Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Soh Hong Soon and family (Bukit Brown)

Soh Hong Soon tomb is very interesting as it is a large tomb that is very close to the tar road but yet often missed and overgrown. The only article i found of Soh Hong Soon was an article that that states that Soh Hong Soon passed away at his residence, No 3 Stanley Street on 22 June 1928 at the ripe old age of 94. He is the father of Soh Peng Lim and grandfather of Soh Yew Guan. On the tomb itself it states that Soh Hong Soon is born on 27th May 1835 and passed away on 22 June 1928. Listed are the name of  1 son; Soh Peng Lim, 3 grandsons: Soh Yew Chin, Soh Yew Guan, Soh Yew Kiat, 1 grand-daughter; Soh Chit Choo, 3 great grandsons; Soh Giow Sian, Soh Giow Chuan, Soh Giow Poey. Unfortunately, i do not have much information at the moment about Soh Hong Soon. 

Soh Hong Soon 

Soh Hong Sonn tomb in Block 3 Division A
Beautiful decorative sculpture 
Son: Soh Peng Lim 
Soh Peng Lim was a Secretary of the United Singapore Rubber Estates, Ltd. The first general meeting of the company was held on 3rd January in its registered office at 10 Boat Quay. The chairman was Tan Chay Yan and its directors include notable personalities such as Tan Jiak Kim, Dr. Lim Boon Keng, Lee Choon Guan, Choa Giang Thye, Seah Eng Kiat,Yow Ngan Pan and Chan Kang Swi. The estates are in Serangoon and Seletar areas and the company property is 6368 acres with 1785 acres planted.

There was an article in 1956 where Mr Soh Yew Guan and family thanked the staff of Messrs. Rodyk and Davidson and relatives who sent wreaths and attended the funeral of Mrs Soh Peng Lim nee Madam Koh Sim Tian, age 91 on 24 September 1956

Grandson: Soh Yew Guan
I have yet to find out information on Soh Yew Guan but discovered instead more information on his children, Soh Giow Sian, Soh Giow Chuan, Soh Giow Poey and Soh Poey Lan.

Great-grandson: Soh Giow Sian 
The was a notice of engagement on 2nd March 1946 between Mr. Wille Soh Giow San (eldest son of Mr and Mrs Soh Yew Guan) and Miss Ruby Lim (only daughter of Mrs. Woo Ching Po)

Great-grandson: Soh Giow Poey
There was a notice of marriage on 26 September 1959, between Harold Soh Giow Poey (third son of Mr and Mrs Soh Yew Guan ) and Molley Pang Keng Leen (only daughter of Madam Tung Ah Woon and the late Mr. Pang Hwee Kok).

Obituary notice of Harold Soh Giow Poey

Great-grand daughter: Soh Poey Lan
Marriage was announced in 1948 between Joy Soh Poey Lan (only daughter of Mr and Mrs Soh Yew Guan and Mr. Robert Tan Keng Chuan ( second son of Tan Khoon Hong and the late Mrs. Tan Khoon Hong)

Singapore Rubber Estates. (1910, January 4). The Straits Times, page 7
The United Singapore Rubber Estates, Ltd. (1910, April 20). The Singapore Free Press, page 2
Deaths. (1928, June 22). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Singapore Chinese Wedding. (1948, March 31). Malayan Tribune, page 8
Advertisement. (1956, September 26). Singapore Standard, page 2

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Tan Sian Keong and family (Bukit Brown)

Tan Sian Keong (1881-1941) was associated with chop Keat Bee and Co. and was also a Director of the Oversea-Chinese Bank, Limited. Oversea-Chinese Bank (OCB) was formed in 1919, with a paid-up capital of $5.25 million and its Board included many well known Chinese leaders including Dr. Lim Boon Keng (Chairman when it was first established), Lim Nee Soon (Chairman for several years), S.Q.Wong, Au Keng Chong, Tan Ean Kiam, Dr. S.C. Yin, Chua Hong Jian, Oei Teck Seng, Liew Hong Seck, Oei Yok Kie, Khoo Kok Wah, Yap Geok Song and others. In 1932, the directors of the Oversea-Chinese Bank (est. 1919), Ho Hong Bank (est. 1917) and the Chinese Commercial Bank (est. 1912) went into talks with merger in mind to strengthen the bank in the aftermath of the Great Depression. These talks led to the formation of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), which was incorporated on 31 October 1932.
Tan Sian Keong and Seow Guan Neo

Oversea-Chinese Bank Board of Directors (1923)
Tan Peng Jin and Neo Yit Wah sprucing up the tomb of their grandparents 


Tan Sian Keong was listed as 61 years of age in the burial registrar when he passed away on 9 September 1941. He is buried in Block 3 Section A, plot 191A. Listed are the names of his wife, Seow Guan Neo and Lim Poh Toh, sons; Tan Hong Ghim, Tan Hong Piow, Tan Hong Teck, Tan Hong Koon, daughters; Tan Kheng Cheong, Tan Kheng Eng, Tan Kheng Tiew, grandsons;  Tan Peng Kian, Tan Peng Koon, Tan Peng Hin, Tan Peng Hui, granddaughter, Tan Hui Cheng.

Wife: Seow Guan Neo
From the oral accounts of Tan Sian Keong's grandson (Tan Peng Jin), Tan Sian Keong was born in China and came down to Singapore to build his career. His first wife, Seow Guan Neo was also born in China and had bounded feet. From the marriage of Tan Sian Keong and Seow Guan Neo, they had two boys; Tan Hong Ghim and Tan Hong Piow. From the marriage of Tan Sian Keong and his second wife, Lim Poh Toh they had two more boys; Tan Hong Teck and Tan Hong Koon and 3 daughters; Tan Kheng Cheong, Tan Kheng Eng, Tan Kheng Tiew. Tan Sian Keong was born on 20th June 1881  and passed away on 9th September 1941. His first wife, Seow Guan Neo was born on 27th March 1880 and passed away on 21st Jan 1940.

Wife: Lim Poh Toh (Madam Lim Toh Neo)
The tomb contains the name of Madam Lim Poh Toh but no date of birth and death. From the oral accounts of Tan Peng Jin, a grandson of Tan Sian Keong, her grandmother passed away after Bukit Brown was closed for burials. This is confirmed by an obituary notice i found stating Madam Lim Toh Neo alias Lim Poh Toh passed away at the age of 89 on 12 December 1978. She is survived by her sons: Tan Hong Teck and Tan Hong Koon; Daughters: Tan Kheng Cheong, Tan Kheng Eng and Tan Kheng Tiew, son-in-laws: Tay Eu Chee and Michael Yu Wen Peh; daughter-in-laws: Teo Choon Hwee, Maureen Lee and Doris Ko; 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. The cortege left from 354 River Valley Road for Mount Vernon Crematorium.

Son: Tan Hong Ghim
Tan Hong Ghim studied in Raffles Institution and started his career as a clerk in Overseas Chinese Bank in 1920 and 7 years later became its sub-accountant. When OCBC formed in 1932. he was the assistant secretary. Tan Hong Ghim was the branch manager for several new banks opened at various years including the branch manager of the Malacca Street Branch (1955). There was a notice of marriage between Mr. Tan Hong Ghim of the Overseas Chinese Bank Ltd (eldest son of Mr and Mrs. Tan Sian Keong of Keat Bee and Co. ) to Miss Teo Hee Luan (eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs. Teo Chong Siong of Teo Guan Kee and Co.) The marriage will take place at Goh Loo Club at No.70-1 Club Street on 23 March 1923.
Tan Hong Ghim 

Tan Hong Ghim receiving his British Citizenship papers (1951)

Son: Tan Hong Piow
I do not have much information on Tan Hong Piow. However there is an obituary notice of Madam Teo Peck Toh nee Teo Choon Hwee who passed away on 16 June 1999 at the age of 92. She is the husband of Tan Hong Piow (listed as deceased).
Mrs Tan Hong Piow

Son:  Tan Hong Teck 
Tan Hong Teck passed away at the age of 78 on 3rd February 1999. He is survived by his wife; Maureen Lee. The surviving siblings are listed in the obituary noticed below.
Tan Hong Teck 
Son: Tan Hong Koon
Tan Hong Koon passed away at the age of 87 on 4 Dec 2012. His wife, Doris Ko Suat Ghee has already passed on. They are survived by sons; Tan Peng Lam, Albert, Tan Peng Jin, Daughters; Tan Hui Kenh, Tan Hui San, Son-in-law; Ting Peter; Daughter-in-law; Ong Siaw Pua, Maria, Neo Yit Wah. The grandchildren names include; Tan Liang Ann, Nicholas, Tan Wei Ching, Pamela, Tain Wei Kuan, Dena, Tan Wei Qiang, Christopher; God-granddaughter; Sim Xin Hui, Angelyn.
Tan Hong Koon

Daughter: Tan Kheng Eng
Tan Kheng Eng passed away at the age of 89 on 22 August 2007. From the obituary notice one can map also the family tree.
Tan Kheng Eng

[Research on-going]

Domestic Occurrence. (1923, March 14). Malaya Tribune, page 6.
Announcement. (1923, March 13). The Straits Times, page 8
Branch Manager. (1955, June 24). Singapore Standard, page 10
Deaths. (1978, December 14). The Straits Times, page 26
Untitled. (2007. August 23). The Straits Times, page 39
Untitled. (2012. December 5). The Straits Times, page 16

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wee Seng Kiat and family (Bukit Brown)

Wee Seng Kiat passed away at the age of 53 on 8 June 1939. He is buried in Bukit Brown, Hill 4 Division C, plot 1142. The newspaper article states, Death of Well-know Chinese.  He was the sole proprietor of a liquor firm of Chop Chin Guan Hin, 277 South Bridge Road for over 40 years He was a familiar figure in city and count among a wide circle of friends amongst Europeans, Eurasians, Chinese, Indians and Ceylonese. He leaves behind a wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters. His last address was listed as No. 1 Kirk Terrace.

In an another article dated 12 June 1939, Mrs Wee Seng Kiat (Yeo Mary) , 2 sons (Wee Cheng Hai and Wee Cheng Chwee) and 2 daughters (Wee Poh Neo and Wee Koon Neo) and sister of the late Wee Seng Kiat (Wee Peck Neo) thanked those who attended the funeral. The names matched the names on the tomb shoulder, confirming that this is the tomb of Wee Seng Kiat.

Wee Seng Kiat

Beloved Hsuband Madame Yeo Mary, Sister: Wee Peck Eng
Sons: Wee Cheng Hai, Wee Cheng Chwee
Daughter: Wee Poh Neo , Wee ?

After Wee Seng Kiat's passing, there was an article by the official assignee that declared Wee Seng Kiat a bankrupt (probably arising to creditor loans ) and his assets of Chop Chin Guan Hin was put up for auction. It is from this sale, we can get a snap shot of the type and extend of liquor that were sold by his company which included Champagne, Brandy, Whiskey, Port Wine, Gin, Chinese Tonic, Beer, Stout and Samsu (Moonshine).


Son: Wee Cheng Hai
Engagement was announced between Wee Cheng Hai, eldest son of the late Mr. Wee Seng Kiat and Mrs. Wee Seng Kiat (Yeo Mary) and Miss Kwek Hoe Keow (3rd daughter of Mr. Kwek Noy Chia and the late Madam Tan Kim Kee.

Daughter: Wee Poh Neo.
Enagagement was announced between Mr. Yeo Chuan Chye, second son of the late Mr. and Mrs Yeo Tiong Chin and Miss Wee Poh Neo, the eldest daughter of Mrs Wee Seng Kiat (Madam Yeo Mary) and the late Mr. Wee Seng Kiat. Marriage to take place on Sunday, April 23, 2604 (1944).

Daughter: Wee Koon Neo
Engagement of Mr. Wee Beng Huat, only son of Madam Seet Seok Aik and the late Mr. Wee Sim Hoe to Miss Wee Koon Neo, the youngest daughter of Madam Mary Yeo and the late Wee Seng Kiat.

Death of Well-known Chinese. (1939, June 12). Malayan Tribune, page 13
Acknowledgements. (1939. June 12). The Straits Times, page 2
Domestic Occurrence. (1944, April 7). Synonan Shimbun, page 2
Engagement. (1950, July 12). The Singapore Free Press, page 12

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Singapore's Intangible Cultural Heritage

Singapore on February 22, 2018 became the 177th state to join the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Singapore thus part of network of countries promoting the safeguard of living traditions. Recent poll results list food as top of people's mind. No surprise to that and Singapore favorites include: Chicken Rice, Rojak and Chili Crab. Beyond food, the examples cited in Strait Times (11 March 2018), performing art forms such as dikir barat (Malay choral style) and religious customs and festivals such as Thaipusam and Qing Ming. Folk tales such as Sang Nila Utama and the legend of Bukit Merah were also cited.

Chinese Opera Artisan preparing in Ubin Island 

My list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Singapore 

If i were polled, this will be some that i hope will make the list of ICH for Singapore that the National Heritage Board and the Government of Singapore should take into serious consideration.

1. Baba and Nyonya identity and culture
Often described as the "Peranakan" culture, this culture is unique to this region with includes Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia with a community that is continuously seeking to preserve its identity, language, food and its customs and traditions and yet embracing the future by making it relevant to the community at large. The Baba Malay language, its food (e.g. ayam buah keluak, etc ) and its pantun ( singing of Baba Malay verses in poetic form) are prime examples.

The Nyonya Sarong kebaya and its modern adaptation is another example of keeping this art form alive and relevant in today's world (reference: Peranakan kebaya maker Raymond Wong: Passion for a dying art brings him world fame, Straits Times. 1 May 2017). and (reference: Defiantly, he weaves life into a dying Peranakan craft. Channel News Asia. 22 June 2016). which features Heath Yeo, a sarong kebaya maker.

2.Traditional Artisans supporting local customs and industry
There are many that can be suggested here and the potential for growth is in this area. I am not an expert in this area, but i was fortunate to have meet some traditional artisans whose trade has been surviving for many generations and supporting local customs and religious festivals. What i sometimes see also is the involvement of the younger generation of trade folks, acknowledging the need to adapt to changes but yet keeping the traditional methods alive. The suggested links below are not comprehensive, but meant to be a discussion and search point for more out there.
Effigy Artisan at Say Hong Tian Hng 
a) Effigy shop that make deities (e.g. Say Hong Tian Hng Buddha Shop)
Where gods are born (Say Hong Tian Hng Buddha Shop)
Godmakers - The Artisans and the Effigies (Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop)

b)Traditional lantern paper maker 
Yeo Hung Teo (traditional lantern painter)

c) Traditional Puppet or Marionette Troupe in Singapore
Traditional Chinese Puppet Troupe in Singapore

d) Chinese Opera in Singapore 
Faces behind the Chinese Opera (Pulau Ubin) - Part I
Faces behind the Chinese Opera (Pulau Ubin) - Part II

e) Rattan furniture artisans 
Rattan Furniture Industry in Singapore

3. Customs and festivals.
Again there are many to list and each community will come forward to list its merits. I will again focus on what i am familiar with.

a) Qing Ming practices in Bukit Brown and Ubin Island
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.
Qing Ming in Bukit Brown (2017)
Qing Ming in Bukit Brown (2016)
Qing Ming in Ubin Island (2016)

Qing Ming in Bukit Brown

b) Fire Dragon at Mun San Fook Tuck Chee 
The Mun San Fook Tuck Chee (萬山福德祠) or also known as  Sar Kong Temple is one of the oldest Cantonese temple in Singapore and one of its famous festivals involves a "Fire Dragon".
Chasing the Fire Dragon (Mun San Fook Tuck Chee)
My first temple dinner (Mun San Fook Tuck Chee)
Fire dragon greeting its visitors

What is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Extracted from the UNESCO website, this includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.  This elements include:
  • Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time: intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part.
  • Inclusive: It promotes and contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or different communities and to feel part of society at large;
  • Representative: It thrives on its basis in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities;
  •  Community-based: It is recognised as such by the communities that create, maintain and transmit it.

UNESCO Intangilbe Culture Heritage. (website).

Monday, March 05, 2018

Chan Yen Soon and family (Bukit Brown)

Chan Yen Soon was a cashier and bookkeeper for the legal firm Donaldson and Burkinshaw and has been in service in the company for 25 years. He passed away at his residence at No. 101 Tras Street on 18th October 1930 at the age of 45 after being of ill health in which he took leave 2 months ago from work to recuperate but things took a turn for the worst. Chan Yen Soon's late father, Chan Kim Boon was also a cashier and bookkeeper for Donaldson and Burkinshaw for 45 years and well know among the local Chinese Community for translation Chinese literature to Baba Malay. On the tomb, of Chan Yen Soon, the etching says it was erected by his loving wife, Kaw Kim Kee Neo and list the name of their sons; Chan Kah Siew, Chan Kah Hock, and daughter; Chan Gaik Tooi. He has a son-in-law by the name of William Lim.

Chan Yen Soon's tomb

The marriage between Chan Yen Soon and Kan Kim Kee was even reported in a 1909 Straits Times article - Chan Yen Soon (fourth son of Mr. Chan Kim Boon ) married Miss Kan Kim Kee ( daughter of Mr. Kan Teow Koh). The reception was held at No 9 Stanley Street, residence of Mr. Chan Kim Boon. Amongst the European guests at wedding were the Hon. H. Fort, Dr and Miss Galloway, Mr. C. Dunlop, Mr and Mrs. Knowles, Mr and Mrs. F.K. Jennnings, Miss Hennings, Messrs. Gilbert S. Carver, B.G.H. Johnson, H.Millard, C.G.Emerson and C.Everett.

His wife, Madam Kaw Kim Kee passed away on 15th July 1970 and the tomb list her children; son: Chan Kah Siew, Chan Kah Hock; daughter; Chan Gaik Tooi; daughter-in-law's: Yeo Kim Sian, Mytrle Chan; grandsons; Chan Peng Ann, Chan Peng Chye; granddaughters; Annie Chan, Alice Chan and Elizabeth Chan.

Madam Kaw Kim Kee and Chan Yen Soon 

Kaw Kim Kee marble pate

The tomb is located at Block 3 Division B, plot 302, 325. Chen Yen Soon's brother, Chan Yen Pai is also buried in Bukit Brown. 

Father: Chan Kim Boon (1851-1920)
Chan Kim Boon is the son of Chan Yong Chuan, a trader of Padang, Sumatra. Chan Kim Boon was born  in Penang in 1851 and educated at the Free School, Penang. He then went to China and studied at Foochow Naval School with specialisation in Military tactics. Due to his weak constitution, he declined a role as an army officer but instead became an assistant tutor in mathematics. Amongst his pupils was Admiral Sah, the late Admiral Yin and the late Sir Chin-chen Lo Feng-luh (onc a Chinese Minister in London, whose elder daughter became the first wife of Lieut. Tan Soo Bin.

Chan Kim Boon left China after a prediction by a fortune teller that he would live to see his 25th birthday and in January 1872, he returned to Penang to visit his widowed mother. In March 1872 he arrived Singapore and joined the legal firm of Aitken & Rodyk (subsequently Aitken & Co and now Donalidson & Burkinsaw as book-keeper and cashier.  He made good use of his knowledge of Chinese by translating into Romanised Malay during his free time the Sam-kok (History of the Three Kingdoms) and numerous Chinese stories.
Chan Kim Boon

Sam Kok 

Chan publication of "Sam Kok" was important especially to the local Chinese community as well as for Malay literature as a whole, because it was a massive translation work over 30 volumes. Chan was known by his pen-name Batu Gantong. The Baba Malay version of this classic was published in Singapore – making this accessible to the Straits-born Chinese community. He had the help of two other people, Chia Ann Siang and Tan Kheam Hock.

Chan Kim Boon passed away on 7 April 1920 at 11 pm due to acute broncho asthma at the age of 70. His remains were taken from his house at No 9 Stanley Road and shipped back to Penang in accordance to his wishes to be buried in Bukit Gantong Cemetery.

source: NewspaperSG

Fashionable Chinese Wedding. Chan Yen Soon-Kan Kim Kee. (1906, May 5). The Straits Times, page 5
Deaths. (1920, April 8). The Straits Times, page 6
Announcement. (1920, April 17). The Straits Times, page 8
Death of Mr Chan Yen Soon. Family long association with legal firm.(1930, October 21). The Straits Times, page 12