Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tan Hap Leong (Bukit Brown)

Tan Hap Leong (Tan Hup Leong) had the honor of being the first Straits born Chinese to undertake a travel around the world for leisure in April 2, 1895. His route brought him to Penang, India, Marseilles, Paris, Germany and England. His return was via way of America, Japan and China. He carried with him letters of introduction  from several members of the mercantile community (namely Messrs. Paterson Simmons ) and Foreign Office passport, a certificate stating he is a British subject and assurance of British protection, the first Straits Chinese to obtain this privilege.

Tan Hap Leong was one of the pioneering members together with the Tan Jiak Kim, C.M.G and Dr Lim Boon Keng in the formation  of the Chinese Volunteers and had the honor to accompany the local Straits contingent to London for the Coronation of King Edward VII.
Tan Hap Leong (arrow in red) with the rest of the Singapore contingent
Dr Lim Boon Keng (in uniform) is seated extreme left, middle row

"Prince" Tan Hap Leong 

He was also a leader of the reform movement, being one of the Straits Chinese who braved opinion and tradition to cut his queue way before the fall of Manchu Dynasty. A well traveled man, he shared how he was dubbed as "Prince Tan Hup Leong".  It was in a P. and O. ship and he was traveling with the Viceroy of India during the period of the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905). In  a dinner on board, instead of wearing the customary western evening suit, he wore a full manchu costume and sat next to the Viceroy. Rumors circulated that he was an Oriental Prince send to England to mediate the Russo-Japanese war and when he arrived in London, he was greatly astonished by the great interest in his arrival.

Banker, Shipper, Merchant and Planter

A well known personality in the racing and shipping circles, Tan Hup Leong was a partner in the firm of Messrs Tan Kim Tian and Sons, Ship Chandlers and Stevedores. An avid horse race owner, he won several trophies as well but failed to win at the Viceroy's Cup at Calcutta. (Tan Boo Liat's horse Vanitas had that honor)

Tan Hap Leong in 1917 was the Chairman and Director of Ban Aik and Co. Ltd at 58 Market Street. The company is a local steamship company and general merchants. He was also a leading rubber planter and besides shipping, he had interest in banking as well and a agent for the China Mutual Life Insurance Company. He was a member of the Straits Chinese British Association.  His residence was "San Giang Whee", Thomson Road. He ran his business from 1 Prince Street.
Messrs Tan Kim Tian & Sons 
The firm of Messrs. Tan Kim Tian and Co, merchants and steamship owners was founded in 1849 by Mr Tan Kim Tian (his father) at the office in No 1 Prince Street. It started with three sailing vessels and two small steamers, but now in their place is 3 large modern steamships. The firm is under the management of Mr. Tan Hap Seng, Mr Tan Hap Leong and Mr Tan Hap Swee in 1897.


Tan Hup Leong died of heart failure at the age of 56 on August 5, 1926 at his residence in No 953 Serangoon Road. He is survived by his mother (Wee Poh Kiok Neo), brother ( Tan Hup Seng ) and sister (Mrs Quah Geok Ljn ), 5 sons ( Tan Cheng Yong, Tan Cheng Hin, Tan Cheng Watt, Tan Cheng Chye and Tan Ngoh Loh ), 4 daughters and 5 grandchildren.

Tomb of Mr Tan Hap Leong
at Block 1 Division C
"A loving one from us is gone
A voice so dear is still 
A place is vacant in our home
That never can be filled"


Son: Tan Cheng Yong 
Mr Tan Cheng Yong (eldest son of the late Mr Tan Hap Leong) married Miss E. Chye Neo, youngest daughter of the late Mr E. Kong Siang in January 1929.   

Daughter: Tan Eng Neo
Miss Tan Eng Neo (Angie Tan), third daughter of the late Mr Tan Hup Leong and Mrs Tan Hup Leong , engaged to Mr Loh Khie Lock, third son of the late Mr Loh Keok Choey in November 1933. 


A Local Pioneer. (1926, August 6). The Straits Times, page 9
Death.(1926, August 6). The Straits Times 
Death of Tan Hup Leong. (1926, August 14). Malayan Saturday Post , page 15
Untitled. (1929, January 30). The Singapore Free Press
Fifty Years Ago. (1953, August 15). The Straits Times

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sng Leng nee Tan Chye Neo (Bukit Brown)

At the top of Hill 1, lies the grave of Mrs Sng Leng nee Tan Chye Neo. She passed away at her residence in No 235 Rangoon Road on May 10, 1941 at the age of 79. She is survived by her 2 sons; Sng Ah Piew and Sng Pun Soo, 3 daughters; Sng Min Neo, Sng Yan Neo, 3 daughter-in-laws, 2 son-in-laws, 28 grand children, 26 great grand children. One of the wreath, came from members of The Goh Loo Club, (a club located at Club Street which was founded by Dr. Lim Boon Keng in 1937 and initially served as a gathering point for Chinese leaders, some of whom had been actively involved in raising relief funds for China, (e.g. Tan Ean Kiam ) indicating with probability that Mr Sng Pun Soo was an active supporter of the Goh Loo Club.
Tomb of Mrs Sng Leng nee Tan Chye Neo
Son: Sng Ah Piew
Sng Ah Piew works for Messrs Boustead and Co. Ltd. He was the honory secretary of the Tiang Choon Kok Association and committee member of the Eng Wah Kok Association. A typewriting contest held at Commercial Department of the Anglo-Chinese school on July 9, 1913 provided an interesting story and insight on not only the contest itself, but on who came first in the group. First was Mr Seow Poh Quee (brother of Seow Poh Leng and one of the sons of Mrs Seow Chye Watt nee Madam Yeo Boey Neo). Sng Ah Piew came in 5th.
(source: NewspaperSG)
Sng Ah Piew's eldest son, Sng Thian Lye married Miss Lim Hian Neo, only daughter of Mr Lim Keng Tian of Monte Comte Ltd on December 30, 1935. Mr Sng Thian Lye is attached to the Municipal Secretariat. His wedding dinner was held at Tai Tong Restaurant, New World and 160 guest were invited including Mr and Mrs Emile Galistan, Sng Pun Soo, Ong Piah Teng and many others including leading members of the Tiang Choon Kok,  Eng Wah Kok, Coterie and the Aurora B.P.

In June 1952, an auction sale for the estate of Sng Ah Piew (deceased) was advertised for his house No 235  and 237 Rangoon Road, Freehold, (area 7,417 square feet ), giving indication of roughly when he passed away.  

[September 2013] I found the tomb of Sng Ah Piew in Hill 3 Section A, plot 149. On his tomb list his death date as February 13, 1942 (just before the fall of Singapore at the age of 53). His sons are: Sng Thian Lye, Sng Kwee Sim, Sng Kwee Lim, Sng Siong Lim. He is buried in a family cluster of Sng's.
Sng Ah Piew's tomb 
Son: Sng Pun Soo
Sng Pun Soo works for Tiong Aik and Co. and for Malayan Agencies. He was the honory secretary of the City Club in 1927 (Patrons of the City Club were Lim Soon Bee, Chua Boon Im and Lee Phan Hock). He was the Vice President of the Mutual Improvement Association in 1922  (President was Ong Boon Chwee) and committee member of the Chinese Association in 1925 (chairman was Cheong Koon Seng).

Sng Pun Soo in 1933 was the one that informed the press that Dr. Lim Boon Keng was still away as  Chancellor of the University of Amoy. ( Lim Boon Keng came back for a short while to attend the marriage of his daughter but went back to Amoy to resume work).

Madam Tan Guat Neo, wife of the late Sng Pun Soo passed away at the age of 55 on December 23, 1956 at residence 235 Rangoon Road. She is remembered by 3 sons; Sng Kong Beng, Sng Kong Hwee, Sng Kong Wah, 1 daughter, 1 son-in-law, 1 daughter-in-law.

The tomb of Sng Pun Soo was also discovered in September 2013 in the family cluster. Mr Sng Pun Soo died at the age of 55 on July 21, 1948

Local Typewriting contest. (1913, July 16). The Straits Times, page 9
Mutual Improvement Association. (1922, January 4). The Singapore Free Press, page 12
Matters Chinese.(1925, September 11). The Singapore Free Press, page 3
Untitled.(1927, May 5). The Straits Times, page 8
Dr. Lim Boon Keng. (1933, November 20). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Mr Sng Thian Lye marriage to Miss Lim Hian Neo. (1936, January 5). The Straits Times, page 4
Deaths. (1941, May 13). The Straits Times, page 2
Advertisement. (1952, June 24). The Straits Times, page 2
Deaths. (1956, December 24). The Straits Times, page 6

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hammerhead worm (Bipalium rauchi) in Bukit Brown

In my many trips to Bukit Brown, i have seen many birds, butterflies, mammals and reptiles. In recent trips, i been noticing this unique looking worm. It's called the Hammerhead worm or slug (Bipalium kewense). [April 20, 20013, article afternote: i wrongly identified it based on expert comment from reader Pat, its actually Diversibipalium rauchi (synonym: Bipalium rauchi)].

The key take away i learnt from this is that a mature woodland place like Bukit Brown is able to support such native land planarians more commonly found in heavily forested areas.

At Hill 3 (on the path to Ong Sam Leong)
January 12, 2013

At Hill 4 Block A
April 14, 2013
Bukit Brown plays host to a rich habitat of flora and fauna and plays host to many forest and woodland
trees and wildlife. Birds, do see my post on birds. Reptiles that i seen so far include seen the spitting cobra, the resident clouded monitor lizard (varanus nebulosus) and the mammals i seen include the Lesser Dog-faced Fruit Bat also known as the Common Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis ) that roost at the bird nest ferns on the rain trees at the roundabout.
Clouded monitor up a Tembusu Tree

Clarification from reader Pat. (Many thanks for sharing and clarifying!)
The specimens (head: orange-white with black mid-stripe, body: multiple black & white lateral bands on dorsal side) as shown in your 2 photos appear to be Diversibipalium rauchi (Graff, 1898) (synonym: Bipalium rauchi) instead.

Diversibipalium rauchi is a terrestrial planarian (non-parasitic flatworm related to marine flatworms) that was first taxonomically described from Singapore in 1898 by Austrian zoologist Ludwig von Graff. Besides Peninsular Malaysia, this species is also periodically sighted in S'pore's forests. It's reported from Florida as well, probably introduced there via the horticultural trade.

Thanks for sharing your sightings at Bukit Brown. It shows that the mature woodland there is moist enough to support native land planarians.

Some photos for reference:
* Specimen from SG (budak - 17 Aug 07)
* Unknown Striped Flatworm from Singapore is probably Bipalium rauchi (What's That Bug - 27 Jul 08)
* Specimen from Venus Drive (S'pore Nature - 20 Nov 09)
* Another Photo (Terrestrial Planaria Flatworms)

Taxonomic info:
* WoRMS Database
* Turbellarian Taxonomic Database
* GBIF Database

Note that the much more cosmopolitan Bipalium kewense (Moseley, 1878) has a very different appearance. Head: pale brownish-purple; Body: 5 thin longitudinal brown dorsal stripes, 2 longitudinal ventral stripes. Natively distributed in Vietnam & Cambodia (& possibly extending to Peninsular Malaysia), this species has been widely introduced across the world, esp. after WWII.

Some photos & info for reference:
* Bipalium kewense (Terrestrial Planaria Flatworms)
* Land Planarians of Taiwan, 特有生物 7(2):23-40, 2005 -- photo (pg 29, fig. 1A), description (pg 31)
* Land Planarian Papers Published in the SHIBUKITSUBO (1998-2001) -- B = Bipalium kewense (Line drawing of dorsal & ventral stripes).

Hammerheard worm (Bipalium Kewense)
Reading more about it i found out it is neither worm nor slug but a flatworm. It belongs to a predatory species that feeds on earthworms. (not very good if you are a farmer). However it is also known to feed on snails and slugs as well.

This species is native to Southeast Asia and thrives on areas with high humidity and as a lot of rain. They are usually found in cool, dark, moist areas (sounds like some areas in Bukit Brown to me). It has however spread to many other countries via greenhouse pots and are deemed as an invasive species. The name ‘kewense’ is because of its discovery at Kew Gardens, London, in 1878.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teo Siok Guan (Bukit Brown)

Teo Siok Guan is a motor accessories and bicycle dealer and owner of Guan Hoe Co. (Malaya) located at 14 Hill Street. He was also the president of the Singapore Cycle and Motor Dealer's Union. When the Bank of Singapore opened in 1955 (Singapore's 27th Bank), Teo Siok Guan was one of its directors. Guan Hoe & Co was also well known as the sole agents in Singapore and Malaya for Suzuki Motorcycles in the 1960's.
Teo Siok Guan

Guan Hoe & Co , Hill Street. 

Guan Hoe (Ipoh)

Guan Hoe Co (Malaya)

Suzuki Motorcycles , 1961
(source: NewspaperSG)

Fairfield Girl School Building Fund (1952) Anti-Opium Society of Singapore (1935), Malayan Patrotic Fund (1939)

Teo Siok Guan, JP passed away at the age of 65 in the General Hospital on Monday, May 27, 1957 leaving behind his wife, 4 sons, Teo Chin Seng, Teo Choo Wah, Teo Choo Siong, Teo Choo Kiat, 2 daughter-in-laws, 9 daughters, 6 son-in-laws, Tan Kong Piat, Wee Aik Koon, Tan Seng Hock, Whang Tai Choon, Tan Eng Guan, Tan Keng Guan and several grandchildren. The cortege left the residence in No. 1 Still Road. 
The daughters listed are: Teo Siew Lian, Teo Siew Choo, Teo Poh Lian, Teo Poh Kiang, Teo Poh Hock, Teo Joo Ee, Teo Choo Kim, Teo Choo Siew, Teo Poh Ngoh.

Teo Siok Guan tomb in Bukit Brown
Teo Siok Guan 

Madam Ng Boon Huay
Madam Ng Boon Huay 

Wife: Ng Boon Huay 
His wife, Madam Ng Boon Huay died in April 1935 at the age of 39. She was interned in Bukit Brown on April 9, 1935
Ng Boon Huay
Wife: Tan Bee Luan
Madam Tan Bee Luan passed away on May 24, 1996 at the age of 87. She is survived by sons; Teo Chin Seng (wife: Lim Siew Cheng) , Teo Choo Wah (wife: Cheng Wei Liang) , Teo Choo Kiat (wife: Maurine Tsakok ) and daughters, Teo Siew Choo, Teo Poh Kiang, Teo Joo Ee, Teo Poh Hoon, Teo Choo Kim, Teo Choo Siew, Teo Poh Ngoh.
Madam Tan Bee Luan 

Sikh  guards guarding tomb of Mr and Mrs Teo Siok Guan 

Son: Teo Choo Wah
Teo Choo Wah (second son of Mr and Mrs Teo Siok Guan ) married Miss Cheng Wei Lian, niece of Mr and Mrs Cheng Hui Ming, M.B.E at Raffles Hotel on January 5, 1952. Teo Choo Wah is a director of Singapore Finance Ltd. He is also the director of 7 other companies. These are Teo Siok Guan Ltd, Guan Hoe Co. (Penang) Ltd, Guan Hoe Co. (Malaya) Ltd, Guan Hong Plantation Ltd, Oriental Manufacturing Ltd, Tai Cheong Trading Co Ltd, Tai Cheong Motor Co Ltd.

Son: Teo Choo Kiat 
Teo Choo Kiat went into the motor business after his father passed away and took it from there, expanding from Suzuki to Ducati. He was also the Treasurer of the Tung Ann District Guild.

Teo Choo Kiat and his wife Maurine Tsakok 
Son-in-law:  Tan Kong Piat
His son-in-law, Tan Kong Piat is the Chairman of the Singapore Finance Ltd. He also heads 5 other companies including Asia Industrial Development Ltd, Tan Kong Piat Ltd, Chung Nan Co Ltd and Ban Hua Lee Co Ltd. He is also a director of Bank of Singapore Ltd, Malaysia Finance Ltd and Guan Hong Plantation Ltd.
Tomb of Mr and Mrs Teo Siok Guan with fencing still intact

Advertisement. (1952, January 6 ). The Straits Times, page 10
They sell new cycles below price. (1952, March 13). The Singapore Free Press, page 5
New colony bank opens. (1955, October 2). The Straits Times, page 3
Deaths.(1957, May 31). The Straits Times, page 6
Directors head many banks and firms too. (1967, May 2). The Straits Times, page 15
Acknowledgements. (1996, May 29). The Straits Times, page 24
Company Profile. [Website] TSG Properties.
Looking for undervalued business. [Website]. Tung Ann 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lee Chim Teck (Bukit Brown)

Lee Chim Teck / Lee Chim Tek (1883-1927) was a director of the Nyalas Rubber Estates, Straits Monte Carlo Club and partner in Lim Chim Tek & Co. Share brokers (34, Winchester House/ 16 Collyer Quay).

1911, June 2 The Singapore Free Press
(source: NewspaperSG)
(source: NewspaperSG)

In 14th September 1925, it was reported that some chinese fishermen netted a huge shark. News spread an a large crowd gathered opposite the bungalow of Mr. Lee Chim Teck where it was lying. The shark was 9 feet 2 inches long and in girth was 5 feet 2 inches. 

Lim Chim Teck died on January 5, 1927 at 3:30 am at his residence in 81 Amoy Street at the age of 44 years old. The funeral of Mr Lim Chim Teck took place on Sunday, January 9, 1927 from 81 Amoy Street to Bukit Brown. His widow was Madam Chee Seok Goh. Madam Chee Seok Goh was the executor of the late Lim Chim Teck's estate. 

Lee Chim Teck (born June 1883)

Lee Chim Teck's tomb (2013)

Father: Mr Lee Keng Kiat (Lee Keng Keat)
Mr Lee Keng Kiat was the son of Mr Lee Quee Lim and was born in Malacca in 1851 and educated in St. Xavier's Institution, Penang. For many years, Lee Keng Kiat was associated with the firm Keng Yong Brothers and later joined Straits Steamship Co has its sub-manager until his retirement in 1911. Lee Keng Kiat had the honor of representing the Chinese merchant community in congratulating the Sultan of Johore on July 8, 1886 on the assumption of his title as Sultan, has been recognised by Queen Victoria. The address was read in English by Lee Keng Kiat and contained more than 150 signatures. In 1900, he was elected as a member of the Committee of the Straits Chinese British Association, the year of the associations formation. His intense patriotism was demonstrated in 1901, when at the ripe old age of 50, he enlisted as one of the original members of the Singapore Volunteer Infantry (Chinese Company). (S.V.C).
Lee Keng Kiat (father of Lee Chim Teck)
Lee Keng Kiat passed away on February 9, 1917 at the age of 6 at 81 Amoy Street, leaving behind 5 sons. Two of them, Lee Chim Tuan and Lee Chim Huk were still on the active list of the S.V.C. Lee Chim Teck was no longer active. Lee Keng Kiat was buried in the family burial ground in Serangoon Road.

His brothers are Lee Keng Yam, Lee Keng Yong, Lee Keng Liat and Lee Sek Long.

Uncle: Lee Keng Yam 
Lee Keng Yam was well known as the head of the Opium Farms since 1885. Before this, he was is Messrs. Kim Seng and Co. based in Shanghai for 13 years before moving to Singapore in 1885. He holds the Dutch farms license as well and 3 months before his death secured a 3 year license for the Hong Kong Opium Farm. He died in September 28, 1888 at his residence in Teluk Ayer Street at the age of 46 and buried in Malacca.

Brother: Lee Chim Tuan 
Lee Chim Tuan was the secretary, right-hand man and travelling companion of Mr and Mrs Lee Choon Guan. He has accompanied Mr and Mrs Lee Choon Guan, M.B.E in their many trips. He was also a Municipal Commissioner and Justice of Peace.

Daughter: Lee Joo Hin
The engagement is announced in February 1936 between Miss Lee Joo Hin (younger daughter of Mr. Lee Chim Teck and the late Mr. Lee Chim Teck) anf Mr. Tan Wee Kim (eldest son of Mrs. Tan Hong Beng and the late Mr. Tan Hong Beng). 

Location of tomb 
Lim Chim Teck's tomb is located in Hill 1 Division B, plot 348. If you compare the 2013 picture above and the recent one below, this area is now much clearer.  
Lim Chim Teck
Lim Chin Teck's tomb (2020)

[Article updated on 24.8.2020]

Nyalas Rubber Estates. (1915, August 16). The Straits Times, page 10
Social and Personal. (1917, February 12). The Straits Times, page 8
Deaths. (1927, January 5). The Straits Times, page 7
Colony Cavalcade. (1937, August 8). The Straits Times, page 2
Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pages 130, 206, 220, 221

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unesco Heritage site bid - Why not Bukit Brown too?

The Straits Times finally picked up on what has been buzzing on the social media platforms for sometime now, and who knows, maybe (just maybe) the journalist, Tan Dawn Wei may even have read my earlier article, Bukit Brown, a UNESCO World Heritage site, published on April 02, 2013 or Raymond Goh's article, The forgotten heritage at our own backyard, published on March 28, 2013 where we argued that Bukit Brown would have qualified easily as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Straits Times, April 14, 2013. 
Whatever it is, i am very pleased that there is some renewed interest now in the mainstream media and also more publicity on the need to urgently include Bukit Brown and other sites (for example Tiong Bahru ) into Singapore's tentative listing for submission for UNESCO World Heritage site other than Botanic Gardens. This urgency as we all know is due to the threat of  the 8 lane highway that could potentially change Bukit Brown's landscape forever since its inception as a public cemetery in 1922 and that will also defy one of UNESCO's key criterion, the protection of land around the site - a buffer zone.  The other criterion by UNESCO requires a hard re-look by the Singapore government on its current stand on Bukit Brown, that is to stop the highway and protect the land by local law.

The final showcase to UNESCO is to demonstrate how Bukit Brown, since is closure is still meaningful to the community today. That to me can be seen in two aspects (1) the cultural practices that is still maintained till today  (2) the educational value and national education potential of a nation in infancy.

I will not talk about educational value and nation building or national education potential in this article (that can be demonstrated elsewhere) but rather i take the opportunity to share with you some of the photos i took today at Bukit Brown, the very day when this article by Straits Times went out and hopeful provide pictorial evidence of how meaningful this place is still.

Observations: Rich and poor, it doesn't matter
Some of tombs may not be grand (rich) and some are even located at the pauper section of Bukit Brown, but it doesn't matter as i see many evidences of ancestral remembrance, their descendants in their offerings made today during this Qing Ming Period (tomb sweeping period or all souls day).
Simple, yet not forgotten

Not forgotten 

Not forgotten

Observations: Old with new practices
Qingming practices are passed on from one generation to the next with its origins dating back 2,500 years, but infused within this practices are the new traditions or beliefs. The essence of ancestral worship and filial piety or remembrance transcends time and religion. That being said, many overseas chinese maintain traditional practices long disappeared in China due to the rise of Communism and the cultural revolution wiping out many traditional practices.
Offering to the wondering spirits

Offering to the wondering spirits 

Offering for wondering baby spirits (note the milk and sweets)
Use of windmills infused into tomb remembrance
Traditional use of rice wine in offerings
(some have substituted this with dried chinese tea leaves)

Orange on top of headstone instead of traditionally
a stone

Observation: Intergenerational bonding
Bukit Brown remains relevant to both the old and the young, becoming a landscape where many intergenerational family connect with each other and although in a somewhat morbid setting for some (but peaceful in the naturalistic setting for others) where death is the common end that will eventually embrace all of us. We still find comfort that we are remembered, cared for and loved, thus giving the sense and hope of immortality. It is in this occasion where family stories of family history are often verbalised and passed down to the next generation that keeps us alive.

Young and old coming together

Bukit Brown becomes a bustling place

Everyone doing their part
This are photos that i took in just one morning. I am sure many families came visiting much earlier in the week before which are not reflected here or missed out. But what holds true is this tradition is still maintained till today and a testimony to the community rootedness to this place, many call home.

The article has a lovely write up of Tiong Bahru which today, launched a new heritage trail. I visited Tiong Bahru last month on my own without much knowledge of its heritage. Will try to catch up on a organised tour in the near future, which i read is planned for the first Saturday of the month starting from May.

Further readings:
Qing Ming at Bukit Brown. [website ]. Rojak Librarian, posted on April 6, 2012
Bukit Brown Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [website]. Rojak Librarian, posted on April 2, 2013
The forgotten heritage at our own backyard. [website].Bukit Brown Heritage Park, posted on March 28, 2013
New heritage trail launched at Tiong Bahru.[website]. Channel Newsasia, posted on April 14, 2013
Elegy for an urban graveyard. [website]. The Economist, posted on April 1, 2013
The Sunday Times: Unesco bid: How about Tiong Bahru, Bukit Brown. [website]. Tiong Bahru Estate, posted on April 14, 2013

Friday, April 05, 2013

Kung Tian Siong and family (Bukit Brown)

Kung Tian Siong and Siauw Mah Li 
Kung Tian Siong (T.S. Kung) was born in 1876 in Malacca. He later was educated in Anglo Chinese School in Singapore. T.S Kung was the managing proprietor of the Empire Cinema, manager of the Liberty Hall and director of Pontianak Gold Dredging Concessions, Limited. He was also the managing director of the Harima Hall, during which the manager was Tan Chong Chew.

The President of the Straits Chinese Recreational Club, he was also a committee member of the Chinese Swimming Club and secretary and manager of the Garden Club and a member of the Straits Chinese British Association. He was a staunch Christian and a preacher who preached in Geylang and Bedok Methodist Church.

Cinema magnate and preacher man 
Empire Cinema was open in 1916. It was located at the junction of South Bridge Road, Tanjong Pagar Road and Neil Road (opposite Kreta Ayer Police station). T.S. Kung sold of the theatre in March 19, 1928.  He also bought Harima Hall (located at North Bridge Road) from Mr. K. Harima in 1918. He was also the manager of Liberty Hall. 
Empire Cinema (Kung Tian Siong -left)
(source: Linda Lim's MGS school days)

Newspaper clippings
(source: NewspaperSG)
37 Emerald Hill
Mr. T.S. Kung stayed in 37 Emerald Hill before it was eventually occupied the Hon Dr Lim Boon Keng. Dr Wu Lien Teh (Ng Lian Tuck) also once stayed at the residence of T.S. Kung in Emerald Hill  in 1922 while on transit back to Peking (Beijing). 37 Emerald Hill also became the second site for the Singapore Chinese Girls School after it's original site in Hill Street (now Central Fire Station) was taken back by the government. Singapore Chinese Girls School was located at this premise from 1925 until 1994. The current premise is occupied by Chatsworth International School.
Straits Times, August 1921
(source: NewspaperSG)
37 Emerald Hill 
Mr. Kung Tian Siong (T.S. Kung) passed away in May 1958 and was buried in Bidadari Christian Cemetery.   

Wife 1 (married from 1898-1911): Madam Siauw Mah Li - First batch of Methodist Girl School (MGS) 
Siauw Mah Li (Seow Mah Lee) was from Medan, Sumatra. She was adopted at the age of six by Sophia Blackmore who in 1887 founded the Methodist Girls' School in Singapore. The story goes that Siauw Mah Li's mother died when she was an infant and her father, wanting her to have a proper education and to learn English, brought her to Miss Blackmore making her one of the first chinese girl to be educated and taught at MGS. Siauw Mah Lee was the first wife of  T.S Kung. Their children were Miss Kung Kim Neo, Miss Kung Gek Neo and Miss Kung Gin Neo. Siauw Mah Li died in Perak in 1936

Wife 2 (married from 1912-1926): Madam Lie Sio Nio (Nona) and 72th generation of Confucius Family  
After the divorce from Siauw Mah Li, T.S. Kung remarried Lie Sio Nio (Nona). She passed away after a long illness  in 1926 at the age of 48 at her residence in Ben Ledi, 55 Tanjong Katong. She left behind many landed property in Singapore and Java. She had several brothers and sisters in Java. The funeral was carried out in European style and covered with flowers. Several other cars had to be utilised to carry the wreaths. The procession consisted many cars extending nearly half a mile and arrangements for funeral done by Singapore Casket Co. On her tomb in Bukit Brown, it is inscribed that they are 72th generation of Confucius family inscribed on the headstone. 
Lie Sio Nio's hearse with wreaths
(source: NewspaperSG) 

T.S Kung with his daughters and son-in-laws
(source: NewspaperSG) 

Lie Sio Nio and the empty tomb of Kung Tian Siong

In memory of Lie Sio Nio 
Mother- Mrs Kung Chow Ching nee Ten Ah Kun Chow 
Mrs Kung Chow Ching passed away at the age of 83 on March 20, 1920 at her residence in 8-1, Palembang Road. She has two sons, Mr T.S. Kung and the late T.C. Kung. She is buried in Bidadari.

Brother - Kung Tian Cheng (T.C. Kung)
Kung Tian Cheng was born in Malacca in June 17, 1879 and was educated in Anglo-Chinese School, Singapore and later India. He became a junior clerk in Raffles Library in 1895. In 1900 he was the chief clerk and interpreter at the Chinese Protectorate in Penang. He came back to Singapore to be the chief clerk of Raffles Library, an active member of the Chinese Straits Association and contributor to the Straits Chinese Magazine. In 1910, he went to China and travel extensively. He became a managing editor of Republican Advocate (Shanghai) in 1912 and a year later editor of the Peking Daily News. It was during this time he became the translator for Yuan Shi Kai. In 1914, he became the chief librarian to the Presidential Library and a member of Yuan Shi Kai personal staff. He was about to start on Yuan Shi Kai's biography when he died in Peking on January 19, 1915. In his life, he was prolific writer and counts Dr Morrison, Professor Giles, Wu Ting Fan, W.W. Yen and Dr. Ho Kai.

His son, Kung Lock Hai married Miss Wong Yee Lin, daughter of Wong Ah Thiam, a prominent businessman.
[From left] Kim Neo, Gek Neo and Gin Neo at their residence
in 37 Emerald Hill (source: Linda Lim's MGS school days) 
Daughter: Miss Kung Kim Neo / Mrs Tan Hock San / Darling Kim Neo
Miss Kung Kim Neo married in 1922 at Wesley Church and reception was held at her father's residence in 37 Emerald Hill Road. Kung Kim Neo passed away on March 14, 1935. She is survived by her husband, one daughter, Happy Tan and 2 sons, Jolly Tan and Douglas Tan. She is buried in Bidadari Cemetery.

Daughter: Miss Kung Gek Neo / Mrs Ooi Chor Nooi / Edna Gek Neo
Kung Geok Neo married in 1926 to Mr Ooi Chor Nooi, (R.B. Nooi) a journalist based in Singapore and they had 4 children. In 1947, R.B Ooi put a petition to court for a dissolution of his marriage on grounds of bigamy, that she, after leaving Singapore for Penang in September 1942, met a Mr Cheah Guan Chye whom she married and registered that marriage in Ipoh. He also claimed $1,000 from Kung Geok Neo on grounds that the court case will have an affect on his reputaton as a journalist. A counter-petition was raised by Gek Neo that her husband committed adultery with 3 women and that he was cruel to her. She also claimed that if bigamy was committed at all, it was done with knowledge and blesssing of R.B. Nooi.

In a High Court case ruling the same year, Kung Gek Neo successfully divorced his husband on grounds of adultery. She was granted custody of the two children and Ooi ordered to pay the cost of proceedings.

She remained married to Cheah Guan Chye. Cheah Guan Chye was in 1948 training to be a engineer for the Malayan Airways in Singapore.

Daughter: Miss Kung Gin Neo / Mrs Lee Choon Ngee / Susie Gin Neo
Mrs Lee Choon Nghee (seated in the middle)
(source: NewspaperSG)
Mr Lee Choon Nghee was sportsman (swimmer, waterpolo) and a Captain in the Singapore Volunteer Corps. He retired in 1960 from teaching at Anglo Chinese Primary School in Coleman Street after 38 years of service and is remembered by his students as a tall, muscular and bespectacled person that cut an inspiring figure in his Captain's SVC uniform.

Their eldest son, Michael Lee Boon Peng married Edna Watson, daughter of Mr & Mrs. J.H. Watson at Doncaster, Yorkshire in May 19. 1956. He was a lecturer in the Department of Engineering in the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Their second son, Lionel Lee Boon Quee graduated from US in medicine and eventually became a brain surgeon. Their two daughters are Barbara and Dorothy. Barbara, a former school teacher was the first Singapore Chinese girl to make a name for herself in British films.
Barbara Lee
(source: NewspaperSG)

Erratum (July 29, 2013)
Linda Lim (great granddaughter of T.S Kung and Seow Mah Lee) corrected my mistake in assuming Seow Mah Lee and Lie Sio Nio were the same person. They were in fact different individuals. I sincerely apologise for my error in assumption and thank Linda for writing in.

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