Dec 23 Tour & Ang Choon Seng0
Heritage Guides: Victor Lim, with Fabian Tee, Sugen Ramiah. Meanwhile the Nature Society also drew the crowds, as their bird experts were on hand to spot the birds.
One highlight was when Taoist Master Lee Zhi Wang (李至旺) paid respects to Mr and Mrs Ang Choon Seng. According to Master Lee, Mr Ang Choon Seng is a very important person for Qing De Hui (庆德会), or Keng Teck Huay, a mutual aid organization. His tomb was only recently cleaned up, thanks to donations raised after Brownies guided Friends of the Museum (post here) to raise awareness of the pioneers of Simgapore at Bukit Brown, and the generous donation of one in the Bukit Brown community who has requested for anonymity.
Here’s what Raymond has discovered about Ang Choon Seng:
Ang Choon Seng was born in 1805 in Malacca. In Singapore, he set up Chop Chin Seng in Philip St. He had 2 sailing ships Patah Salam and Kong-Kek, travelling between Saigon and Bangkok. He also had nutmeg plantations in Moulmein Road. He was one of the 36 founding members of the mutual aid association called Kheng Teck Whay.
The band of 36 men were businessmen from Malacca who came to Singapore in the early days when Singapore was just founded.
This group of 36 young Hokkien Chinese baba traders, in their early 20 and 30s, from middle- to upper-income families most in Malacca, came to seek their fortune in this new city. Although they came from well-to-do families, business at that time was still considered risky. They had alliances with the Europeans, and can take goods on credit with them, but depending on the business situation, they will have to pay the Europeans with equivalent goods or cash in a few months. Sometimes if the goods cannot be sold within this period, they would have to auction off or “lelong” the goods, resulting in financial problems for them, hence the need to form such a mutual aid association.
Each of the 36 would have to contribute 100 big dollars to the Association fund, which will be used as seed money for the businessman’s families. If a member would unfortunately passed away or fall into financial difficulties, then this mutual help group would help the family. Many of the 36 members did well in later life and had successful businesses. Such was the enterprising spirit of our pioneers!
Upon finding Ang Choon Seng’s tomb in Bukit Brown, the volunteers called Brownies decided to raise funds to clear the tomb for others to visit and hear of this pioneering tale.
The area is very rich in birdlife with 91 species (resident & migratory) recorded so far. Among them are 13 nationally threatened species listed in The Singapore Red Data Book (RDB, 2008). This constitutes 23 % of the 56 of bird species listed there, and makes it a very important wildlife habitat. For some bird photos, look under HABITAT: FAUNA.
(Source: the Nature Society’s position paper on Bukit Brown)
If you haven’t visited Bukit Brown, check out our public tours on our events page. We endeavour to share as many stories of our pioneers as we can uncover. We are a group of volunteers who bush-bash to look for the tombs of pioneers and research to find out more. Come join us! Bukit Brown: Heritage. Habitat. History.