Sunday, April 10, 2016

Qing Ming in Ubin Island (April 10, 2016)

It started out with a simple tour to various places around Pulau Ubin, but when we arrived at Kampong Sungei Tiga Chinese Cemetery, i noticed there were a number of visitors there paying respects to the dead buried in this cemetery. Fortunately for me, the family i approached were willing to share with us their stories of their anscestors who was buried there.

Mr. Chen Zhi Ming (陳志明) in his early 50's, was once a resident in Pulau Ubin, having the opportunity to experience kampong living, growing up there and studied in Bin Kiang School. He now like many former residents resides in Singapore Island. He is visiting with his Uncle, his brothers and sisters, his son and daughter, nieces and nephew to pay respects to his Grandparents.

Mr. Chen  Zi Meng and sister performing acts of filial piety at the tomb of Madam Zhang Gui Qing 

A Samsui Woman and Quarry Worker

From Mr. Chen Zhi Ming's account, his grandmother, Madam 張 Zhang Gui Qing (1913-1992) is a Cantonese and hails from Guangxi (廣西) She arrived in Singapore probably in the late 1920's or early 1930's as a young lady together with many other womenfolk who came from that province during that period of time to seek employment. She worked in the construction industry as a Samsui woman. Madam Zhang eventually married, raised a family and settled down with her husband in Ubin Island. Both worked at the granite quarry while supplementing that income with farming. Her husband, Mr. Chen passed away much earlier in 1967.

A photo of a Samsui Woman at work (source: PictureSG) 


A Kampong Childhood

Mr. Chen Zhi Ming, the eldest of 3 or 4 siblings, said that he moved from the squatters at Changi area to Ubin when he was 4. Like his grandfather, his father work at the quarry in Pulau Ubin too. Mr. Chen Zhi Ming attended Bin Kiang School when the mode of teaching was in Chinese. He is still in contact with the school alumni and proudly whipped out his camera to show recent pictures of the school former students with their teachers.

He gave insights of how they commuted in the past prior to motor powered bumboats, they will just row their sampan across the Straits Channel. Another anecdote was how Mr Chen supplemented his pocket money by collecting conch (sea snails or gong gong) or other shellfish and then selling it at Changi.

After the closure of the quarry, school and later in 2005, the ban in keeping live poultry in Ubin; it became difficult to sustain economic life in Ubin. After they moved to Singapore Island, their kampong house was eventually demolished.

Alumni of Bin Kiang School 


Students and Teachers of Bin Kiang  School, Ubin 1963


Filial Piety in action 

What touched me, was how the young family clan members of Mr. Chen were present in observing the Qing Ming ceremony and everyone was busy doing their part keeping this tradition alive for generations to come. I noticed also other family members in  Kampong Sungei Tiga Chinese Cemetery busy paying their respects as well.

Paying respects of Mr Chen and Madam Zhang 

The younger generation playing an active part in maintaining the Qing Ming traditions

Two different families paying their respects 


"I remember coming here when the durian tree was only this size"

On my way out, a lady paying respects with her family shared that she remembers when the tomb of her ancestor was built, the girth of the durian tree behind her was only the size of the difference between the length of her two raised hands.

The girth of the durian tree then and now

The person buried here is not forgotten 






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