by Catherine Lim
Considered the foremost authority on Raffles, the National Library Board has acquired the collection of Dr. John Bastin’s more than 5000 materials. 38 of which have been curated for public viewing on the 13th floor.
The exhibits both showcases and makes accessible NLB’s existing Singapore and South East Asia Collection which “form an important nucleus of works on early Singapore. “ The rare materials collection is conventionally the preserve of academics, perhaps perceived as” high brow” located as such on the 13th floor.
But this collection is curated with ordinary Singaporeans in mind with both the personal – a hand written letter by Raffles to his cousin which more than hints at his displeasure with Farquhar – and the quaint – a book on Malay Poisons and Charm Cures – to the spiritual – an almost complete Malay translation of the the Anglican Common Book of Prayer.
But the highlight must surely be the leaflets which were air dropped in the 50s at the height of the communist insurgency in the jungles of Malaya, in an attempt to “persuade” – both by threats and propaganda – insurgents to surrender peacefully. These leaflets dropped by the thousands and commonplace then, have become rare. I have seen them once in a private collection. The NLB rare gallery showcases three pieces.
Exhibits on Java, Sawarak , Sumatra written by the “colonial masters ” stationed here, a reminder that Singapore was part of the “Straits Settlements”
Expressing Raffles passion for the biodiversity of the region.
And lets not forget, exhibits which clearly reminds us of the collector’s primary interest, Raffles himself.
Of interest for further study an exhibit of : a bill introduced to the British Parliament on 18 June 1824 to ratify the Anglo-Ducth Treaty of 1824 which concluded longstanding territorial and commercial disputes between Britain and Netherlands. A valuable source of information of how the two rival colonial and maritime powers decided on how to carve out their colonies in the region
As a collection, its importance is to give visitors a flavour of our past, providing historical context in print that covers different facets of political, social and community engagement at a personal level.
If there is anything more the NLB can do to get more Singaporeans to “embrace” the rare collections , is perhaps for this collection to serve as an inspiration for other activities which could revolve round art and story imagining of a past which helped defined who we are today.
Guided tours of this collection will be held monthly between July and December. Do check listings here
Catherine Lim is co-editor bukitbrown.com
Contrary to perceptions that the Brownie volunteers of Bukit Brown spend all their time at the cemetery, the reality is we are often exploring or chasing – either individually and sometimes ( when we can co-ordinate our busy schedules) as a community – other heritage and nature trails (before they are decimated by development)
A sunny Sunday morning saw an opportunity to explore a charming, idyllic stream, embraced in nature’s natural air conditioning right smack in the forested area known as Lentor (Tagore) Forest of Teachers Estate. Our guide was Leong Kwok Peng of Nature Society of Singapore (NSS).
Here are some photos of that morning, where some “frolicked” and others explored or at times did both. We all came out came out refreshed and also sad that we are in imminent danger of this intimate stream being “canalised” in concrete or buried over in development plans.
Join the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) FB group here and you can find more photos on the stream and its environs.
The NSS wrote a position paper proposing a phased development of the area leaving the streams untouched. Their rationale was quite simple, since not all the land was needed urgently :
“We leave a valuable stretch of forest as a land-bank with its ecological and biodiversity values for future generations to decide as to whether they want to preserve it or to exploit it for other uses. Tastes and needs can vary and differ from generation to generation. What is of no value today may be in great demand for a future generation. People, whether in the immediate or far future, may appreciate natural greenery and its wildlife more as these become rare or scarce —- apart from what is already there in our limited protected nature areas.”
To that we say, hear, hear and Amen. Please help to spread the word to your MPs!
You can read more about the position paper which can be downloaded here
By Sally Hall
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.
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
“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 Beng Tang on a guided walk of Bukit Brown cemetery and learn more about the edible fruits and vegetables that you can find there.
During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, the Japanese kept the rice to feed their armies so the civilians of Singapore survived on tapioca, sweet potato and yam. Come on a tour of Bukit Brown to see some of these plants and others that can be eaten.
This guided walk starts at 09.00am and ends at 12.00pm
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.
Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice® 2013 Winner “Ranked #16 of 665 attractions in Singapore. “
6 November, 2013.
“Get there before its too late…This is a very special place – peaceful, beautiful, historic, and a natural wildlife haven”
Visit Bukit Brown cemetery while you still can – before the bulldozers move in to create yet another expressway. This is a very special place – peaceful, beautiful, historic, and a natural wildlife haven. Intricately carved statues guard many of the old gravestones, which are often adorned with gorgeous antique tiles painted with flowers and peacocks. There are several pathways to explore and so the cemetery also makes a lovely place just to visit for a ‘country’ walk. Kingfishers, monitor lizards, monkeys and nightjars are common sights, and some of the huge banyan trees are staggering. In recent months the ‘Friends of Bukit Brown’ have painstakingly signed and cleared pathways to the gravestones of many notable names from Singapore’s history, making this an even more interesting place to visit.
Visited October 2013
Singapore is a concrete jungle and if there is a garden, it is man-made, like Gardens by the Bay…..(except for) a historical site called Bukit Brown.
Today, I had the privilege of touring a historical site called Bukit Brown. Bukit Brown is a cemetery, where many of Singapore’s pioneer are buried and may soon be “awakened” from their peaceful slumber to make way for 8 lanes highway.
I toured with volunteers of Bukit Brown, and learn about the tombs of Tan Kheam Hock and his family. History is being collected as I write this review. The tour is made even more interesting with the descendants of Tan Kheam Hock in our midst. A definitely worthy visit for any tourist to Singapore, to see a side of Singapore which money cannot buy.
As Bukit Brown tour is manned by volunteers with a passion to preserve the heritage and culture of this little city state, one will need to visit Bukit Brown FB page to make enquiries of any tours.
Visited October 2013
It was like stepping back into another place and time. You can see rays of sunshine illuminating the misty verdant hills, rich smell of the forest and hear sounds of delightful birds. It was somewhat surreal in heavily urbanised city but the oasis of tranquility calms the soul and the mind is clarified. What a wonderful place to go for a walk!
I joined a friend to witness the Cheng Beng festivity and was overwhelmed by the throngs of people with their prayer paraphernalia and the heavy traffic winds patiently through the hills. It was BUSY!
Then some 3 months later, I took a trip with the Brownies who gave free guided walks through Bukit Brown practically every weekends! It was like stepping back into another place and time. You can see rays of sunshine illuminating the misty verdant hills, rich smell of the forest and hear sounds of delightful birds. It was somewhat surreal in heavily urbanised city but the oasis of tranquility calms the soul and the mind is clarified. What a wonderful place to go for a walk!
Yes, we have the crowded Botanic Gardens, the monotonous MacRitchie & Pierce reservoirs, the hot Sungei Buloh Reserve and Chek Jawa Park is a little too far to reach but Bt Brown is way too cool! If you dare venture off the main track, you will encounter unusual structure, designs, engravings, statutes, reflecting the various cultures, beliefs & eras. You might encounter a monitor lizard, horse riders and almost always expats walking their dogs. Join the Sats & Suns groups of 10-20 people on the guided walks like the one I’ve taken, listening to the passionate guides who are bursting to share with you the stories of the hills.
Visited September 2013
“The most beautiful place on earth”
Jo Prudence, descendant of George Henry Brown, after whom the cemetery is named.
A spectacular time-lapse aerial video of Bukit Brown
More beauty shots of Bukit Brown here
31 October 2013
Bukit Brown is home to some 90 species of resident and migrant birds. These photos by Goh Yew Lin, capture some of the birds feeding in the early morning. The “wild fruits” are the ripe figs of Ficus benjamina (Waringin, Weeping Fig). This strangling Ficus species is one of keystone tree species in Bukit Brown. Whenever these trees are figging, the birds go gaga over the fruit feast.
“It started off as a dream. A dream to create a video where one or more musicians play beautiful music as they explore the ‘invisible’ gem of Bukit Brown “
Environmentalist Cuifen wanted to make Bukit Brown more “visible” to share its beauty and tranquility.
The result ” Ukelady meets Ukebaba in Bukit Brown Conversations”
Please share, and share and share this video and let it go viral, so others can enjoy Bukit Brown too!
More on Cuifen’s thoughts on Bukit Brown in her blog Conscious Steps
Cuifen would like to thank :
Ukelady – Yen Lin
Ukebaba – Su Min
Video editor – Jasmine
Video & mic equipment – Ee Hoon
On site, music & transcript support – Pei Yun
Story boarding was a team effort -off and on location, -with Mok and Cuifen.
By Lishan Chan
Bukit Brown is the burial place of many of Singapore’s pioneers, as well as home to a diversity of flora and fauna. What stands out to me, however, is the sense of enchantment that I feel whenever I go walking at Bukit Brown. Walking, for me, is a meandering immersive intuitively guided impressionistic wandering through paths or trails. Time stands still for an hour, a couple of hours.
Whether day or night, Bukit Brown is highly picturesque.
By day, I see a magical landscape made up of a large variety of luxurious vegetation. Scanning my eye over the scenery, I feel a sense of oneness with nature. The humidity casts a blanket of luminous mist across what feels like a warm and windless seaweed forest. To my untrained eye, I can only make out the fern-covered rain trees and the banyan trees with their straggling roots. Otherwise, it is a green blur of cascading foliage, rich and gorgeous, pulsing with life. Overhead, the cumulus clouds hang, and swifts circle the air.
At night, I see moonlight filtering through the vivid black and thick branches of the trees. The silhouettes of trees, ferns, creepers and canopy mark out a spectacular yet somewhat desolate landscape. A bat majestically flits past as though in slow motion. I note the gravestones surrounded and taken over by an undulating expanse of cool forest and long grasses that dance to a breeze running as a wave through the cemetery. Sound and vision merge into a wholeness of experience, and I can almost see the deafening calls of insects and creatures of the night.
It is a real pity that this enchanting spot will be destroyed, as work for the eight-lane expressway through the cemetery begins.
About Lishan Chan: Lishan blogs at lishanchan.wordpress.com. Her book, A Philosopher’s Madness, was published in 2012.
Spotted on the 16th June Sunday Heritage Tour by brownie Steven Toong, in Hill 4, a beautiful python.
On behalf of these sentient creatures, we reproduce this eye-witness account and plea for the lives of the wild dogs of Bukit Brown:
She had left her pack, maybe in search of food, maybe in search of a better life.. Or maybe she was just lost.
The poor dogs in bukit brown are all painfully thin. This girl ate up all the kibbles we gave her. Maybe it was good karma in her previous life, but she will never have to suffer the daily pain and agony which her pack has suffered; the painful hunger of never having enough to eat, or the terrible life of being witch hunted everyday of her existence.”
~ Dr Siew Tuck Wah