Memory (Photo: Peter Pak)

World Monuments Watch 2014!

All Things Bukit Brown is pleased to announce

Bukit Brown Cemetery has been named on the World Monuments Watch 2014

by the World Monuments Fund.

(8th October 2013)

This is the first time any site in Singapore has been named on the Watch.

Vista at Hill 2   (photo: Claire Leow)

Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery (1922-1973)


What the listing means:

WMF’s mission is to preserve the world’s architectural heritage of significant monuments, buildings, and sites.

WMF through its World Monuments Watch brings international attention to the challenges facing cultural heritage sites around the globe.

Inclusion on the list provides nominators and site owners with an important opportunity to promote their sites locally and internationally, to work towards improved site protection, and to build community engagement in their preservation efforts.


The Citation:

“Bukit Brown is at once a study in the social and cultural history of Singapore and a green oasis in the heart of a densely developed urban environment. As a cemetery for pioneering Chinese immigrants from all walks of life beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, Bukit Brown showcases Singapore’s origins and connections to regions beyond. Physically manifesting the links between southern China and Southeast Asia are the Hokkien and Teochew tomb designs and their inclusion of local Peranakan as well as European features. Buried at Bukit Brown are prominent Southeast Asian supporters of China’s 1911 Republican Revolution. As a World War II battleground and grave site for casualties, including victims of the Japanese occupation (1942–1945), Bukit Brown also serves as a reminder of Singapore’s recent past. Descendants and others visit Bukit Brown regularly, not only to pay their respects, but to gain a unique insight into Singapore’s heritage and to experience its great natural beauty and diversity.

In 2013, the government initiated plans to bisect Bukit Brown with a major thoroughfare, and has proposed the redevelopment of significant areas of Bukit Brown for housing in the coming years. This is a significant loss to the families of those interred there, as many graves are being relocated (or unclaimed remains dispensed at sea) for the road construction; but in destroying the cultural landscape of Bukit Brown, it is a loss to all of society. Local groups and residents, as well as the international community, are calling for more transparency on the part of the government and for a participatory environmental impact assessment that would evaluate the full social, economic, and ecological costs of the development plans and the effects on this historic cultural landscape. Inclusion on the Watch seeks to bolster these efforts and promote a better future for Bukit Brown.”


In our submission to be selected for the World Monuments Watch 2014, All Things Bukit Brown wrote, among other things:

“Bukit Brown is a study of Singapore’s social and cultural history as well as the island’s global links. As a cemetery for pioneering Chinese immigrants to Singapore from all walks of life beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, Bukit Brown showcases Singapore’s origins and connections to regions beyond.

Bukit Brown has great potential for transformation into a nature and heritage park, while maintaining its role as a site to uphold local traditions.

An introduction to tombs and burial traditions, including linguistic, cultural, and aesthetic influences, can provide insights into Singapore’s social and cultural connections with communities in China and across Southeast Asia.

Visitors to Bukit Brown have an opportunity to better understand Singapore’s rich ecological diversity, much of which is already lost to urbanisation and development.

Protecting Bukit Brown raises attention to the need for social and environmental sustainability in economic and development plans. Continued accessibility to natural and historical site like Bukit Brown – of the few left in Singapore – raises the quality of life. A natural Bukit Brown moderates ambient temperatures and serves as a carbon sink. It also prevents a worsening of the drainage issues associated with rapid urbanisation in Singapore.”


To all our supporters:

None of this would have been possible without your encouragement, your support and most of all, your faith in the collective good a community can achieve.

The volunteers of Bukit Brown, known loosely as the Brownies, have now guided more than 7,000 visitors to the grounds on our weekly tours. Hundreds more have attended our exhibitions, Celebrating Bukit Brown, and Bukit Brown: Our Roots, Our Future. You have joined us offsite to temples, lectures, book launches, street opera performances, ritual ceremonies and more events to learn about the life and times of our pioneers and connect to our past. Your reviews helped Bukit Brown make it to Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice 2013 Winners list.

The Brownies have a code. We guide rain or shine. Which is to say, we persevere. We keep calm and carry on believing in the value of Bukit Brown, that it is a national treasure.

We are very humbled by this selection to the World Monuments Watch and hope this will encourage more efforts to highlight the Heritage, Habitat and History of Bukit Brown. This is our passion and our purpose. Join us.



This beautifully tiled tomb is among those marked (staked) for exhumation (Photo: Claire Leow)

This beautifully tiled tomb is among those marked (staked) for exhumation (Photo: Claire Leow)



Dawn - the best time to bird watch (photo: Goh Si Gium)

Dawn – the best time to bird watch (photo: Goh Si Gium)


Sikh guard at Hill 4 (photo: Claire Leow)

Sikh guard at Hill 4 (photo: Claire Leow)

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Related Post:

The Citation

All 67 Sites on WMF Watch 2014

Join our tours to find out more:

Sat 9 a.m. Special Tan Kheam Hock tour: Without Tan Kheam Hock there may not have been a Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery. As the then Municipal Commissioner, he fought for the cemetery to be set up. Find out more about the achievements of this pioneer and his family buried here.

Sun 9 a.m. Mandarin Tour: 一个小岛国的城市绿洲,武吉布朗,历史与丛林交汇的世外桃源!

Tues 9 a.m. (Public Holiday): Inaugural tour “They Died Young” – In loving memory of  those who died young. Their stories tell us about the society then, the hardships, the culture, the communities.

For more news and events, join the Facebook page, Singapore Heritage – Bukit Brown.







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