Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Filial Piety - His Filial Piety Moves Heaven and Earth (Stories from the tiles)

This story was set in the childhood of Shun, a mythical Chinese ruler. Shun's mother died when he was young so his father remarried and had another son with Shun's stepmother. Shun remained filial to his father, respected his stepmother and loved his half brother even though they tried to kill him. His filial piety moved the gods so they protected him from harm and made the animals help him in his daily farming chores. (source: Wikipedia)

It was during the period of reign of Emperor Yao. Under his rule, its citizens of China were both obedient and harmonious. Yao, however, had grown old, and decided to request his military and his ministers to select a wise and worthy successor, so that he could hand down the duty of ruling all of China to him. The Emperor's advisors told him, "There is a devoted filial son at Li Mountain named Shun. Although his family does not get along, he still treats them with a proper attitude of respect and affection. His father, Gu Sou, is unreasonable, and harsh. His step-mother  abuses and scolds her son. Shun's step-brother, Xiang, is arrogant and lazy. The ministers told the Emperor, "When his family scolds or beats him, he doesn't bear a grudge or strike back. He simply runs out into the fields where no one can see him and cries to himself. You can find this boy plowing the fields every day, and doing the planting and weeding. His father and brother never lend a hand. Shun's devotion to filial respect does, however, inspire the heavens and the earth to respond. The elephants come down from the mountains to plow the furrows for this young man; in the Spring you can see them line up and use their tusks to dig the earth. In the Summer the crows and magpies flock down to pull up the weeds with their beaks. Hearing about Shun's filial conduct inspired Emperor Yao to dispatch nine of his sons to assist Shun with the farming work. He instructed his daughters, named E Huang and Nü Ying to serve Shun as his wives. The Emperor put the young man through years of training and testing, and when he felt satisfied with his capabilities, he bestowed the throne of Emperor on him, and retired from the duties of ruling China. Under Shun's guidance, the people of China prospered.

A verse in his honor says,

Elephants in file plow the fields in spring.
Little birds in flocks come weed the summer grass.
Following Emperor Yau, he took the Dragon Throne.
His filial conduct touched the hearts of creatures under heaven.

The tiles can be seen from the tomb of Yeo Cheng Whay who passed away at the age of 18 on 5th July 1938 in Bukit Brown. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Filial Piety - He Gave Up His Career to Search for His Mother (Stories from the tiles)

When Zhu Shouchang was 7 years old, his mother (his father's concubine) was driven away from home by his stepmother (his father's main wife). When he grew up, he became a government official and held office for years. He missed his mother and hoped to reunite with her, even though they had never seen each other for over 50 years. When Zhu Shouchang finally received clues of her whereabouts, he gave up his career, travelled far in search of her, and vowed never to give up until he found her. He was eventually reunited with his mother, who was already in her 70s then. (source: Wikipedia)

Zhu Shouchang gave up his career to find his mother

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Filial Piety - He Cried and the Bamboo Sprouted (Stories from the Tiles)

Meng Zong's father passed away when he was young  boy and so was taken care by his mother. Once, when his mother was ill, the physician prescribed that she drink soup made from fresh bamboo shoots. However, it was winter then and there were no fresh bamboo shoots growing. In desperation, Meng Zong went to the bamboo forest alone and cried. As he was hugging the bamboo poles, he heard a loud noise and saw bamboo shoots sprouting out of the ground around him. He was so happy and collected them, went home and made soup for his mother. She managed to recovered from her illness.(source: Wikipedia)

This tiles are seen from below the altar table of a tombstone in Loa Sua (Greater Bukit Brown).

Stone carving of the filial piety story of he cried and the bamboo sprouted 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Madam Chua Geok Neo (Bukit Brown)

Madam Chua Geok Neo, wife of the late Mr. Tan Teow Hee passed away on 11th December 1939 at the age of 73 at her residence, No. 45, Lorong 27A, Geylang. She is survived by 3 sons; Tan Kim Hock (alias Mabok), Tan Kim Joo and Tan Kim Peng, 1 daughter-in-law, 4 grandsons; Tan Chwee Kee, Tan Chwee Yong, Tan Chwee Chen, Tan Chwee Kim, 3 granddaughters; Tan Lin Tye, Tan Geok Cheng, Tan Kwee Lian.

Madam Chua Geok Neo

On her tomb, a nice memorial was inscribed on the side panel of the tomb which reads:
A bitter grief, a shock severe, 
to part with one we love so dear, 
our loss is great, we won't complain, 
but hope through God to meet again. 

Son: Tan Kim Joo
Tan Kim Joo (alias Tay Sah) passed away at the age of 43 on 17th June 1944 at Cameron Highlands. He was a former storekeeper for Sime Darby who residence was listed as No 45, Lorong 27A, Syonan (the same address as Madam Chua Geok Neo)

[research on-going]

Deaths. (1939, December 12). The Straits Times, page 2
Death. (1944, June 21). Syonan Shimbun, page 2

Chua Geok Neo spelt also as Chua Guek Neo
Tan Teow Hee spelt also as Tan Tiow Hee

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Raboenah Djambi (Bukit Brown)

Raboenah Djambi or Ragumah binte Eusofe was a Malay woman from Djambi who married a Chinese man with the surname of Lee and eventually settled down in Singapore and from that union they had 2 sons and 2 daughters. Raboenah  passed away at the age of 46 on 23th April 1926. In the burial registrar, Ragumah binte Eusofe was listed as a Malay who converted to Chinese. Her tomb is located at Hill 1 Division F, plot 27.

Raboenah Djambi

Raboenah Djambi age 46 years 

Malay converted into Chinese

Other tombs in Bukit Brown who are non-chinese include: MasiyahYamada OfuniWiesje De HaayNek Mina.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Tan Tiang San (Bukit Brown)

Tan Tiang San passed away at the age of 70 on 1st August 1922 at his residence in No. 18 Cuff Road. On the tomb are the names of his sons; Tan Hood Guan, Tan Hood Seng, Tan Hood Lee, Tan Hood Teck. The name of his grandsons are; Tan Chye Boon and Tan Chye Poh. In the papers, Tan Tiang San is survived by 4 sons and several grandchildren.

Tan Tiang San was one of the earliest burials in Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery with the first burial record tracing back to 5th April 1922. Tan Tiang San is buried in Hill 1 A, plot 51 (but later renumbered as 44). The tomb is decorated with beautiful art noveu floor tiles (Made in England by Corn Bros, C.1905/1906) and on the shoulder transfer printing tiles. Unfortunately, there is little information i can find about the man himself, but going through the name of his sons, the name Tan Hood Guan ring a bell and is linked based on the same period of time and it could be possible that Tan Hood Guan is likely the same person that is mentioned in Tan Tiang San tomb.

Rise and Fall of Tan Hood Guan 

A Straits born Chinese, Tan Hood Guan was well known in the horse racing fraternity as Mr. Hood and owns a stable of horses (Rockhill and Tease) which has won various trophies. Tan Hood Guan is a member of the Singapore Sporting Club, the Malay States Club, Chinese Weekly Entertainment Club. Tan Hood Guan was a pioneers who donated to the Singapore Chinese Girls School. Tan Hood Guan was a volunteer with the Chinese Company of the Straits Volunteer Infantry (S.V.I.)

In an interesting article in 30th June 1902, it describes The Straits Contingent arrival in Alexandra Palace Grounds. For the first time in England, there is a unit which consists of Chinese Volunteers, British Born Chinese from Singapore (British subjects of Singapore). Within this unit are Chinese Millionaires and parallel's was drawn with Roosevelt's Roughriders in the Spanish-American War. Among the members are Dr. Lim Boon Keng (member of the Singapore Legislative Council), Song Ong Siang (Barrister-at-law). Other members of this small unit includes Tan Boo Liat, Tan Kwee Wah and another wealthy Chinese, Tan Hood Guan. The complete list of The Chinese Co. S.V.I. were Sergt. Lim Boon Keng, Corpl. Song Ong Siang, Lance-Corpl. Chia Keng Chin and Ptes. Tan Chew Kim, Seah Cheng Joo, Cheong Choon Beng and Tan Kwee Wah, while Ptes. Tan Boo Liat and Tan Hood Guan also went at their own expense. Mr. Tan Hup Leong paid a second visit to London in the  role of a sight-seer. The story of their life in camp on Alexandra Palace grounds has been chronicled in the Straits Chinese Magazine (Vol. vi, p.123).

In January 1913, a warrant of arrest was issued for Tan Hood Guan (ex Chief Clerk of Standard Chartered Bank (Foreign Department), Singapore. His last known of residence was No 74-1 Prinsep Street. The charge was defraud and embezzlement of the bank of 3000 pounds. His assets were auctioned off on court orders but what eventually happened to Tan Hood Guan remains a mystery. 

Local and General. (1913, January 11). Weekly Sun, page 6 
Missing Bank Clerk. (1918, January 18). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Death. (1922, August 1).The Straits Times, page 8
Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press
Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources. Wright, Arnold. London, Durban, Colombo, Perth (W. A.), Singapore, Hongkong, and Shanghai: Lloyd's Greater Britain Publishing Company, Limited, 1908.Available online from Southeast Asia Visions. Cornell University Library.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Hua Tuo heals General Guan Yu (Stories from the Stones)

The carving from the tombstone below depicts the famous Chinese Physician Hua Tuo healing General Guan Yu, who was hit in the arm by a poisoned arrow during the Battle of Fancheng by using a knife to cut the flesh and scrape of the poison from the bone. Hua Tuo initially offered to anaesthetise Guan Yu, but he simply laughs and says that he is not afraid of pain. During this treatment, Guan Yu continues to play a game of weiqi with Ma Liang without flinching from pain. When Ma Liang asks him later, Guan Yu says that he feigned being unhurt to keep the morale of his troops high.

After Hua Tuo's successful operation, Guan Yu allegedly rewards him with a sumptuous banquet, and offers a gift of 100 ounces of gold, but Hua Tuo refuses, saying that a physician's duty is to heal patients and not to make profit. Although Hua Tuo historically died in 208, a decade before Guan Yu fought at the Battle of Fancheng, this story of him performing surgery on Guan Yu has become a popular artistic theme and one we can sometimes find in the carvings of tombstones in Bukit Brown or Greater Bukit Brown.

carving from the tombstone of Chua Soon Leong


1. Hua Teo, Wikipedia.
2. Carving from the tombstone of Chua Soon Leong