May 20 Tour Report

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Volunteer guides Claire and Keng Kiat had the pleasure of guiding 30 participants to Hills 1 and 3, with a bonus stop to visit Khoo Seok Wan at Hill 4 to help an indirect descendant Mr Chia connect with him. Here are some highlights. It was a beautiful day for guiding and enjoying the heritage, habitat and history that is Bukit Brown.

 

(Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Sharing notes: Mr Chia indicates he is looking for Khoo Seok Wan (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Our first stop is to visit Lee Hoon Leong, grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew, and show the Koki calendar used under Japanese Occupation. Next to Lee is Lie Sio Nio, the first female Chinese student of Methodist Girls’ School.

At 72nd generation descendant of Confucius, Lie Sio Nio (Photo: Claire Leow)

At Phuah Chong Tin’s tomb, we encounter a horse rider.

Horse rider at Hill One near Phuah Chong Tin (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Then we visit a cluster of tombs including one with an “eternal flame”:

Keng Kiat introduces Lo Kim Huk's tomb and the eternal flame (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Keng Kiat tops up the oil at Lo Kim Huk's tomb for the eternal flame (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Nearby is Raboenah, from Jambi in modern-day Indonesia (then Dutch East Indies), whose burial register says she is Malay, which makes this Peranakan tomb with Chinese inscriptions even more unique:

Raboenah of Djambi (Photo: Claire Leow)

The Malay participants who joined our tour (Photo: Claire Leow)

Then we make tracks to visit the Lim Boon Keng cluster. Lim (1869-1957) is an important pioneer. Losing his parents young motivated him to be a doctor. (Lim was buried in Bidadari Cemetery and exhumed.)

Keng Kiat introduces grandparents of Lim Boon Keng (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Grandparents of Lim Boon Keng (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Lim Mah Peng left China for Penang, and married Mdm Khoo. Notice the Guangsu calendar used (top right), referring the reign of Emperor Guangsu (1875-1908). Dragons grace the top of the tomb. For the reign years of Chinese emperors, click here.

Their son – and father of Lim Boon Keng – was  Lim Thean Geow:

 

Father of Lim Boon Keng (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Tomb of Mrs Lim Boon Keng nee Margaret Huang:

 

Examining the tomb of Mrs Lim Boon Keng (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We would also visit the tomb of Tan Boo Liat, great grandson of Tan Tock Seng, and grandson of Tan Kim Cheng, consul to Siam. We discuss early Singapore-Thai ties.

 

Tan Boo Liat (photo: Claire Leow)

 

For more on the Tan Tock Seng lineage, click here.

May 20 tour participants at Chew Geok Leong's tomb with Sikh guards (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We visit Khoo Yong Thin, a wealthy rice merchant and philanthropist. The late Khoo Teck Puat, once the wealthiest man in Singapore, is his son. The grave is exhumed, as indicated by the chipped headstone. On the panels are poems written by Khoo Seok Wan.

Khoo Yong Thin's grave with Khoo Seok Wan's poem (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We take a stop to introduce a Teochew tomb, and see the difference between Hokkien and Teochew tombs. This one has what seems like a moon-shaped forecourt.

 

Unique Teochew tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)

The crowd looking at the unique Teochew tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

The group is wowed by the size and fengshui features of Ong Sam Leong’s tomb, where rain greeted us:

 

Rain greets us at Ong Sam Leong (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

We make tracks to Chew Boon Lay where we also see a pair of Sikh guards nearby:

 

Finding a pair of Sikh guards at the tomb in front of Chew Boon Lay (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Finding a pair of Sikh guards at the tomb in front of Chew Boon Lay (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Tan Kheam Hock, the Municipal Commissioner who helped make Bukit Brown a municipal cemetery:

Tan Kheam Hock on the far right of this triple tomb (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Visiting another Teochew grave (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

After the tour ended, we proceeded to visit Khoo Seok Wan:

 

Khoo Seok Wan (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

The inscription at the tomb of Khoo Seok Wan (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

Visiting Khoo Seok Wan (Photo: Claire Leow)

 

P/S Angeline Liu took a lovely shot of a toad in a grave sculpture:

Toad in sculpture (Photo: Angeline Liu)

***

The Bukit Brown area is about 233 acres  in extent, bordered by Lornie Road, Lower 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 one of Singapore’s oldest Chinese cemetery. With >100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is also one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China.

The volunteers, also known as Brownies, do research, plan the logistics and organize tours to help raise awareness of what is to be lost. Come join our tours.

 

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