History lost to development

9 May

Sunday for me, is family time! The last sunday, we finally visited Bukit Brown. I’ve been eyeing the guided tours there for some time! Check out All Things Bukit Brown here for more information on events and guided tours available.

Lo and behold, the entrance to Bukit Brown.

A closer shot.

That funny structure on the pillars was used for oil lamps, according to the guides.

Outside the gates, there were also tombs.

Those white wooden markers that are numbered, beside the tombs, are not part of the original grave. They are added to mark out the tombs about to be exhumed to give way to highway construction.

Look at the peaceful place.

Location map.

Our two lovely guides.

Walking into the wilderness! A jungle has engulfed the ancient graves.

Since I was at Bukit Brown, I should talk a little about the graves right?

I learnt so much about the traditions of our ancestors that day. Typically, Chinese are buried horizontally (sounds like common sense. But Muslims are buried vertically, facing Mecca!) with a circular (may be other shapes) row of bricks surrounding the body. Generally, it’s disrespectful to step inside the brick wall. At the feet of the deceased, a tombstone is established. It would bear the name, gender, courtry of origin and date of death of the person buried, sometimes the relationship between the people in joint graves. The 男左女右 rule applies in burials too. Generally, there would be statues like the 金童玉女, one of the 8 immortals (八仙), for example to bring the ancestors luck. Feng shui is important because it affects the future generations. There is a belief that good feng shui can accumulate luck for the ancestors and be passed down to the descendants. I was thinking that this was probably the motivation for people to build proper graves for their ancestors. The area infront of the tomb stone, is the “courtyard”. Generally, famous pioneers who are commemorated would have a large courtyard in front of their graves, with benches. Welcoming people to visit. At one corner of the courtyard you would find a stone with the words “福神” (one of the gods) carved on it. Typically, people would pray and give offerings to the gods, before doing so for the ancestors.

Other than traditions, the hard work of our pioneers and contributions to the society were also brought up. More information about individual graves can be found on the website. I found this article about two graves we visited on Sunday: The grave of war hero Tay Koh Yat, and the oldest grave in Bukit Brown, here.

The trip was also a great opportunity for family bonding. I was surprised that my mum knew so much about feng shui of graves (bricked tiger paw and dragon paw build beside the graves had significance, eating cockles and leaving the shells behind brings wealth to the ancestors and hence the decendants [since the shape of the valves look like money in the past]) , and about the chinese wordings on tombstones (“妣” implies female, “慈” implies mother, “考” implies male). And later, we (my brother and I) learnt that her knowledge came from past experience of going to 扫墓 during 清明, at her grandfather’s grave (in Boon Lay area, until it was exhumed for residential projects).

The tour left me with mixed feelings. I wonder what will happen to the Singaporean identity when traditions and cultural heritage are continually lost to development…Do make a trip there if you are interested. Just be sure to read up on the preparation tips, directions and find out the guided walk timings/plan your own trip with the maps available, all these information are found on the All Things Bukit Brown website.

More naturey things:


Horse poop. People from Polo Club sometimes lead horses pass this place.

I didn’t notice so much wildlife afterall, as I was occupied with the history of our ancestors. But right before we turned onto Adam Road from Sime Road, nature did give us one last surprise!

A Long-tailed Macaque family (:

There was a macaque baby and parent!

The macaque juvenile clung on to the belly of the parent, even when the parent was walking on all fours! Sadly, I didn’t manage to get a photo of them in action.

Macaque juvenile left the parent shortly, hiding behind the leaves at the top right corner of the picture.

But went back and buried its head in the parent’s chest.

Another shot of the adorable pair!

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