Sunday, April 02, 2017

Qing Ming in Bukit Brown (2017)

Qing Ming is an affirmation of the importance of Bukit Brown as a space of cultural heritage where the traditional practices of filial piety and recollection of family stories and bonds are again renewed. What is for sure, Bukit Brown was never an abandoned cemetery. It is very much alive in its heritage, and nature. My blog post covers some of the families who have kindly allowed me into their lives momentarily to document the love for their ancestors and in my conversations with this families, they strongly feel that Bukit Brown should be left the way it is for many years to come because of its historical and cultural significance.

Stories from the descendants

The first are the Tang brothers, who came to pay their loving respect to their maternal grandmother. What caught my attention was the flower petals strewn across the tomb as well as the lovely paper cheongsam dress prepared beautifully waiting to be "dispatched" to their grandma. I thank the Tang brothers for allowing me to take photos that i am sharing with you below.

A busy day in Bukit Brown 

Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown
Paying respects to their grandmother


Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown
Lighting cigarettes for their grandmother

Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown
A sent of  money and clothing


Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown
Light hearted moment with the tomb keepers 

The second is Chua Jeen Tee (son of Chua Keh Hai ) and his wife Irene. I met them last year during Qing Ming and was pleasantly surprise to meet them again this year. Chua Jeen Tee is now 77 years of age and is paying respects to his deceased parents. The rest of Chua Jeen Tee brothers and sisters have already passed on. They usually take public transport and come in via Lornie Road (closer to Caldecott side) and walk in but this year, due to construction of the highway, they had to drive in and found the tomb with some difficulty. This story is common among some of the descendants as the highway construction has changed the landscape of Bukit Brown, making the usual routes they remember in the past look very different.

Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown
Chua Jeen Tee and Irene paying their respect to their parents 

Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown
Preparing the offerings 

Chua Keh Hai
Altar table of Chua Keh Hai and Lee Swee Har 
Paying respects to ancestors during Qing Ming at Bukit Brown


The encounter with the third family was very short as by the time i approached the elderly gentleman,(unfortunately i forgot to ask his name and yes i am lousy at this), they have almost completed their rituals at the tomb of Oh Sian Guan. In my short conversation with him i found out a bit more about Oh Sian Guan and his son Dr. William Oh from him. The elderly gentleman i spoke to is not directly related to Oh Sian Guan but his yearly visit is a form of "paying it forward" for in the past, Oh Sian Guan supported financially his father when he arrived in Singapore to do business (they were from the same village in China and were seen to be like sworn brothers).

Paying respects to Oh Sian Guan


Parting Pictures and Words

Bukit Brown is a special place for many people and for a volunteer guide like me, it becomes real when we meet the living descendants of the people buried here. I am constantly touched by the fact that many of the tombs in Pauper section are still been cared, tended for and in some cases this tombs renovated. What is also touching is the inter-generational families that come together to reaffirm family bonds and the recollection of their common stories.  The cultural practices are also pass on to the next generation in hope that this family tradition continues. As i said, it is during such festival's that Bukit Brown becomes a cultural space that reinforces its living heritage.

Intergenerational families visiting Bukit Brown during Qing Ming
Intergenerational families visiting

Traffic during Qing Ming in Bukit Brown
Busy day in Bukit Browm 

Bukit Brown horses
The regular visitors are here too 

See you next year 


Related Articles


Qing Ming in Bukit Brown. (Posted on March 26, 2014)
Last Qing Ming for some residents(Bukit Brown). (Posted on April 1, 2014)
Exhumations in Bukit Brown. (Posted on July 8, 2014) 
Qing Ming at Bukit Brown. (Posted on April 6, 2012)


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