Ong Chong Chew – Found!


#Flashback: 10 October 2012

by Catherine Lim

I was working on a production of History from the Hills – an 8 episode docu series which traces the history of  Singapore from the perspective of Chinese pioneers who made significant contributions to  society and the region in the late  1800s to the 1900s (post-war)  and who are buried in Bukit Brown.

We were to shoot a sequence with Ong Chwee Imm – whose great great grandfather Ong Chong Chew was one of the three Ong “founders” of Seh Ong land – with Raymond Goh.  A few weeks before, Chwee Imm had come across a document from among her father’s papers  which recorded  the graves of Ong Chong Chew together with 2 other family members exhumed from the Telok Blangah family burial ground, had been re-interred to Seh Ong Cemetery.



Screen grab from History from the Hills showing the document indicating reburial location.

Seh Ong cemetery also sliced into two parts because of the Lornie Road expressway straddled the  expressway;   alongside Sime Road adjoining the  Bukit Brown Cemetery side and across where  the golf course is. There was no indication which side  the re-interred exhumed graves may have been relocated. However because extended family including that of Ong Chong Chew’s son Ong Kee Soon’s grave was located on the golf course side, the speculation was that the re-interred remains might  be located there. It was a long shot which received an extra boost, when the night before the shoot, Chwee Imm’s brother mentioned that as a child he had accompanied their mother to visit some graves before the expressway was built, and so  the mood on the morning of the shoot was palpable and brimming with anticipation.

Chwee Imm had long wanted to find  the grave of her illustrious ancestor ever since she had written and published ” The Journey from White Rock” (2006)   tracing Ong Chong Chew’s   life story and his legacy from his hometown in “White Rock” China to Singapore. It would be the final piece missing from her  story.



Tomb of Ong Kee Soon, 2nd son of Ong Chong Chew and from whose line Chwee Imm is descended at Seh Ong ( photo Raymond Goh)

The search was undertaken around the area where Ong Kee Soon’s grave was located. It  was  “bush bashing” terrain and after an hour into shoot when    Chwee Imm fell into a depression in the ground,  it was decided that the search would be abandoned for safety reasons.

Fast forward, Saturday 17 September, 2016. Raymond Goh on his usual solitary weekend explorations and research in the vicinity of what remains of Seh Ong  bordering Bukit Brown, suddenly decided to look down and this was what he saw:


Tomb of re-interred remains of Ong Chong Chew (photo Raymond Goh)


Tomb of Ong Kim Cheow, eldest son of Ong Chong Chew (photo Raymond Goh)


Tan Tay Neo – posthumous name indicated on tomb- Ong Kim Cheow’s wife (photo Raymond Goh)

Here are some notes from Raymond’s post on the FB Heritage Singapore Bukit Brown :

“Rediscovery of Ong Chong Chew, his eldest son Ong Kim Cheow and Kim Cheow’s wife in Seh Ong cemetery. Chong Chew’s tomb was a remake when he was re-interred from his family burial ground in Telok Blangah to Seh Ong. Date on tomb -1888. All his children inscribed on tomb matched the records. Kim Cheow was a founding member of Straits Chinese Recreation club and died in 1909, hence his tomb still indicated Qing era, his daughter married Tan Hay Leng, son of Tan Kim Ching”

(The original document from Chwee Imm’s papers had indicated 3 family members including Ong Chong Chew)

Ong Chong Chew also contributed to Chong Wen Ge, Heng San Teng and Sian Cho Keong 仙祖宮(Amoy St)


Ong Chong Chew’s name on a stele at Chong Wen Ge (photo Victor Lim)


Raymond Goh offering prayers at a shrine in the vicinity just before he chanced upon the Ong Chong Chew cluster of 3 tombs

At the time of the rediscovery of Ong Chong Chew’s tomb, Chwee Imm was abroad and relatives on FB helped to contact her to inform her.

We look forward to hearing more from her when she has had a chance to visit. But there is no doubt, that given the dedication which was written to her august ancestor in her book, the finding of the tomb marks another important milestone in her journey to White Rock.


Dedication to Ong Chong Chew in the book “The Journey from White Rock” by Ong Chwee Imm

For those who are interested in the first episode of History from the Hills which featured the history of Seh Ong land and the initial search for Ong Chong Chew :


A background of the 3 Ongs from Raymond Goh. Not pictured in slide is the third Ong, Ong Kew Ho.

More on the founders of Seh Ong here