As far as I can remember, every Qing Ming, my parents will bring my sisters and I to 2 locations to pray before our ancestors. The 2 locations are 'Mount Vernon' and 'Bi Shan Ting'. I often read about how the young and old will brave the scorching sun to pray before their ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors. I have never had the chance to visit a cemetery. More often than not, I only get to pass by....
Yesterday, together with a few others from the WP, we decided to pay 'Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery', better known as 'Kopi Sua' a visit. We were under the influence of Bernard, a proclaimed Historian, to make this trip. Reason: URA will be gazetting the place for development.
When most of the graves in Bidadari Cemetery (a Muslim and Christian cemetery) were exhumed because of redevelopment, I wonder who would want to buy or rather dare to buy properties on these ground? It did not cross my mind to visit the place or to take any pictures of it. It was a place that I was very familiar with. I will have to pass by Upper Serangoon Road almost everyday. You can say that I took that piece of heritage for granted. And yes, I can only now face a piece of lush greenery whenever I pass by it. Only vague memories remained and so far no development on that piece of land :(
Having that first experience of not having to really see a grave/ tomb up close and personal, I decided to join the rest on this photography cum historical trip before it is gone.
When we reached the entrance of the gate at about 10.30am, we were greeted by a pile of white joss paper. I guessed someone must have done some rituals before we arrived. Cameras, bags, insect repellant, water and umbrella, all checked...we were ready to go.
What an awesome sight! Never have I seen anything that amazing. The whole place was filled with tombs of different shapes, sizes, finishings and carvings. Before us ,was a group of individuals from Asian Paranormal Investigators (API). They were there to recce the place, look for notable deceased, marked them so that visitors are able to find it :) Very nice, I must say. Bernard, our Tour Guide, was outstanding too! He was actually at the place twice before us to recce the location. Guess what? He got a map of Bukit Brown too! A very responsible Tour Guide :)
Bukit Brown was officially opened on 1st Jan 1922. It was opened for more than half a century until its closure in 1973.
Many well-known and prominent Singaporeans are interred at Bukit Brown Cemetery. They include:
1. Gan Eng Seng, who established Anglo-Chinese Free School which was later named Gan Eng Seng.
2. Lee Choo Neo, 1st woman medical doctor in Singapore who is also Lee Kuan Yew's aunt.
3. Ang Seah Im, a Chinese Communist leader. Seah Im Road is named after him.
4. Lee Hoon Leong, Lee Kuan Yew's grandfather.
5. Ong Sam Leong and his sons, prominent straits Chinese businessmen. Sam Leong Road is named after him. The biggest tomb in Bukit Brown belongs to him.
6. Lim Chong Pang, a Chinese Community leader.
7. Mrs Lim Nee Soon, mother to Lim Chong Pang.
And many many more such as, Chew Boon Lay, Cheang Hong Lim, Chew Joo Chiat and Teh Ho Swee. These are familiar street names and places in Singapore named after these people. They all formed part of our history. Unfortunately, their remains are forgotten.
Make a trip to Bukit Brown, a place filled with rich history and biodiversity. A place where many of our Singapore pioneers and forefathers are buried. Is worth the trip, do it before it is gone.
Pictures of Bukit Brown Cemetery...click here.