By Yik Han
For the love of flowers - carving at See Teong Wah's grave (photo: Yik Han)
Here is a pair of “love of flowers” panels from See Tiong Wah’s tomb. The right side shows Tao Yuanming with his chrysanthemums and on the left we have Lin Bu (林逋) with his beloved plum blossoms (梅). Lin lived a simple and quiet life during the Song dynasty (960-1279) and was interested in neither fame nor riches. Single till his death, he indulged himself in cultivating plum trees and rearing cranes to the extent that his contemporaries said “the plum tree is as his wife and the cranes his children”. The panel on the left has many plum blossoms but the cranes are missing.
The Song dynasty is often called a “Chinese Renaissance” and was marked by a revival of old Confucian traditions – after the Tang dynasty, which revered Buddhism – and the respect of civil scholars after the military bias of Tang and Five Dynasties.
For more on the Chinese dynasties, click here.
See Tiong Wah is best known as Justice of Peace and the Municipal Commissioner who, together with Tan Kheam Hock, was in charge of Bukit Brown.
Raymond Goh, tomb whisperer
Read how Raymond Goh found the grave of See Tiong Wah.
Here, a tribute to the esteemed man:
The Straits Times, 9 May 1940
Mr See Teong Wah: Tribute to a Well Known Local Chinese
To the editor of the Straits Times
Sir,- By the death of Mr See Teong Wah, JP, another link with the past of Singapore is shattered. A son of the late Mr See Ewe Boon, Mr Teong Wah was educated in St. Joseph’s Institution, and at the early age of 18, he assisted his father in the Compradore’s department of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Singapore. There he served for nearly 30 years.
He was a born leader and closely identified himself with the welfare of the public, holding office as honorary treasurer and committee member of the S.C.B.A, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, president of the Hokkien Hoay Kuan, auditor of the Royal Asiatic Society, a member of the Chinese Advisory Board, a Justice of the Peace, and a Municipal Commissioner, among many other appointments.
At the Centenary of Singapore celebrations, Mr See Teong Wah represented the Chinese community in the presentation of an address of congratulations to H.E the Governor, Sir Arthur Young, and in 1922, he was the chief Chinese delegate at the Malaya Borneo Exhibition During the war of 1914 – 18, he was the most energetic in subscribing and raising funds for patriotic causes.
His ancestors migrated to Malacca from China 300 years ago and founded the house of Gim Hin. His daughter Lucy married the eldest son of H.E. Chen Tiao Yuan, at one time Provincial Governor of Shantung, and his son, Bong Him is the son-in-law of the late Mr Lim Nee Soon, J.P.
As Mr Teong Wah retired from public life more than 10 years ago, some of the present generation may have forgotten him, but it seems only appropriate for one who is grateful to his memory to place on record a tribute to the good he did in his lifetime to Malaya and the Empire at large –
Penang, May 7