brownies.

C Tales of Wisdom and Wonder: The Young Story Teller with Rosemarie Somaiah

8.45am – 10.00am (25 Tickets including accompanying parents)

Suitable for 4 years upwards, please note a parent must accompany and be responsible for their child/children. Recommended that you bring your own mats to sit on

Join storyteller and published author Rosemarie as she shares stories that honour family and heritage and celebrate the world around us at the largest family tomb cluster of Bukit Brown where the carvings abound with stories of filial piety and animal statuary.

Rosemarie has led workshops and told stories in local and international schools, museums, corporations, over the radio, in libraries and even on the MRT

D Sikh Guards and Kampong Guided Walk with Peter Pak

10am-12pm (25 Tickets)

Combining his passion for Sikh Guard statuary and the flora and fauna of Bukit Brown, join the affable Peter on this trek retracing the bountiful harvest of the old Kampong and find out how a warrior race became elevated to tomb guardians and status symbols for the Chinese Towkays of the past.

E Sketching for Beginners with Marcus Lim

10am – 12pm (20 Tickets)

Please bring your own pen/pencil and sketch pad.

Get inspired by the beauty and serenity that is Bukit Brown and let it guide your first heritage sketch with Marcus, a historian painter who will help with introductory lessons on drawing.

For his feature on samsui women, Marcus won the ‘Cover Art of the Decade’ by the Asian Geographic Magazine and he was Singapore’s first representative to the International Portrait Artists’ Conference in Washington DC, in 2010.

Additional Activities opened to all Ticket Holders

F Old School Games with Andrew Lim

Suitable for the young and those forever young

This is a free and easy station starting from 9am onwards, ending at 12pm

Experience games which were more social and did not need batteries or high speed connectivity, yet still needed skills and just as competitive. Remember the capteh (shuttlecock), goli (marble balls), five-stones, zero-point (rubber-band rope), kuti-kuti (flick)? (Re)discover some of these toys at the Old-School Games station and find out if you (still) have what it takes to beat your opponents.

G “Peranakan” Tile Painting

Session 1: 9am – 10am (limited to 15 tiles)

Session 2: 10.30am – 11.30am (limited to 15 tiles)

Paint, paint brush and tiles provided. Limited to one tile per participant.

“Peranakan” tiles are almost ubiquitous, gracing the shophouses of our past, temples, walkways, tombs and in some modern homes with a wide array of colours and designs. They are also rich in symbolism. These decorative tiles were very popular in the 20th Century and were imported from various countries. Learn the history of the “Peranakan” tiles and paint one of your very own.

H The Wayang of the Tombs by Yik Han

10.30am – 12 pm (limited to 30 participants)

The exquisite carvings on the tombstones of Bukit Brown, come alive with stories from the great Chinese classics, recounted by Yik Han who will also highlight   the symbolism and significance of grave artefacts and statuary.

What you should Know

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take part in the activities of Watch Day at 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)

There are minimal toilet facilities and these are located near the entrance just for Watch Day.

In case of heavy rain and lightning, we will be taking shelter at a site office at the entrance of Bukit Brown. Activities will however continue if there is a light drizzle so please come prepared with umbrellas and/or ponchos.

What to Wear

Please wear comfortable clothes, covered shoes (suitable for light trekking) sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

What to Bring

Water and a packet of traditional sweets will be provided but feel free to bring your own snacks to munch along the way if you tend to get peckish. For Story Telling please bring mats and for Sketching bring your own pen/pencils and sketch pads. Umbrellas and/or ponchos

Watch Day Poster_Final

Bukit Brown Watch Day – Layout Design by Bianca Polak

About:

The World Monument Fund (WMF) mission is to preserve the world’s architectural heritage of significant monuments, buildings, and sites. Every two years since 1996, the World Monuments Watch is a call to action for cultural heritage around the globe that is at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change.

Inclusion on the list provides nominators and site owners with an important opportunity to promote their sites locally and internationally, to work towards improved site protection, and to build community engagement in their preservation efforts. Bukit Brown is the first site in Singapore to have gained a listing.

All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) is the banner for a community of volunteers (Brownies) of diverse backgrounds and different beliefs who conduct guided walks and independent research on the heritage, habitat and history of Bukit Brown. Formed in 2012, they have conducted tours for more than 14,000 people, organised two exhibitions and presented talks to schools and museums. In August 2014, All Things Bukit Brown became the first recipient of the Advocate Organisation of the Year Award in the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards, presented by civil society champions to recognise and encourage civil activism. For more, bukitbrown.com.

Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) is dedicated to the preservation, transmission and promotion of Singapore’s history, heritage and identity. Founded in 1986, the Singapore Heritage Society is a non-profit, non-government organisation and registered charity.

Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) is a non-government, non-profit organisation dedicated to the appreciation, conservation, study and enjoyment of the natural heritage in Singapore, Malaysia and the surrounding region.

This weekend there is a preview of 2 specially curated World War II Remembrance Walks at Bukit Brown on Sunday 25 Jan’15 from 9.30am to 11.30am. Don’t miss this! You can choose between 2 routes and sign up for a spot at Peatix (follow the link below). Tickets are free by registration, maximum 25 pax per route. 

Meeting point: Lorong Halwa gates at Bukit Brown cemetery.

Tay Koh Yat's tomb

Welcome to a new year, as we cross the threshold into 2015, we look back  on the year that has passed. 

A is for Advocacy

On 30 August 2014, “The Bukit Brown, Brownies” became the first recipient of the Civil Society Advocate Organisation of the Year Award in the inaugural Singapore Advocacy Awards.

The Brownies with Constance Singam, one of the judges and a highly esteemed civil activist and writer

The Brownies with Constance Singam, one of the judges and a highly esteemed civil activist and writer

It was  an honour that we could not have dreamed off  when we started our journey in January 2012 to raise awareness about the heritage,habitat and history of a 90 year old cemetery, that many say had been “abandoned” and “forgotten”.

Advocacy Awards in Newspaper

The ST report on the Advocacy Awards 2014

Well, here’s the news, they were wrong. And this is why: over 13,000 participants to the guided walks -  comprising a  demographic from all walks of life, from all ages, from students to community constituency groups, photography enthusiasts, international academics, meet-up groups,   and media crews, travel writers,  civil servants, docents etc etc;   4 exhibitions over 2 years,  the first ever listing for Singapore as a heritage site under threat, under the World Monuments Fund Watchlist 2014, and this year alone, 3 major academic publications. It is a record which speaks for itself,  carried by a momentum, best described as organic in nature, and a ground up initiative.  When it comes to development in Singapore and how it impacts our  history and heritage our sense of identity and place , Bukit Brown as a cause, as a movement, as a place in the memory scape of Singaporeans, refuses to die.

B is for Bukit Brown

2014 was a year Bukit Brown went off-site and  “broke new ground” in 2 major exhibitions  and  inaugural guided walks in the City.

In March, Woon Tien Wei and Jennifer Teo, the husband-and-wife artist-activist team behind Post-Museum curated “The Bukit Brown Index”  which was one out of 28 local works featured in  an exhibition called  “Unearthed”  The highlight of their work was a wall  on which the names of the exhumed and unclaimed which had to make way for the highway through Bukit Brown, were hand written with the help of Brownies, among others in the heritage and artistic community.

Unearthed photo courtesy of SAM

The Bukit Brown Index “memorial” wall – photo from Today online 22 March, 2014

In July, Bukit Brown : Documenting New Horizons of Knowledge was officially opened by MOS (MND) Desmond Lee at the National Library. It represents almost one and half years of research and working the ground documenting some 4,153 tombstones which are affected by the building of a new highway across Bukit Brown, by a team under the leadership of Dr. Hui Yew-Foong, an anthropologist with ISEAS. The exhibition is currently on tour at regional libraries until next year.

Show and Tell photo Ang Hock Chuan

(photo Ang Hock Chuan)

Roving Exhibition at Choa Chu Kang Library (photo Mok Ly Yng)

The Exhibition at Choa Chu Kang Library (photo Mok Ly Yng) The next and final venue will be at Toa Payoh Public Library. It will open from 4 January 2015 (Sun) till 31 January 2015 (Sat).

In conjunction with the exhibition,  All Things Bukit Brown curated 2 special guided walks The Descendants Stories which featured descendants of pioneers sharing their stories of uncovering their roots in Bukit Brown.

IMG_2430

Noreen, a descendant of Chia Hood Theam, showing pictures of her family (photo by Sally T)

Our march into the city was sealed when we partnered the Singapore Heritage Society and co-curated the Bukit Brown in the City and the City in Bukit Brown Walk  walks for the Singapore Heritage Festival 2014 in July.

Bukit Brown in the City Theresa Teng

Bukit Brown in the City (photo Theresa Teng)

In May, we partnered Jane’s Walks and curated a walk which took participants from the Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown ,  bridging  the colonial and immigrant narratives of our history.

Janes Walk 2 _ Garden Hill

Bukit Brown Jane’s Walk (photo Garden Hill)

And in a nod to the Bukit Brown Jane’s Walk, 2 participants Louise and Bridget  organised of their own initiative and without any assistance from the brownies, a guided walk for a group of ten of their friends in September. We thank them and hope they will do more!

Louise and Bridgets Guided Walk photo Louise Ragget

Louise’s and Bridget’s Guided Walk for friends in September inspired by their participating in the Jane’s Walk (photo Louise Ragget)

In September also  All Things Bukit Brown, was invited to make a 10 minute presentation in the “Singapore Dreaming”  workshop   by the  Asian Urban Lab  as a lead up to a  the major conference in 2015 where leading artists, academics, professionals and other thinkers across diverse disciplines  will share and explore alternative visions of a Singapore that is sustainable, creative and vibrant.

Slide1

The topic of  the “Singapore Dreaming” workshop  (Artwork by Ee Hoon)

In 2014, Bukit Brown continued to be featured in student media projects, international news analysis on Singapore’s issues of development and heritage, local TV programmes from “My Grandfathers’ Road” to “Secret Singapore” and its sheer beauty and remembrance of Singapore as as a major battleground in WW 2 was visually showcased  in an award winning art house film called “The Canopy”  screened at this year’s Singapore International Festival in November.

Next year, watch out as one of the Brownies will  guest host a new programme on Channel 5 to introduce Bukit Brown.

Filming for a new TV show in 2015 (photo Peter Pak)

Filming for a new TV show in 2015 (photo Peter Pak)

After a  hiatus and the completion of The Adam Park Project TAPP , the ever popular Battlefield Tours conducted by Jon Cooper returned – once a month  every first Sunday – and continue to be over subscribed.

Last Battelfield Tour by the lively and knowledgable Jon Cooper of 2014 (photo Bianca Polak)

Last Battlefield  Tour of 2014 by the lively and knowledgeable war archeologists Jon Cooper (photo Bianca Polak)

In 2014, we conducted more guided walks by private request.  Of all the requests for guided walks, the most enthusiastic and frequent requests came from our educational institutions from secondary to tertiary institutions both local and international for “Learning Journeys”

Dunman Sceondary School  at Tan Ean Kiam photo Yik han

Dunman Secondary School students observing a minutes silence at the grave of Tan Ean Kiam (photo Yik Han)

JNV-Students-at-Ong-Sam-Leong-photo-All-Things-Bukit-Brown

JNV-Students-at-Ong-Sam-Leong-photo-All-Things-Bukit-Brown

We shifted gears from  guided walks and organised on request by Standard Chartered Bank, a Corporate Social Responsibility event which was so successful, the bank has already completed 3 sessions at Bukit Brown of clearing and cleaning selected tombs between May and November 2014. They will make a comeback in 2015.

Stanchart Cleanup _Claire Leow

The first Stanchart Clean-up in May 2014 (photo by Claire Leow)

On site, discoveries continued to be made. This year alone, the two great finds were the founder of Hong San See temple Neo Jin Quee and the family cluster tombs of Lee Kuan Yew maternal ancestors.

Zaobao report on finding Neo Jin Quee May 5, 2014

Zaobao report on finding Neo Jin Quee, founder of Hong San See Temple, May 5, 2014

Reunion_-Raymond

A reunion of descendants of LKY’s maternal ancestry at Bukit Brown (photo Raymond Goh)

On site, as we have done, for every year since 2012, we celebrated NDP ’14 , Our Bukit Brown, Our People with both gusto and with sadness  in an landscape which has changed and will continue to change as the road works encroach slowly but surely .

NDP 14 _Lwarence Chong

NDP’14 (photo Lawrence Chong)

On site, sometime in November, while we were not looking, the  ole raintree was chopped down  and  overnight it was gone, our consolation  comes from our shared memories.

The Ole Raintree.jpg Lawrence Chong

The ‘ole rain tree – memories (photo Lawrence Chong)

The Ole Raintree

RIP Ole Rain Tree

 C is for Community

It has been the heart of community  and your passionate support which has sustained, encouraged and uplifted  the Brownies over the past 3 years. A community which includes academics, journalists, artists, writers, descendants, tomb keepers and fellow activists in heritage and the environment. We single out for  our gratitude the Singapore Heritage Society and the Facebook Group Community Heritage Singapore- Bukit Brown Cemetery.

When a call was made for feedback to be given on the URA Draft  Masterplan 2013 in December of the same year,  we received some 30 responses which were sent to the Ministry of National Development. You wrote   on how important it was to preserve Bukit Brown for future generations, for the environment,  as a space important to root Singaporeans to the land and for the sharing of collective memories.

In June 2014 the Masterplan was gazetted with no changes to plans for Bukit Brown. But if you thought, your efforts were for naught, let us reassure you, it was noted and it did make a difference in paving the way for better engagement on the future of Bukit Brown. We have only just began.

In 2014, three  major academic papers  on Bukit Brown were published

We thank : (Drs) Natalie Pang and Liew Kai Khuin “Archiving the Wild Archivists”, Dr Terence Chong (Singapore Heritage Society) “Bukit Brown municipal cemetery: Contesting Imaginations of the Good life in Singapore”  and Prof Huang Juanli ” Resurgent Spirits of Civil Society Activism: Rediscovering the Bukit Brown Cemetery in Singapore”  for their comprehensive and thoughtful and thought provoking papers.

To the descendants who have trusted us with their stories, we salute you.

Gillian Mendy photo Catherine

Gillian Lim-Mendy with her husband flew from London to pay their respects to their Grandfather Lim Hock Seng for the first time in December. Her story can be found here (photo Catherine Lim )

Yap geok song

Brownies visit the grave of Yap Geok Song, newly renovated after descendants contacted Peter Pak to show them  their ancestor’s tomb after reading his blog

Zaobao News Sep 22 Yap

On Sept 22, Zaobao reported on the Yap descendants

And a special mention and shout out to Zaobao journalist Chia Yei Yei and the heritage reporters of Zaobao for the breathe and depth of coverage they have given to all things related to Bukit Brown from pioneers to Brownies in 2014.

The Chinese daily  capped off the year in recognition of the part the Goh Brothers have played in uncovering our historical and heritage gems by headlining  them among the paper’s Personalities of 2014.

ZB Personality of the Year

Zaobao Headline News on 28 December, 2014

We ended  2014 on site, in the last guided walk of Bukit Brown for the year with some 50 people turning up.

Recollections Collections Favourite Moments photo Yeo Hong Eng

Collections, Recollections and Our Favourite Moments, last guided walk for 2014 on Sat, 27 Dec (photo Yeo Hong Eng)

50 is of course a significant number as  we cross the threshold into 2015. 2015 is SG50, a year of national celebration of 50 years of our history and achievements. But what can we look forward to in a landscape which will continue to be pockmarked and drastically changed by construction work on the development of a highway?

We will keep calm and carry on, engage constructively, walk the ground, walk the talk, continue to be excited by new discoveries and we will – and this is a clue – write a new chapter on our past and take  it into the present. In short, we will continue to honour our heritage, habitat and history, and remember those who laid down their lives in memoriam for without them, SG50 would not be possible.

“Lest we Forget”

We remember Victoria Tan and Edmon Neoh-Khoo

RIP

Compiled by Catherine Lim

 

 

 

 

All Things Bukit Brown congratulates  Raymond and Charles Goh who have been chosen by Chinese news daily Zaobao to be included in  their list of Personalities of 2014. For the Brownies, it is a timely recognition for the 2 brothers who have been exploring and uncovering the “lost” heritage and history of Singapore since the mid 2000s. Their hard work, sheer doggedness in research and walking the ground, is our inspiration, and we are proud to claim them as Brownies and proud, we walk with them

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Translated Article by Raymond Goh

2014 Personality of the Year by Zaobao weekly, Dec 28, 2014

Raymond Goh (51) and Charles Goh (46),  Looking at history through the departed

If not for praying to one’s ancestors, one would not usually go to the cemetery. That day the reporter asked a taxi driver to drive her to Bukit Brown cemetery. The driver was not very happy, and so she has to alight at approx. 200 metres from the cemetery at the road cross junction. But the Goh brothers does not have any sort of taboo. They keep on bringing people to the cemetery to look for their roots, rediscovering old tombs hidden in the depths of the forest, bringing history back to life.

Ever since Sep 2011 when news broke out that part of Bukit Brown has to give way to a road and approx 5000 tombs has to be exhumed, nearly twice a month during weekends and public holidays, one would see volunteer guides from all walks of life known as “Brownies” wearing Bukit Brown heritage T shirts, and guiding the public on the history and heritage of Bukit Brown.

Raymond and Charles Goh are a familiar pair among the Brownies and the pioneering guides among them.

Bukit Brown Pioneering Explorers

Charles Goh is a construction safety manager and has from young like to explore the unknown to get to the root of matters. Some things will be forgotten or disappear as one grow up, and Charles hope to revive the forgotten collective memories. Since the SARS crisis of 2003, Charles responded to the call of STB and together with his brother registered as tourist guides. They do voluntary guiding for visitors to the cemetery, and let these visitors know Singapore in an unique way.

Together with Raymond Goh, a pharmacist, they founded Asia Paranormal Investigators, as a step forward to fulfil their ambition to research all things unknown. Since 2006 they also started to lead tours to Bukit Brown, do research into tombs and even design a cemetery map for the public to do DIY tours on their own.

Raymond said that Bukit Brown and the surrounding Seh Ong and Hokkien cemeteries has a total of 200,000 tombs, with the earliest dating all the way to 1826. From that year to the closure of the cemeteries in the early 1970s, one can see 150 years of changes and transformations reflected through the tombstones of Bukit Brown. Our history is gathered piece by piece from the collective stories of all these tombstones.

2014 Great Finds

Through the efforts of Charles, Raymond and the Brownies, there has been a surge in interest to find one’s ancestor. Due to the passage of time and insufficient information, the success rate of finding one’s ancestor for these tombs is only about 50%, but the rediscoveries of pioneers’ tombs provide much encouragement to the Goh Brothers. This year alone, the two great finds are the founder of Hong San See temple Neo Jin Quee and the family cluster tombs of Lee Kuan Yew maternal ancestors.

According to the archives, Hong San See founder Neo Jin Quee was relocated to Bukit Brown cemetery. When Raymond Goh first encountered this tomb, he combined forces with local history researchers Walter Lim and Ang Yik Han to research into this tomb and finally confirmed the identity of this tomb. The discovery of Neo Jin Quee’s tomb and the tombs of his wife, son and daughter-in-law provide important clues to the study of the immigrant stories of early Lam Ann people to Singapore.

Apart from this, in Jun this year, a news report to find the rickshaw puller Koh Teong Koo made Raymond recalled about Lee Kuan Yew maternal grandfather Chua Kim Teng and maternal grandmother Leong Ah Soon. Based on the clue provided by tombkeeper Soh Ah Beng, Raymond and Walter Lim finally found the tombs of Chua Kim Teng, his second wife and his father’ tombs. They later managed to find Leong Ah Soon’s tomb from the burial register, that is Chua Kim Teng’s third wife. The Chuas were a typical Peranakan family, and Chua Kim Teng was a successful merchant. These finds provide important historical information for the study of this early Chua pioneer family.

Apart from graves, Charles Goh is also interested into heritage sites and ruins. Not long ago, together with NHB Group Director (Policy) Alvin Tan, they rediscovered a century old lunatic asylum wall, which provide valuable information for the study of this early institution.

The greatest difficulty in finding graves is not mosquitos and insects bites, nor wild snakes or animals, nor wild vegetation, but the limited information and resources to find the graves.

Although there are burial records in Bukit Brown, many descendants does not know the dates their ancestors passed away, and some can only remember their ancestors’ Chinese names, while the records are in English. The lesser the information, the more difficult will be the tomb find.
As such, Raymond said that sometimes it require more than the efforts of one or two persons, but the combined efforts and expertise of many volunteers to help find a tomb.

As for 2015, the Goh brothers will keep on their volunteer work of researching and finding tombs, and their mission is to find an earlier tomb than 1826 as there were already Chinese people then who died before that.

By Mok Mei Ngan

ZB Personality of the Year

Photo by Yap Chin Tiong – Raymond and Charles Goh has been researching and rediscovering old tombs in Singapore and sparked local grave interest

Catch a video of Raymond Goh on zaobao.com, sharing his interesting discovery of Bukit Brown Cemetery here

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ZB Personality of the Year 3

ZB Personality of the Year 4

Zaobao weekly – 2014 Personality of the Year
They may not be famous people in the limelight,
But yet each in their chosen field give out their own light and heat and leave behind beautiful imprints in 2014

There is a Western proverb “The devil is in the details”, which means that it is in the details which spell success

These six personalities selected by Zaobao Now are chosen especially for their insightful analysis and acute observation, taking care of the whole situation, yet not leaving out the smallest details to ensure success for their endeavours

They are :

Two relatively unknown “amateur archaeologists” brothers Raymond Goh and Charles Goh who started to find old tombs to return back history. In this rapidly growing city of ours, they search for old tombs and uncover lost history. They also bring people to cemeteries to search for their roots and let the light shine once more upon the hidden tombs in the forest, bringing history back to life

Artist Ong Keng Seng who revamped the Singapore International Festival of Arts to reach out to a wider audience. His 12 chosen productions attracted widespread discussion

Chef Julien Royer from Swissotel Stamford Jaan restaurant for his passon in the culinary arts and for winning multiple culinary awards, and let foreigners look at Singapore food scene

Photographer Sim Chi Yin. Originally an ST correspondent based in Bejing, she give up journalism for photography, and use her passion for the lens to reflect Chinese mainstream society in China. In July this year She became the only Asian photographer to join the Internationally renowned VII Photo Agency. In Oct she was selected by Her World magazine as this year Young Woman Achiever

Christopher Lee Meng Soon for beig the first non-Taiwanese to win the Best Actor Award in the 49th Golden Bell Awards. His win means that the top awards coming from Taiwan for the Cinema, Music and TV all have been won by our local artistes, and mean that here we do have internationally recognized acting talents.

JJ Lin for winning the 25th Golden Melody Awards for best mandarin male singer. He also won two awards from the 19th annual Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) for top local artiste for the 6th consecutive time and best song writer for the 4th time

ZB Personality of the Year 2

 

 

by Catherine Lim

Canopy by Arron Wilson is  a World War Two  film  shot mainly in Sungei Buloh and Bukit Brown, with flashback scenes that takes viewers to the Australian outback farm from where  Jim, the Australian fighter pilot – one of only  2 lead characters – is from.  It has a script which consists of  a few phrases of incoherent Hokkien spoken by Seng, the Chinese resistance fighter   – incoherent perhaps because my rudimentary Hokkien could not grasp it -  a smattering of Japanese dialogue among patrolling Japanese solders for which they were no subtitles, and Jim himself as I recall spoke nothing more than his own name through out.

But it did not matter, because the cinematography draws us into the depths of the landscape of war set in lush, verdant green as if we were there, and  the sound scape of gunfire, bombs, distorted  bird and insects calls, , the menacing rustling of undergrowth   and the silence of the jungle tells the story of a bond that is formed  over just one night.

Canopy unravels the story of  of 2 lone young fighters,  from  two vastly different cultures -  where even the  sound of their names Jim and Seng are so alien to each other’s tongues – running into each other,  caught in the bewildering jungle of war and what happens reaches spirituality.

There is an eye averting sequence when Jim tends to the wounds of Seng, and is forced to gag  his  screams as the Japanese soldiers patrol pass. The mirror scene is when Jim relives his nightmare of falling into the canopy of trees  and he wakes up with Seng’s hand over his mouth.  Seng is watching Jim even as he sleeps, the same way Jim had watched over Seng.

They are drawn together by a common enemy but more than that,  faced with fear, pain and ever present danger, they find in each other more than just comfort and respite.

Something quite extraordinary is experienced between Jim and Seng which passes in the moments of  silence and solitude in the jungle.   They bond in a way that plunges into their stream of consciousness even as the camera plunges the depths of the jungle. It is  as if they had a shared past in the flashback of the farm Jim lives in and in the black the white photograph of Seng’s parents. It is intimate, it is visceral.

War destroys lives but  war is also the great leveler ,  breaks down  the divide of colour,  culture, race and religion,  and forges a connection that unites humanity and uplifts the spirit in endurance and compassion.

The story of Jim and Seng is not an unlikely story, it is a story that could have happened in the 3 years of Japanese Occupation in Singapore between 1942 and 45,  it is a story that surely must have happened with the same intensity,  in some corner of war- torn Singapore. It is a story among many others, waiting to be uncovered.

The time has come to reclaim our past.

“Lest we forget”

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W12_2692

Ambassador Philip Green. Aaron Wilson and Pek Lian in animated discussion with audience. (photo courtesy of Australia High Commission)

Catherine was invited  under All Things Bukit Brown to a private screening of  the film as a guest of the Australian High Commission  A short discussion followed with producer Aaron Wilson and local film maker Pek Lian  who produced Synonara Changi which covered the theme of war remembrance.

Next year, All Things Bukit Brown will  commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Singapore from Japanese Occupation.

 

 

 

Saturday 27th Dec’2014 9am – 12pm

Meeting place: At the Lor Halwa Main gates

Join the Brownies for the last guided walk of 2014, as they look back at their journey and share their collection of individual stories and experiences at their favourite tombs: stories of women breaking the glass ceiling, of great sacrifices and humble deeds, experiences of the joy of discovery and connecting the living to the dead. It is also our thank you tour for the community who have supported us all the way through this ongoing journey which began in 2011, of bringing our collective past and history into the present. We look to you to continue to grow and spread the word of Bukit Brown a Living Museum, Heritage Habitat History.
Bukit Brown Advocate Organisation of the Year 2014
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=9425
Bukit Brown on the World Monuments Fund Watch List
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?page_id=7930

Please sign up at Peatix: http://atbb2.peatix.com/ if you are coming!

We guide rain, shine or exhumations”
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Please bring umbrella or poncho and sun protection.
Please wear covered footwear.
Please bring mosquito repellent.
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For first time visitors, see below for some important things to note.

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For information on how to get there and handy tips please visit
http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=1347

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)

Registration:

Our weekend public tours are FREE …
Optimally the group size is 30 participants (15 individuals/guide).

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Bukit Brown:

The Bukit Brown area is about 233 hectares in extent, bordered by Lornie Road, Thomson Road and the Pan-Island Expressway. It lies just to the south of the Central Catchment Forest, being separated from it by Lornie Road and includes Singapore’s only Chinese Municipal Cemetery. With more than 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is also one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China.

Don’t forget to bask in the peaceful surrounds, and also chat with your guides and make friends with other participants. We are amateurs and volunteers, but we are passionate and serious about what we do at Bukit Brown, and we encourage sharing of knowledge.

Here is a map of the grounds:
http://bukitbrown.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/API.BBC_.Map_.ver3_4.jpg

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Please take note:

1. We will be walking mainly on paved roads. But there are hill treks so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.

2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.

3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.

4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place (e.g. BukitBrown.com)

5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.

6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.

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How to get there by MRT / Bus:

Bus services available: 52, 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855.

From North: Go to Marymount MRT and walk to bus-stop #53019 along Upper Thomson Road. Take Buses 52, 74, 165, 852, 855
Alight 6 stops later at bus-stop, #41149, opposite Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Walk towards Sime Road in the direction of Kheam Hock Road until you see Lorong Halwa.

From South: Go to Botanic Gardens MRT and walk to bus-stop #41121 at Adam Road, in front of Singapore Bible College. Take Buses 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855. Alight 2 stops later at bus-stop, #41141, just before Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Cross the bridge, walk towards Sime Road, follow the road until you see Lorong Halwa.

By car:
Turn in from Lornie Road, to Sime Road. Then, turn left into Lorong Halwa.
Parking space available along Lor Halwa and in the cemetery some distance after the cemetery gate

Tour Report  by Catherine  Lim( Brownie safety marshal)

It was the last battlefield tour of 2014, and the “Commander-in-Chief” stood at the look out point of the Sime Road/Adam Rd pedestrian bridge for what has become the de factor lookout point for  “hell fire corner” and held captive the 25 participants who had turned up for the tour.

 

7 Dec Dec 2014 Bianca

Jon Cooper holding participants captivated (photo Bianca Polak)

The battlefield terrain included a golf course, graves, a nature reserve and came replete with maps and old photographs of landmarks some still in place in the last battle  which took place the last day  between the Japanese and British and Indian troops before the Surrender of Singapore on 15 Feb, 1942.

It was by far the longest this year ending past 12pm from the usual 11.30pm finishing time with very engaged group who never seem to flag despite the heat and humidity.

 

7 Dec Dec 2014 Catherine

Back on the Bukit Brown side, last debriefing beyond the barricades of the battlefield that is now no more (photo Catherine Lim)

Some of the comments from the participants included:

It was a fabulous tour! He’s (Jon) so knowledgable and enthusiastic” Shona Trench

Absolutely! His enthusiasm and passion for the subject was captivating!” Jennifer Gadd.

We thank participants who came , especially to Jennifer who has graciously shared her facebook photo album publicly.

Your safety marshals were Catherine, Bianca and Beng.

For more photos which you may access if you join the group Heritage Singapore- Bukit Brown Cemetery

 

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Sign up for this tour is limited to 20 participants. We are now using Peatix to manage the registration for this tour. The tickets are free by registration.

Peatix ticketing

3 EXTRA TICKETS ADDED FOR THIS TOUR! 

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