Monday, October 20, 2014

Khung Ngien Chew (Bukit Brown)

In Hill 2 D, plot 8, is a simple tomb with the inscription that when translated says simply "Here lies a poet by the name of Khung Ngien Chew".
Khung Ngien Chew the Poet 

Who is Khung Ngien Chew and what poetry did he wrote ? I am not sure as i am unable to research from Chinese resources, but from what i gathered from the death acknowledgements, he was a member of the Foochow Guild and Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Death
Khung Ngien Chew of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce passed away on January 5, 1927 at 21-6, Geylang Lorong 16, at the age of 58. He is survived by a widow, a younger brother, 2 sons, 1 daughter and many grandchildren. The widow of the late Mr Khung Ngien Chew and Messrs. Khung Siang Chew, Khung Yu Chang, Khung Choo Sik, Khung Choo Chuak and Lee Shan Ming of Batavia thanked the Foochow Guild, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Sam San School, Lam Chong Association, Yew Aik Seah and friends for the wreaths, scrolls, banners, telegrams and letters of condolences as well as their kind attendances at the funeral of Mr. Khung Ngien Chew.

From the names above, the only lead i found out was of  Lee Shan Ming, who was a branch manager of the Ho Hong Bank who came from the Palembang branch (Sumatra, Indonesia) to set up the Seremban branch in Malaya in 1925 before being transferred to Singapore in 1926 before proceeding to Batavia. Lee Shan Ming who spoke good English was educated in Anglo Chinese School and a church speaker (possibly an elder ?).

References
Death. (1927, January 6).
Acknowledgements. (1927, January 18). The Straits Times.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Aerial view of Bukit Brown in 1948 - Yap Gek Song's tomb

Yap Geok Song's tomb was in the Chinese papers recently after the descendants paid a visit after renovating the tomb and paying respects. The tomb is located in Greater Bukit Brown in an area that is now a Woodlands. After going through the aerial photograph of Bukit Brown taken in 1948 by the British Royal Air Force 81 Squadron, i found the location of the tomb and it confirms that it is one the larger tomb in an area surrounded by smaller ones.

Aerial photo of Bukit Brown, location of Yap Geok Song tomb

Bukit Brown road on the top, Mount Pleasant Road below

Lianhe Zaobao (September 22, 2014)

About Yap Geok Song
Yap Geok Song was a land property owner, pineapple and rubber planter merchant. His rubber estate was privately owned and was called Kuan Tian or Yap Geok Song's estate. He was also a shareholder / director of Eastern United Assurance and Oversea Chinese Bank.Yap Geok Song passed away in March 1928 due to heart failure. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A visit to The Intan Museum

I was fortunate to be invited by the Bukit Brown community to visit Alvin Yapp's private living museum, The Intan. The story goes that Alvin paid his maiden visit to Bukit Brown recently and was guided by the Bukit Brown volunteers. He was so impressed by the rich heritage stories shared and wanted in turn to share his story with the Bukit Brown volunteers and thus invited us to visit his private museum to view his collection and have tea with him.

Founded in 2003, Intan, which means rose cut diamond in Malay, is a reflection of the multi-faceted aspects of Peranakan heritage and culture which is reflected in the artifacts and stories Alvin shared about being peranakan. His private museum tours is what he does part-time and he is a Director of Corporate Affairs for BusAds Pte Ltd, a family run business specialising in ads for buses, trains, aeroplanes and outdoor advertising.

Alvin Yapp holding court 

Staircase to the loft filled with tiffins and spittoon 

Peranakan wares 

Intan Museum has a lot of artifacts !
Philanthropist
It was not the first time i met Alvin Yapp. I met him during a tour led by him for the Peranakan Museum's exhibition titled Auspicious Designs - Batik for Peranakan Altars. Alvin Yapp had over 7 years, accumulated 72 unique batik cloth (mostly from Java, Indonesia) that are used in Peranakan Altars and bequested this entire collection to the Peranakan Museum and named the Primary Donors as his parents, Matthew and Alice Yapp.  

How to book a visit
Intan is a private museum and its owner, Alvin Yapp supports charitable causes and conducts private tours to his house at 69 Joo Chiat Terrace during his free time subject to his availability.He can be reached via http://the-intan.com/2012/ . The museum won the 2011 Inaugural Museum Roundtable award for Overall Best Experience beating other bigger and more established museums. It's collection has also been showcase overseas.

Me and Alvin Yapp in front of his house

Monday, October 06, 2014

A morning in Ubin (October 6, 2014)

It was the Hari Raya Public Holiday and since i haven't been to Ubin Island as regularly as i used too, I decided to spent my Monday morning there. I believe a lot of us has noticed that Ubin is visibly more crowded now with more local and foreign visitors alike. Crowd management aside, this to me is a great indicator that Ubin can be a sustainable eco-tourism destination if managed well, as many people love to see this aspect of Singapore that is rustic and relatively untouched.

That been said, Ubin has changed ! Over the past 15 years i have seen the local residents slowly vacating the place and moved back to mainland Singapore for various reasons such as for better work opportunities. The hallowing out effect as taken away some aspects of realism of the Island as a living one and more of a concern was when it announced last year in major media that the remaining leases of the Ubin residents may not be renewed leading to the perception that Ubin will be turned into an Adventure Park. I am one of those who hope this will not be the outcome for Ubin and am glad to hear and observe that Government is engaging with various stakeholders (e.g. Nature Society) and most importantly Ubin's original residents to find a balance and preserve it's biodiversity and its rustic state for years to come.

There is also a survey being conducted by the Ministry of National Development to "collect more suggestions on how we can preserve the rustic charm and heritage of Pulau Ubin, so that it will continue to be a special place for our future generations". Do participate to voice out your opinions. For me, i will like to see more dedicated hiking and walking trails made available for bird and nature lovers.
Feels like i have taken a time machine back to Singapore's past

Here are some pictures of this morning's walk, in which i got to see various birds (white rump Sharma, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Olive back Bulbul, Scaly Breasted Munia, Dollar bird) and wildlife that makes me want to come back for more.

Clouded Monitor Lizard high up a Durian Tree

Cropped Picture of Clouded Monitor Lizard

Golden Orb Spider 

Scaly Breasted Munia

White rumped Sharma

Oriental Pied Hornbill
Olive winged Bulbul 
Malay Viscount / Malay Baron (?)
More are visiting Ubin: the Singapore destination
A final word on crowds, as i was heading back to Changi Village at noon, this is what i saw at the Changi Village Jetty, crowds of people queuing to go to Ubin. This queue snaked all the way to outside the jetty !!! Amazing.. is the word i can think off !
The crowds that greeted me when we arrived back at Changi Village

Before the Immigration

The queue snaked outside the building !


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Inaugural Orchard Road Pedestrian Night.

It was announced on mainstream media that starting October 4 or the first Saturday of every month, a section of Orchard Road ( from Orchard Ion to Ngee Ann City ) will be closed to vehicles from 6 -11 pm, so that pedestrians can walk the streets and join in the activities in hope of making Orchard a more vibrant place. This 6 month trial dubbed "Pedestrian Night" was organised by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA).  I decided to pay a visit to this inaugural event to experience first hand what it feels like.

The main activity for the Inaugural Orchard Road Pedestrian Night was a tennis mass clinic dubbed "Tennis Pops Up@Orchard Road with lots of children and adults playing tennis. If you are like me and not a fan of tennis, fret not as there were other activities as well, such as local musicians performing on a stage, set-up right on Orchard Road ! As i was passing there, i recognised the musicians playing on stage as the dual group called Jack and Rai. If you are not familiar with their music, you can find some of their songs on National Library Board's MusicSG.

I spotted also Nila, the Official Mascot of the 2015 South East Asian Games that will be held in Singapore. There was a queue of children and even young adults to take a picture with Nila. Below are some of the pictures i took of the inaugural Orchard Road Pedestrian Night 2014. Do also look for my next article post on the Singapore Teochew Festival which was held in front of Ngee Ann City. I took the opportunity to visit the festival after the Orchard Road walk.
No ERP charges and of course no vehicles

Childrenin tennis clinics playing in the middle of Orchard Road 

Performances by local talent: Jack and Rai. 

Nila all deck out to promote 2015 South East Asian Games

Performances continuing to the night

Suggestions for Improvements
I enjoyed yesterday's event especially the free open air concert but mobility was an issue as most of the road areas were taken up by the tennis games or clinics going on which may not be something everyone is interested in and in fact created a bit of a squeeze or bottle neck for pedestrians who were out trying to walk the length of Orchard Road. A suggestion from me for future events would be to organise a food night where food vans can park there and dish out local delights and a heritage night where cultural performances of the various multi-racial groups and heritage troupes can get an airing. To me, the anchor of this monthly event will be the music performances especially if local bands and artist band are the center of it. This will be a nice platform for local artist to reach out to the masses who may not visit the Esplanade or participate in the local musical performances.


References
Part of Orchard Road to go car-free at selected times. The Straits Times Online.
From The Straits Times archives: Revitalising Orchard Road. The Straits Times Online.
Orchard Road's Pedestrian Night turns out to be an enjoyable squeeze. The Straits Times Online.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Boey Chuan Poh and family (Bukit Brown)

Boey Chuan Poh was born in Malacca. He is the sole proprietor of Union Times (a Singapore paper published in Chinese and English) and was the former proprietor of the Weekly Sun. He passed away at his residence at No 49 Devonshire Road, Singapore on August 19, 1926 at the age of 53. (the tomb indicated his age was 56) He is survived by his widow and 2 daughters. He is buried in Bukit Brown, Hill 2, Division D. 
Boey Chuan Poh 
Union Times vs Chong Shing Yat Pao 
Union Times ( a pro-loyalist paper ) and Chong Shing Yat Pao (pro-revolutionist paper) were often at logger heads, with each suing the other and counterclaim for libel. The Union Times Press was located at 126 Cross Street. Union Times was a paper associated with the pro-monarchist reformist movement, often associated with Kang Yu Wei and his Pao Huang Hui or Emperor Protection Society. Chong Shing Yat Pao (1907-1910) on the other hand was a paper which was the mouth piece of the Tung Meng Hui or United League. Dr Sun Yat Sen was one of it's contributors. The paper was founded by Tan Chor Nam, Teo Eng Hock and Lim Nee Soon.  There was an article of the Union Times Press being in liquidated in 1916, but from research, the paper was still in Boey Chuan Poh's hand till his death in 1926. The Union Times Press continued to exist until 1946.
Source: NewspaperSG
The Union Times by Boey Chuan Poh (source: NUS)

Bin Chan House / Sun Yat Sen Villa  / Wan Qin Yuan
Bin Chan House located at 94 Balestier Road was a Bungalow with stables built by Boey Chuan Poh in 1880s. However, in a 1902 advertisement, it indicates that Bin Chan was built in 1902 or slightly before that. Boey Chuan Poh was an avid horse rider and he had a horse named Bin Chan as well. The house was sold to a timber merchant for $10,800 in 1902 and in 1905 acquired by Mr Teo Eng Hock for his mother. Teo Eng Hock was the one that opened the house for Dr Sun Yat Sen and Tung Meng Hui or Chinese Alliance members. 
Advertisement for rent of Bin Chan House 1902
Bin Chan House
Mr Boey's horse Bin Chan
Bin Chan House / Sun Yat Sen Villa
In 1937, five Chinese community leaders, Messrs Lee Kong Chian, Lee Choon Seng, Lee Chin Tian, Tan Ean Kiam, Chew Hean Swee and Yeo Kiat Tiow bought the house in No 12, Tai Jin Road, off Balestier. This was the historically important site where Dr. Sun Yat Sen visited, stayed and work with the local revolutionaries to plan and drum up support for the 1911 revolution that ended 267 years rule of the Qing dynasty.

Family

Father: Boey Ah Sam
Boey Ah Sam
Boey Ah Sam was born in Canton on July 14, 1829. He came down to Singapore at the age of 14. A chance meeting and friendship with Mr. James Guthrie of Messrs Guthrie & Co. who through his help set up a bakery in which he operated for 10 years. He then went into partnership with his eldest brother, Boey Ah Soo and set up a Cantonese sundry shop at No 21 Market Street under the style of Boey Ah Soo & Co, chop Swee Wo, with branches in Canton, Hong Kong, Penang and Calcutta. In 1890, Boey Ah Soo was one of the pioneer member of the newly set up Chinese Advisory Board. He represented the Cantonese community. The Hokkien representatives were Tan Jiak Kim, Tan Beng Wan, Lim Eng Keng and Lee Cheng Yan. The Teochew representatives were Seah Liang Seah, Tan Yong Siak and Low Cheang Yee.

Around 1893, Boey Ah Sam wound up his business and settled in Batu Pahat as a plantation owner having gotten concessions there and grew gambier, pepper and rubber. On December 25, 1913 at the age of 84, he passed away at the residence of his son, Boey Chuan Poh at "Eng House House", No 46 Cairnhill Road. Boey Ah Sam is buried in Pek San Teng, the Cantonese Cemetery in Thomson Road.

Brother: Boey Kee Sang
Boey Kee Sang was the eldest son of Boey Ah Sam. He passed away at the age of 66 on May 1922, leaving behind one son, 2 daughters, Boey Siew Kuan (Mrs Wee Hean Boon) and Boey Piu Siong. The funeral left from 35 Owen Road to Pek San Teng Cantonese Cemetery.
The Union Times by Boey Kee Sang
Brother: Boey Siew Chong
Boey Siew Chong was a editor, publisher and director of the Union Times. He passed away at his residence in Damar Road on June 1913 at the age of 47. He is survived by a widow, a son, an aged father (Boey Ah Sam) and five brothers to mourn his lost. Two brothers mentioned in the article were: Boey Chuan Poh and  Boey Yeak Kum. The funeral took place at a Cantonese Cemetery located at 4th milestone, Thomson Road.
Union Times by Boey Siew Chong (1909) (source: NUS)
Brother: Boey Yeak Kum
Boey Yeak Kum was a planter in Batu Pahat. He together with Boey Siew Chong established Nam Yong Chai Wai Po or The Union Times Press at 83, Cross Street on May 28, 1908.

Brother: Boey Hong Ying
<no information>

Reference
Advertisement. (1902, March 6). The Straits Times
Stylish cruelty to horses. (1904, June 13). The Straits Times
For Sale. (1912, May 18). Weekly Sun
Death of Mr. Boey Siew Chong. (1913, June 28). Weekly Sun
Death. (1913, December 27). The Straits Times
Social and Personal. (1914, January 8). The Straits Times
Announcement. (1922, May 26). The Straits Times
Death. (1926, August 21). The Straits Times
Yong, Ching Fatt, and R. B. McKenna. The Kuomintang Movement in British Malaya, 1912-1949. NUS Press, 1990. pages 15,19
Lee, Lai To, and Hock Guan Lee, eds. Sun Yat-Sen, Nanyang and the 1911 Revolution. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2011.pages 149
Song, Ong Siang. One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. Ed. Edwin Lee. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Newspaper mentions of the Rojak Librarian (2014)

Spending my free time researching, walking the ground and writing articles is something that grew with time and out of the need to create awareness of the rich natural and heritage value that Singapore has in Bukit Brown which is under threat by the highway and development. Occasionally some of the articles i wrote help the families to rediscover their roots and the final resting place of their ancestors. Even rarer are the ones that get press mention. I am blessed to have two press mentions this year either by name or for my blog, The Rojak Librarian,  in addition to being on a documentary titled "History from the Hill" in 2013.

The first is a feature on Zaoboa dated September 22, 2014 on the rediscovery of the tomb of Yap Geok Seong. I discovered this tomb in November 4, 2011 with the help of a tomb keeper who showed me this tomb. I got around to writing the article and finally publishing it on my blog in April 2013. Since then more information cropped up from the Bukit Brown community and from a descendant of Yap based in Canada. Finally in August 17, 2014, I brought the descendants of Yap Geok Song who contacted me to visit and pay respects. They eventually cleaned the tomb and had a ceremony on September 14th.  

The efforts are not mine alone, but are testament of the Bukit Brown community, a group of individuals working the ground to bring history, heritage and nature alive ! This group who called themselves Brownies recently won this years inaugural Singapore Advocacy Award

Source: Lianhe Zaobao September 22, 2014 
The tombkeeper and the tomb in November 2011

The compound of the tomb when i first discovered it in November 4, 2011

The happy descendant's when i brought them to visit on August 17, 2014

The tomb after being cleared 

The second press mention happened in April this year, with a young journalist looking for features on people and their hobbies or passion in a weekly article. Somehow, i managed to fit the bill and the interview took place in English (as i am not able to converse in Mandarin). Since i could not read the article, the good folks on Facebook translated it for me.

Lianhe Zaoboa April 24, 2014 

走遍坟场记载历史
张育铭 报道/摄影
ymchong@sph.com.sg

两年来,白友源走遍武吉布朗坟场,研究各个墓碑主人的生活故事,并将其记载在自己的博客上与网民分享,其中包括郑古悦巴士老板郑古悦和华商周如切。
对一些人来说,武吉布朗坟场只是新加坡多座坟场之一。对白友源(40岁)来说,这个地方却充满了新加坡的历史与文化。
两年来,白友源走遍这座坟场,研究各个墓碑主人的生活故事,并将其记载在自己的博客上与网民分享。他所记载的墓碑主人包括郑古悦巴士老板郑古悦和早期华商周如切。

他说:“许多安葬在这里的人在新加坡历史上都扮演着重大角色,是我们国家发展的先驱,很多国人对他们的贡献却不知情。”

在这里安息的许多是早期从中国来南洋谋生的华人。白友源从他们的墓碑中观察到他们语言与文化上的演变。
有的人和英国殖民政府一起工作,学习英文,也给自己取英文名,都反映在墓碑上。也有一些南来华人和当地人成婚,落地生根,后代是现在的土生华人,形成了本地独特的娘惹文化,他们的墓碑上也刻着娘惹式图案。有的墓碑前甚至站了锡克族侍卫的雕塑,反映这里种族之间的交流。

白友源说:“我们的祖先从中国过来后,让自己的母文化和本地文化交流,形成了在墓碑上所能观察到的独特文化。我认为,这是一种代表新加坡的文化。”
记载自己在武吉布朗坟场所学到的历史与文化之际,白友源有时会收到网民或墓碑主人后代的答谢,感激他的付出。这让他非常有满足感。

Translation by Darren Koh via facebook crowd source 

Zaobao News Apr 24, 2014
Walking the cemetery ground, documenting the history 

In the last two years, 白友源 has explored Bukit Brown Cemetery, studying the tombstones, and recording the stories of the deceased in his blog, which is shared on the Internet. Some of the stories recorded include those of Tay Koh Yat owner of Tay Koh Yat Bus Company Limited, and Chew Joo Chiat. For many people, the Bukit Brown Cemetery is just another of the many cemeteries in Singapore. To 白友源 (40 years old), this place is a repository of Singapore's history and culture.

In the last two years, 白友源 has explored Bukit Brown Cemetery, studying the tombstones, and recording the stories of the deceased it in his blog, which is shared on the Internet. Some of the stories recorded include those of Tay Koh Yat owner of Tay Koh Yat Bus Company Limited, and Chew Joo Chiat.

He said: "Many of the people buried here in Singapore played a significant role in the history of, are pioneers in the development of our country. A lot of people do not know of their contributions.” In here are laid to rest many of the early Chinese who travelled to Southeast Asia to make a living. 白友源 observes from their tombstones the evolution of their language and culture.

When people began to work with the British colonial government, they learnt English, and began adopting English names. This is reflected in the tombstones. There are some who inter-married with the locals, put down roots in this new world giving rise to a unique local culture known as the Peranakan. Their tombstones bear a unique Nyonya-style pattern. Some graves even have sculptures of Sikh bodyguards, reflecting the interaction between the races found here.

白友源 said: "After our ancestors arrived from China, the culture they brought with them inter-mingled with the local culture, giving us a unique cultural identity visible from these tombstones. In my opinion, this is one part of what is the culture of Singapore." 白友源, who taught himself the history and culture of Bukit Brown, sometimes receives thanks for his efforts from netizens or descendant of someone he has documented. This is what he finds most rewarding.


Conclusion
I am happy that some of my articles have made an impact on the lives of people however small. That motivates me to keep going and i thank everyone who have written in or commented with words of encouragement.This too is a journey for me as well and at times mistakes and errors are made as any humans do. I seek your patience and guidance in correcting me.

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