Raymond Goh went bush-bashing today and uncovered another pioneer, Wan Eng Kiat, after which Eng Kiat Road is named. “I suddenly realized that Wan = 范 . An old man has asked me to find him 1 year ago, and today I accomplished it,” he said.
Congratulations to the tomb whisperer and descendants of Wan!
A video (click to view) dedicated to an ancestor. Georgia Ho writes: “Did this for the forgotten, and my great grandmother. I shot this at Bukit Brown Cemetery, and at the temple where my great grandmother’s ashes are. Filmed and edited and written by me.”
The Cho Family Re-Discovered
by Norman Cho
The search for my family tree has been an exhilarating adventure for me…
It all began with the discovery of my late paternal grandfather’s (Cho Kim Leong) grave at Bukit Brown in Nov 2011 after a long and arduous search for it. The construction of his tomb began soon after this discovery. This was followed by more discoveries about the man (Kim Leong) himself, through family documents, interviews with those who remember him and through the artefacts that he left behind. My exciting journey in the search for my ancestors was chronologically recounted in the All Things Bukit Brown blog as more and more interesting events unfolded.
It has indeed been a blessing for me, when the spouse of a newly-discovered cousin, Richard Brockett, unexpectedly contacted me in Facebook. It was a bolt out of the blue! They were from Australia and were the descendants of my granduncle, Cho Kim Choon. Incidentally, he was reading the blogs that were posted in the All Things Bukit Brown blog. Recognising the names mentioned in the blog and touched by the accounts that I had recounted, he decided to contact me. He had just finished working on his family tree and is now working on his wife’s family tree. We were perfect in seeking each other’s help to piece together the “Cho Family Jig-Zaw Puzzle”! Somehow, I believe in grandfather’s divine intervention in making this happen.
Their family had kept a treasured family portrait of my great-grandfather, Cho Poo, with his wives and 5 sons, taken at their family home in Hereen Street, Malacca, circa 1920s. He kindly emailed me a copy of this cherished family portrait with the only known image of Cho Poo and of his wives. Finally, I was able to see my paternal great-grandparents for the very first time. The feeling was indescribable.
Great-grandfather looked stern. My great-grandmother (wife #3), Kong Moey Yean, who was dressed in a dark baju-panjang seated on the left of the picture, looked pretty much the regal matriarch. All the sons are dressed in western suit and positioned in chronological order of seniority from left to right – Kim Choon, Keow Teng, Kim Leong (my Grandfather), Kim Tian and the little boy Kim Hock who is standing beside wife #2. Like many affluent families in the Straits Settlement whose sons received an English education, they wore western suits. Although, thought to be English-educated, Cho Poo still remained a traditionalist by wearing Chinese attire in this photo. A fairly wealthy man, Cho Poo reportedly sold 5,000 acres of land in Seremban in 1895. He was a pioneer in tapioca, gambier and rubber planting who died in 1932. Little else was known about the man. Hopefully, more will be revealed as I track down more relatives from his 5 sons…
I had never thought that I would come this far… but with faith and perseverance, I know that more good things will come my way.
Editors Note: We are gratified that Norman was able to connect with a long lost cousin all the way from Australia through our blog. We salute Norman for his faith and perseverance.
Read more tips from on how to trace your ancestry from Norman here
Norman has also contributed posts on Peranakan customs and culture. Here’s a list you can click on
The Info.Media Club from Henderson Secondary School would like to express their deepest and heartiest thanks to Leong Kwok Peng, Faizah Jamal, Catherine Lim and Alan OwYong for their tremendous help in their submission of the 5 minute documentary on Social Responsibility of Forgotten Places. The video focused on why we need to conserve public spaces like cemeteries in the fast paced lifestyle of Singaporeans.The team is humbled by the generosity of everyone in helping out.
Due to their assistance, the team obtained the Platinum Award for the School’s Digital Media Award, one of the highly acclaimed competition held by MOE and judged by a team of professionals from the media industry. Only 3 out of the 500 over submissions obtained the platinum award.
In their own words:
Social Responsibility of ‘Forgotten Places
This documentary aims to educate the public on the importance of cemeteries and graveyards. It showcases the reasons why it is our social responsibility to ensure that these places are conserved.
FINDING THE FALLEN ON WWII BATTLEFIELD: BUKIT BROWN
Jon Cooper reports on a recent extraordinary find – yielding clues on the possible fate of British soldiers who fought in Singapore, with Bukit Brown as the theatre of war.
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’. Artillery from the Yamashita’s advancing XXV Army opened up their most intensive bombardment of the Singaporean campaign to date plastering the grave covered hills with high explosives rounds that made the earth tremble and sent the headstones spinning through the air. Onlookers recalled being deluged with dust, debris and human remains.
The gunners’ targets were the men of the 4th Suffolks, a fresh-faced territorial battalion of the 18th Division who had only landed in Singapore two weeks earlier. The Suffolks, raised from the country towns and farming communities of East Anglia, had already seen combat up at Bukit Tinggi and had been forced to retreat back towards the Lornie Road by the relentless drive of the IJA’s elite 5th Division. The Suffolk’s hasty withdrawal and the stubborn defence of Adam Park by the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshires had allowed the men to establish new positions overlooking the eastern end of the SICC golf course and southern tributaries of the MacRitchie Reservoir. They were all that stood between Yamashita’s army and the all important water pumping stations at Thompson Village and Woodleigh. That evening Yamashita’s exhausted and battle weary troops were to launch one final effort to break through to the east. The leading units of the 11th Regiment of the 5th Division were by now running short of ammunition and artillery shells and the bombardment and attack was to be their final assault. It was to be a ‘make or break’ attack on the hills of Bukit Brown.
At dusk the 3rd Battalion, 11thRegiment led by Colonel Ichikawa surged up the Sime Road and charged across the Lornie Road. Colonel Shimada’s tank company parked up on the fairways of the golf course provided covering fire and his men witnessed the arms and legs of the defending Suffolks fly up into the air with every explosion. He watched as the screaming infantry disappeared into the murk and smoke along the tree line on Hill 130 then to his relief saw the torch lights and flares signal the successful capture of the temple complex. The attack had been a total success; those Suffolks that had not fled or been blown to bits by the barrage had been bayoneted in their trenches. The way was open to Thomson Village; surely Singapore would now surrender.
The following are maps from both sides of the action.
(This annotated Japanese sketch map provided shows the approximate course of the battle described in Shimada’s account. The Colonel’s tank attack up Lornie Road and onto Caldecott is shown by the thick black arrows. The infantry attack led by 3rd Battalion of the 11thRegiment up Sime Road, across to the temple and onto Hill 160 is marked in a dotted arrow. )
Almost 70 years on, a team of researchers in the National Archives in Kew Gardens, London unearthed an incredible find. Deep in the vaults was a consignment of papers that had miraculously survived the war but had then been ‘lost’ in the archival process. These faded parchments were the work of the Bureau of Records and Enquiry (the BRE) set up by Captain David Nelson at Changi prison camp in 1942. Nelson and his colleagues undertook the mammoth task to track and record the movements and fate of the 80,000 British and Commonwealth prisoners that at some time passed through or stayed at the camp.
Amongst the archival material are detailed rolls listing the name, rank and fate of individuals from each regiment serving in Malaya and Singapore. The 4th Suffolks’ list makes interesting reading. Out of the 117 men noted as not being with the unit after the fall of Singapore, 62 men were listed as lost on the 14th or 15th of February during the action around Bukit Brown and Hill 95. However when this list is compared to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Roll of Honour it would appear not all the bodies were recovered to the Kranji Cemetery after the war. Twenty five of the 4th Suffolks who died or went missing during the fighting on these days appear on the Singapore Memorial inferring their bodies have never been properly accounted for.
Remarkably the BRE records have been annotated with handwritten comments added by the bureau staff as their interviews and enquiries went on in 1942. Records for 15 of the 25 ‘missing’ Suffolk men have been annotated with map references identifying their last known location or their burial site. This is not to say however that if one were to plot the coordinates then a body would be unearthed. There are many ways an individual could ‘go missing’. Bodies may be recovered without any form of identification and buried at Kranji under the epitaph ‘Known Unto God’. Wounded soldiers may simply crawl into the forestation and die; their bones being covered in undergrowth or scattered by scavenging animals. Men were also known to basically disintegrate when struck by a high explosive shell leaving nothing for the burial teams to bury. However there may be a possibility that those men are to be found at rest amongst the ancestors of the people they were sent to defend.
The task of finding these graves by archaeological survey alone is monumental; it is like looking for a needle in a pile of needles. The undergrowth and cemetery architecture makes meaningful geophysical survey impossible. Metal detecting may not penetrate the surface deep enough to identify buried bodies. Even fieldwalking looking for unmarked grave cuts is impaired by the thick undergrowth and numerous treefalls, unrecorded civilian graves and undulating terrain. However it is feasible that the remains, should they be unearthed say during construction, can be identified as military as they will be most likely lying amidst a scatter of tell tale buttons, badges and buckles. It is not unknown for leather work and fabric material to survive 70 years under the ground facilitating the identification of a military man through his ID Discs, uniform or personal possessions. There is always a chance that a costly DNA survey would reveal a living link to the identity. If found there is a distinct possibility that the ‘missing’ may not remain known only unto God.
There is of course undoubtedly a less poignant but as important material record of the fighting scattered across the Bukit Brown site still to be found today. Surveys carried along at Adam Park suggest that shrapnel, shell fragments, live and used ordnance, buttons, buckles and bombs will have been left relatively undisturbed amidst the headstones across the site. There are even local stories of wells and water courses being used as handy dumping grounds for broken and lost equipment, not to mention the bodies of the fallen. The recovery of such items in meaningful amounts would be a massive undertaking but it would give us a fascinating insight into the battle that raged that night. There is no better way to inspire our grandchildren into understanding and respecting the incredible adventures of their grandparents than showing them the actual objects that they used. It’s all about touching history and at Bukit Brown, it’s all around you.
Postscript: In a corner of a foreign field Amidst in the undergrowth within the corner of woodland alongside the entrance of the MacRitchie Nature trail and away from the clutter of headstones and grave mounds of the cemetery, are a number of peculiar holes, or ‘features’ as the archaeologists like to call them. These ‘holes’ of varying sizes are set out along the forward slope of the slight rise overlooking the golf course fairway and tactically speaking they provide an excellent field of fire for any men defending the Lornie / Sime Road crossroads. They are potentially the remains of British slit trenches dug by the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk men on 12th and 13th February 1942. What makes the site even more provocative the site is also cited in the BRE records as the resting place of four missing Suffolk lads. It’s time to dig a little deeper into Singapore’s wartime heritage.
by Grace Seah
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
In memory of my Uncle Tan Kim Cheng
One might wonder what has WWII & Operation Sook Ching has to do with Bukit Brown as a place in our history.
Among the men, women and children buried at Bukit Brown were victims, killed by the Japanese during the war. Many lived through that tumultuous period in Singapore’s history and carried with them the pain and heartache of not knowing where their son or daughter went during the war, never to be seen again.
This is a story of one such family – my family.
In an earlier blogpost about my grandparents, I shared a much loved family photo which included my grandparents, my father and his 2 elder brothers. One of his brothers was taken by the Japanese that one fateful day in Operation Sook Ching and my grandparents never saw their third son ever again.
Just what was Operation Sook Ching ?
According to the heritagetrails.sg website
“A decree was issued on Wednesday 18 February 1942: All Chinese males between the ages of 18 and 50 in Syonan-To (as Singapore was called during the Japanese Occupation) were to report to the various registration centres around the island. The decree embodied Japanese hatred for the Chinese, cultivated through years of Sino-Japanese war since 1937. Also, overseas Chinese had been quickly labelled anti-Japanese due to their contributions to war efforts in China. Thus began the Sook Ching operation, or the elimination of anti-Japanese elements.”
A story that is often told in our family revolved around the time my father, Tan Kim Huat – youngest son of Tan Keng Kiat and Chan Gim Neo, - was rounded up by the Japanese, together with his third brother Tan Kim Cheng. Both were taken to a holding area with many other young Chinese males in the vicinity. They were not told of the reason for their detention, but they were all held like prisoners surrounded by fiercely guarded fences and barriers.
Many like my father experienced the sheer terror of not knowing what to expect from their captors that drove them to despair and desperation. Many never lived to tell their story. My father did.
On the night of their capture, my father had a premonition that all of them were going to be killed the next morning. He heard his inner voice telling him to run for his life and resolved to find a way out no matter what. At 22 years of age, my father possessed the courage and brashness of youth which stood him in good stead in this instance.
He sought out his elder brother and told him of his plan to escape. My uncle being of a different nature just could not find it in him to make that dangerous journey. My dad, not being able to convince his brother to follow suit, then decided to make a run for it in the middle of the night.
Whatever possessed my father to take that perilous journey, to this day, he cannot say. But with his every being pumped up with adrenalin, he did the unthinkable and scaled a secured fence and ran away to freedom, all the time expecting a bullet to his back.
Imagine my grandparents’ elation and at the same time heartache when my dad ran home that day but without his brother. The next morning, my aunts went to the place of detention to look for my uncle but never found him again. He was presumed dead, and I believe, his name is engraved amongst those of the many civilian war victims at the Civilian War Memorial near the Padang.
As for the young women, my mama (grandma) had to urgently find a couple of single men willing to take my unmarried aunties as wives at short notice so as to protect them from the Japanese. My aunts were married off to non Peranakans from humble backgrounds. Both my uncles ended up being good men who looked after my aunts and the children that followed as best as they could.
If my aunts had not been hurriedly married , they would most certainly have been taken by the Japanese to be comfort women. If my father had not been so brave, I would not be here today.
We must therefore never forget the courage and spirit of the people of Singapore during the early years. Their blood flows through us, because of them, we are here.
Since we started tours, we would often pass these Tok tombs and point out the extraordinary size and the unusual portraits as well as the large benches. The tomb shore also featured lovely tiles. All we know from the inscriptions was how Oon Tuan Cheng outlived her husband Tok Cheng Tuan for 24 years after he passed away at age 38. Little else was known – until the descendants contacted us and over several hours one night, told us the extraordinary story of their grandparents. We were scribbling on paper napkins, used envelopes, anything we could get our hands on. We forgot to order drinks or dinner and the waiter had to remind us to order something. Both storytellers and listeners were all so entranced by the re-telling of two lives. We are very moved to read this memoir and share them with you. What we gleaned was the longer and tragic life of the wife, Oon Tuan Cheng.
TOK CHENG TUAN & OON TUAN CHENG
(as remembered by their granddaughter, A. Tok)
I was born in California. My parents were born in Singapore. My mother’s parents were Tok Cheng Tuan and Oon Tuan Cheng. They are buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery, Blk. II, Div. D. Tok died at age 38 on May 6, 1927 while his wife Oon outlived him and grieved for him for 24 years, before passing away on Sept. 28, 1951 at age 61.
I never met my grandparents. But when I visit Singapore with my husband and daughter, we go to Bukit Brown Cemetery to pay our respects. Since my parents are no longer living, what little I know of my mother’s parents is from what my mother told me about them and what some other relatives told me…memories.
I can tell my mother (Tok Kim Lian) was sad to never know her father, who died when she was less than six months old. As best to my recollection, she would often say to me and other close friends, “I was only six months old when my father died”. He worked for the Anglo-French Trading Co. as a storekeeper, but died aged just 38. His widow had to raise a family of 2 sons and 4 daughters. But that was not the end of her sorrows…
War Losses… and my parents’ marriage
My mother’s sadness was deepened because of World War II during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore from 1942-1945. Her two older brothers Kim Choon and Kim Seng were taken by the Japanese, never to return home. She would often tell anyone, about her two brothers’ fate. During the war, the Japanese targeted Chinese men in the Sook Ching massacre though it was never known if the brothers suffered that fate.
(I found these old photos and can only guess these are grandma Oon’s sons as the photos take pride of place on the first page of one of her albums. The photo on the right, features the wedding of the elder son, Kim Choon, with his bride Nona. The photo on the left shows the younger son, Kim Seng, who was engaged to be married to Peggy. But he was taken by the Japanese before they got married. My mother Kim Lian was the youngest child.)
Nonetheless, this tragic turn had an unexpected outcome. My father was good friends with the two brothers before they were taken away. He had long considered grandma Oon as his “mother” having lost his own mother at a young age. He went to America twice before WWII. The second time was in the 1930′s. When America entered WWII, he volunteered (even though he was a Singapore citizen) to fight for America from 1942-1945! After WWII ended, grandma Oon asked him to come home from America to marry my mother, Tok Kim Lian. As a result, today, I am able to retell this extraordinary story of those 2 generations.
The war had also taken its toll on grandmother as you can tell from the 1947 photo below. She is in the middle and my mother Kim Lian is on grandma Oon’s right. (The little girl is her niece, daughter of her sister-in-law, seated on grandma’s left.)
When grandfather Tok died, he left grandmother Oon, according to my mother, with many houses in Singapore. In Katong, there was a house on Ceylon Road, another one in Opera Estate, another one was on the beach where the sea wall surrounded it in Marine Parade…My mother remembered seeing two horseshoe crabs mating in the water.
Yet Another Loss…
After her father,Tok Cheng Tuan, died, and when my mother was old enough, one of her domestic responsibilities was to make sure she toasted the bread for her mother, Oon Tuan Cheng, over charcoal to a nice color on both sides. Before dinner, the windows facing the water in the house near the sea needed to be closed. This house had three staircases. The men had their dinner first, and then the women and children. My mother also helped take care of her relatives. Her responsibilities swelled when her oldest sister, Kim Luan, passed away sometime after the last of her seven children were born. In short, grandma Oon had lost another child, her oldest daughter.
My mother would play and sing to the brood of children. Another responsibility of my mother was to roll a piece of opium into a nice round shape to put in the opium pipe for my grandmother. Memories…
Grandmother Oon took care of her family as best she could. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, she had to sell some of her jewelry to buy one chicken on the “lobang”, namely on the black market. When people borrowed money from her, though, for instance, to try to make toothpaste, she didn’t know how to ask for it back. She was excellent at crocheting beautiful and delicate looking tablecloths. She would sit in a big chair for hours and crochet.
Even though I never met my grandparents, I do love them and wish that I could have met and lived with them. That is why I visit them at Bukit Brown Cemetery when I come to Singapore.
Below is what the tombs look like today in this wide-angled shot showing the two large benches out of range in the older photo above. The large portraits are weather-worn, and are from the photographs at the top of this post.
Singapore, please preserve and protect Bukit Brown Cemetery forever! Thank you! - (A. Tok)
Editor’s note: Of note on the tombs are the 4 tomb panels of the Four Loves.
This story has a bittersweet ending. The Peranakan Museum has accepted the donation of the tombs and benches as Tok and his wife’s remains are to be exhumed for the proposed highway. As reluctant as the family is to exhume, they are even more reluctant for this last, visceral remains of their memory to be destroyed. The family approached all things Bukit Brown to help save the tombs, honour their memory, and has kindly planned to build a path to these tombs for the last few months of tours that more may know of the extraordinary lives of two individuals last century. Look out for tours incorporating these tombs on our Group 2 walks .
The loss of the two brothers remind us of the cruelty of war, and though we would never know their fate, we remember those taken by the Sook Ching massacre. Lest we forget. Those who helped finance the Chinese against the invading Japanese army were on Japan’s Most Wanted list, including Tay Koh Yat and Wong Chin Yoke, both interred at Bukit Brown. Grandma Oon’s “adoption” of the sons’ good friend and request for marriage with her daughter led to the birth of the author, A. Tok. Those were the realities of a post-war era, a time of loss and healing.
The tombs of Tok Cheng Tuan and Oon Tuan Cheng are pegged 1947 and 1948, meaning these are the exhumation markers. You can find them using this map. They can be found using the Group 2 DIY guide. Or join our public tours.
The author’s cousin Tony helped me to check some facts and added, “We look forward to your blog telling the story of grandma and grandpa with the aim of moving people to saving Bukit Brown. That the people buried there were real people who built our SIngapore and their decendants are still around.”
We have since learnt that grandma Oon’s parents may be buried behind them, and here another tale begins, as a third descendent has stepped forward to continue the research to tie up loose ends. And so, the roots grow, and the tree continues to bear fruit.
(Edited and compiled by Claire Leow)
Related Posts on descendants searching their family tree:
A Grandson Remembers - Norman Cho recounts tracing his roots
Serendipity – Serene Tan recounts tracing her roots
Teo Hoo Lye: Woven Threads – two descendants’ paths converge in their search for their forefather
* Do you have a story to chase? Are you looking for your ancestors at Bukit Brown? Let us know your story so more may be aware of the value of this historical archive.
On Jan 20, All Things Bukit Brown presented All Day Bukit Brown, with the Singapore Heritage Society and Nature Society (Singapore)!
What: Bird-watching at Bukit Brown … A free public walk around this unique and quiet corner of Singapore while it is still relatively undisturbed. This area is partially open with some huge trees. They came to see a mix of parkland, open country and forest birds such as babblers, bulbuls, doves, flowerpeckers, parakeets, sunbirds and woodpeckers
Afternoon-Evening: Celebrating Bukit Brown
Celebrating Bukit Brown @The Substation, Sunday (20 Jan), 2-8pm. FREE admission.
Since the government’s decision to build a road through Bukit Brown Cemetery was announced in 2011, Singaporeans from all walks of life have flocked to the 200 year-old cemetery to accquaint themselves with its rich heritage and lush greenery. Local volunteers, academics, and artists have dedicated their time and craft to capture, record and understand the legacy and meaning of Bukit Brown and its place in our nation’s history.
This year mass exhumations and the construction of the eight-lane road will begin. Celebrating Bukit Brown showcased the efforts of ordinary Singaporeans who have worked tirelessly on Bukit Brown. It was a one-day event comprising photo exhibitions, poetry, expert presentations, theatrical readings, a public forum and a film screening. We invite you to bring artefacts, family mementoes and creative output (art, painting,poetry, music) to share your stories, and pen what Bukit Brown means to you. Descendants will share their journeys with you. Come celebrate our national heritage with us. There will be books and other merchandise available for purchase.
1. Talks by battlefield archaeologist Jon Cooper on WWII
2. Presentation on the material culture of Bukit Brown and the Chinese diaspora by Dr Lai Chee Kien
3. First public-screening of the documentary Bukit Brown Voices by Khoo Su-Mae and Brian McDairmant. This 45-minute documentary follows Singaporean families as they carry out Qingming rituals and exhume their ancestors. Rated NC-13.
4. Update on the documentation project by Dr Hui Yew-Foong, with input from Dr Terence Heng and Jasmine Ng.
5. A public forum moderated by Kwa Ching Guan.
For a web-link, click here.
Here are some highlights of the day:
There followed a series of talks:
Listen to his previous talk here.
Read about the Singapore Heritage Society’s position on Bukit Brown here.
Read about Jon’s account of the Missing Among the Dead here.
The documentation team’s work on keeping records of the graves staked for exhumation to make way for the highway is available on the website, bukitbrown.info. Click here.
We can’t wait to see Terence’s work published as the photo essay was really fascinating. The talks wrapped up with a robust panel discussion:
Last, the crowning moment of the evening, was the inaugural screening of the documentary, Bukit Brown Voices by Khoo Su-Mae and Brian McDairmant. This 45-minute documentary follows Singaporean families as they carry out Qingming rituals and exhume their ancestors.
Prior to the event, we had coverage from ZaoBao:
Opportunity to Clarify Ethnic History
Zaobao Jan 19, 2013
by Chia Yei Yei
“What is so puzzling is that the local traditional Chinese communities such as the associations and societies does not seem to be concerned about the recent discoveries of pioneers’ tombs by the Goh brothers, for they have not expressed any response or feedback. Whether it is the Hokkien or Teochew associations, everybody seems to turn a blind eye.
On the other hand, ever since the topic of Bukit Brown became a historical culture discussion topic, some local English-educated people from the cultural circles have constantly headed to the cemetery, discovering and sharing with others their finds and their views.
Tomorrow Singapore Heritage Society and All Things Bukit Brown will hold a 6-hour event at the Substation, with a photo exhibit, poetry reading, movie screening, forum discussion etc, enthusiastically Celebrating Bukit Brown.
Their passion and enthusiasm is in stark contrast with the indifference of the traditional Chinese community, and sparked the curiosity of my friends who noticed this phenomenon.
Frankly speaking, I have no answer, I can only hazard a guess : perhaps it is the taboo of cemeteries, perhaps they think that those are other people’s ancestors. Ancestor worship is for the descendants, and have no concern for those who have no relations. Or perhaps they have not realized the immense historical and cultural value of the tomb inscriptions, or perhaps they really have no more interest in their own ancestors, their own cultural identity or history.
But I still hope that the related societies and associations not abandon their own history and culture, for this opportunity will deepen whatever traditional and cultural beliefs they are adhering to now. Isn’t it our Chinese traditional culture for thousands of years to attach great importance to our cultural history and heritage?” (CYY)
Another report, from Voice of America: Singapore Cemetery Demolition Angers Residents
Thank you for making this event a success!
Celebrating Bukit Brown was brought to you by:
The Singapore Heritage Society
All Things Bukit Brown
with help from The Substation
With thanks to:
Backstage: Chew Keng Kiat, Khoo Ee Hoon
Front of house: Catherine Lim, Serene Tan, Peter Pak, Tan Hang Chong
Set-up: Terence Chong, Chua Ai Lin, Sugen Ramiah, Danny Chew, Victor Lim, Peter Pak, Rebecca Byrne, Ai Loon, and many helpful elves!
Photographer: Gan Su-Lin
Videographer: Millie Phuah and Gel
Ushers: all the Brownies on hand
Technical crew: The Substation
Helpers: History Society NUS students, and many more…..
Look out for our next event, with never-seen-before exhibits from a time past.
Another weekend, another group of descendants visit Seah Eu Chin, a Teochew pioneer whose tomb was found by Raymond Goh. See that post here. The descendants paid a visit soon after (click here). The visits reported here are alerting other descendants, and today, Raymond brought 2 more families there, undeterred by the heavy downpour:
The act of remembering is an act of connecting, of community and identity.
So not a few days back, the tomb of Chia Ann Siang was finally found, just in time for his 120th death anniversary today.
So, wasting no more time, a handful of cousins (the great, great grandsons of the man) met up with tomb whisperers Raymond and Charles Goh to visit their ancestor, the Goh brothers having been the ones who found the tomb. This is indeed special news, and deserved newspaper coverage (albeit a an error was spotted, in that the tomb is in a private plot near Bukit Brown but not in Bukit Brown grounds):
From the Sunday Times 23 Sept – major cover story with a front page highlight
To read the full article, please click here
To hear the descendants speak of the reunion with their ancestor and each other, click here for Part III: Moments. (Videographer: Khoo Ee Hoon)
As long as you are remembered, you are not dead, so goes a proverb. So Chia Ann Siang is no longer lost to time and the jungle:
Alvin says, “This is indeed a very special day! Many thanks to Raymond Goh from Bukit Brown Heritage group for locating the grave of my great, great grandfather Chia Ann Siang. It was neglected and lost for over a 100 years. He was a prominent land owner in early Singapore who died on 23 Sep 1892.
Today I met my cousins, Anthony Sng, Raphael, Alan & Alphonsus, all fellow great, great grandsons of Chia Ann Siang. Memories are made of these – heartfelt thanks once again to everyone who made this possible and shared the moment with us.”
The group proceeded to Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery to pay respects to Chia’s eldest son, Chia Keng Beng, who was the trustee of his estate:
As his great, great grandson Alvin puts it so eloquently,
“It is humbling to know our beginnings.
The journey of a man from China who settled in Malacca and had a son, who then moved to Singapore in the 1800s, and worked in Boustead as a simple storekeeper. How Chia Ann Siang amassed a huge fortune in 40 years is amazing! His generosity in making his world a better place inspires me to do likewise. Knowing too how his descendants lost most of the father’s immense wealth because of economic crises, wrong business decisions and of course the war, only confirms the truth that the most precious things in life are not things per se.”
“It challenges me to invest in things that truly count for eternity.”
“Please save Bukit Brown. Please do not destroy our National Identity in the pursuit of things that won’t last,” Alvin adds.
Additional visuals from Brownies:
For more on Ee Hoon’s album
For Hock Chuan’s video
Found! Chia Ann Siang, with an impassioned plea by one of his great great grandsons to save Bukit Brown out of respect for other pioneers. Chia’s eldest son is also buried at Bukit Brown.
The Tomb Whisperers - How the brothers Goh started looking for tombs
Video archive for Chia Ann Siang’s find