A Y U S H

20 Dec 2017 142 views
 
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photoblog image Bukit Brown Cemetery 3

Bukit Brown Cemetery 3

In the end, the cemetery did take off, but never a village. The Chinese were a fragmented lot, with different dialects and different clans. To control the number of burial grounds coming up haphazardly all over the island, the Municipal Council acquired some of this cemetery and it became a municipal cemetery for all Chinese in 1922. The ones who could afford, did have to pay for burials. The ones who died penniless, had their burial costs taken up by the cemetery. Interestingly, when the cemetery opened for business, there were no takers initially. Tne reason behind the initial reticence was that the graveyards were mostly in an orderly, grid form, a more western layout. The Chinese Feng Shui principles on the other hand, recommend graves to be backed against a hilly mound and if possible, facing the sea or an open body of water. In absence of both the features, there were quite a few idle months, before the dead eventually did start to turn up (permissible space elsewhere on the island was running out).

 

Point of interest: two moss covered incense sticks containers stand at the headstone of an old, nondescript grave, amidst creepers and fallen leaves. What is remarkable is that it could be one of the oldest graves in Singapore, dating to about 1833/34. The central column shows (or should be showing) the name, which I understand is Feng Shan. It was surmised that he would have been a coolie in those times. The name of his son is inscribed therein and today there are no known relatives. Our resourceful walk leader dusted the fainter inscription with talc, as seen in the image, to make it more legible and then read it off as "the 13th year of the reign of Emperor Dao Guang", which works out to be Feng Shan's death year of 1834. Apparently it is a re-buried grave (in 1941 it was removed from a Hokkien cemetery from Silat Road, Bukit Merah area of Singapore), but nevertheless, it is widely considered to be the oldest surviving grave. 


Bukit Brown Cemetery 3

In the end, the cemetery did take off, but never a village. The Chinese were a fragmented lot, with different dialects and different clans. To control the number of burial grounds coming up haphazardly all over the island, the Municipal Council acquired some of this cemetery and it became a municipal cemetery for all Chinese in 1922. The ones who could afford, did have to pay for burials. The ones who died penniless, had their burial costs taken up by the cemetery. Interestingly, when the cemetery opened for business, there were no takers initially. Tne reason behind the initial reticence was that the graveyards were mostly in an orderly, grid form, a more western layout. The Chinese Feng Shui principles on the other hand, recommend graves to be backed against a hilly mound and if possible, facing the sea or an open body of water. In absence of both the features, there were quite a few idle months, before the dead eventually did start to turn up (permissible space elsewhere on the island was running out).

 

Point of interest: two moss covered incense sticks containers stand at the headstone of an old, nondescript grave, amidst creepers and fallen leaves. What is remarkable is that it could be one of the oldest graves in Singapore, dating to about 1833/34. The central column shows (or should be showing) the name, which I understand is Feng Shan. It was surmised that he would have been a coolie in those times. The name of his son is inscribed therein and today there are no known relatives. Our resourceful walk leader dusted the fainter inscription with talc, as seen in the image, to make it more legible and then read it off as "the 13th year of the reign of Emperor Dao Guang", which works out to be Feng Shan's death year of 1834. Apparently it is a re-buried grave (in 1941 it was removed from a Hokkien cemetery from Silat Road, Bukit Merah area of Singapore), but nevertheless, it is widely considered to be the oldest surviving grave. 


comments (17)

All overgrown now...
Ayush Basu: Overgrown and reclaimed, Larry.
  • Ray
  • Thailand
  • 20 Dec 2017, 01:53
All fascinating information to accompany this fine image, Ayush.
Ayush Basu: Pleased to put some information that I found interesting, Ray.
A lovely photo - remarkable history, Ayush, thank you!
Ayush Basu: Thank you for following up on all that text, Elizabeth.
  • Astrid
  • Netherlands
  • 20 Dec 2017, 05:04
A wonderful detail here. It shows how old this is.
Ayush Basu: They do have an annual tomb sweeping event, when descendants clean up the tombs of the ancestors and make some prayers, Astrid.
J'aime ce cimetière ou la nature est devenue reine. Cela inspire vraiment la sérénité.
Bonne Journée
Ayush Basu: Thank you for the considered comment, Pascale.
To be honest, Ayush, it looks much older than it is, which for me adds charm to the place.
Ayush Basu: You could say that, Ginnie. But there is also a tomb sweeping period, a time when all descendants arrive for cleaning up the tombs of their ancestors.
  • Chris
  • Not Nowhere
  • 20 Dec 2017, 06:38
Fascinating history Ayush
Ayush Basu: The guide was very good too, Chris.
  • Lisl
  • England
  • 20 Dec 2017, 07:11
Such an interesting commentary, thank you, Ayush. It must have been quite a space problem with everyone initially wanting to be buried in accordance with Feng Shui principles. Some of our village graveyards are really high now, where the dead have been buried on top of each other, somethimess for more than a 1000 years
Ayush Basu: Thank you for following up on all that text, Lisl. I am guessing the only reason a graveyard remains operation for over a thousand years is that they receive a constant stream of "visitors"?
  • Louis
  • South Africa
  • 20 Dec 2017, 08:07
Interesting that all these facts remained available. So many dead and graveyards return to dust and jungle, the world over.
Ayush Basu: I suppose it was the start of what became the Registrar of Births and Deaths, Louis.
I never realised that Feng Shui applied to graves Ayush
Ayush Basu: Me neither, Bill!
  • Alan
  • Great Britain (UK)
  • 20 Dec 2017, 08:25
I think if I was going to be buried, it would be nice to think that my grave was facing the sea. However, I'm going one cremated and won't know anything about it in any case.
Ayush Basu: Well I have been seated on a hilly graveyard facing the sea in Penang and it was actually quite lively, Alan.
  • Elaine-
  • Canada
  • 20 Dec 2017, 08:37
neat story! is feng shui really real? i mean does it doooo anything? well i suppose anything that's 'believed in' can do it's work... like voodoo lol i have an amusing story about voodoo, but it's a bit too long for this forum lol
Ayush Basu: Well I do not suppose it does anything Elaine, it is just how people try to make explanation for themselves for circumstances they cannot control, I suppose.
  • gutteridge
  • Somewhere in deep space
  • 20 Dec 2017, 08:44
A very interesting post Ayush, especially regarding the differences between Chinese and Western burial requirements.
Ayush Basu: It is quite different indeed, Chad. I will have a couple more such posts.
This is a really interesting post Ayush with all that information.
Ayush Basu: Thank you for following up on all that text, Brian. We had a very good guide.
I hope the3 cemetery committee will clean up the grave since there are no relatives.
Ayush Basu: I do not believe they will gather resources to do that, Mary. But there may be voluntary groups.
That's quite a story!
Ayush Basu: I got a good deal of info, Tom.
A nice shot and a great read.
Ayush Basu: Thank you for following up on all that text, Michael.

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