Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chia Ong Cheng (Lao Sua)

Chia Ong Cheng's (1864- 1908) tomb lies close to the Bukit Brown marker (that marks the original Bukit Brown Hill in the old survey map of 1898 - Map of the Islands of Singapore and its dependencies). Today we colloquially call this place as Lao Sua. Mr. Chia Ong Cheng's tomb was once covered partially by a fallen tree but now is cleared. What is clearly visible is on the tomb shoulder in English, "In Memory of Chia Ong Cheng, born Aug 12, 1864 , died Oct 3, 1908". Chia Ong Cheng was 44 years old when he passed away.

Tomb of Chia Ong Cheng in Lao Sua

In a newspaper article titled Government Scholarships dated 1883, i get an important insight that Chia Ong Cheng (he would have been 19 years of age then) was a Raffles Institution student that topped the list for the Government English Scholarships 1882. However beyond that, i don't any information at the moment what happened beyond his school years. That been said, from old articles we know that Chia Ong Cheng had enough wealth to purchase property in No 326 Serangoon Road (97,000 sq ft freehold) and No 7 Upper Wilkie Road (9,960 sq ft freehold). After Chia Ong Cheng passed away there was an auction of his jewellery and possessions.

Chia Ong Cheng of Raffles Institution(source: NewspaperSG)

Auction Sales (source: NewspaperSG)

Property Sales (source: NewspaperSG)

Property Sales (source: NewspaperSG)

Material Culture (Stone carvings and inscriptions)

Bat (fu 蝠)
On the headstone of Mr. Chia Ong Cheng's tomb are 5 bats and bats are deemed to be a symbol of happiness and. The Chinese for bat (fu 蝠) sounds identical to the word for good fortune(fu 福). Five bats together represent the ‘Five Blessings’ (wufu 五福): long life, wealth, health, virtuousness and a wish for peaceful death.

Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿)
On the central panel of the altar table are the carving of Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿). They represent the three values of good fortune, prosperity and longevity, represented by the three characters in the panel. Fu/Fortune refers to blessings that include health, heirs, or virtues while Lu/Prosperity goes beyond material wealth, and is reflected in "wealth" in intellect, influence and social status. Shou/Longevity of course is for the blessing of long life. 


Raffles Institution. (1883, February 5). The Straits Times Weekly, page 5
Land Sale. (1902. October 29). The Straits Times, page 4
Property Sales. (1902. October 30). The Singapore Free Press, page 3
Chinese Symbols. British Museum (Accessible Online as pdf)
Wufu. Wikipedia (Accessible Online)

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