Bukit Brown Cemetery

Cemeteries hold much more then the remains of our dearly departed. I’m a history buff. Cemeteries cradle valuable historical information. I’m an art lover. I have often seen the most interesting sculpture and folk art in abandoned cemeteries. And I’m a writer. Above all, cemeteries hold stories, great and ordinary. A single memorial can give me a glimpse into generations of a family’s history. Tombstones don’t just mark where a body is buried; they mark love, fidelity, passion, tragedy.

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I spent an afternoon at Bukit Brown Cemetery, the final resting place of many of Singapore’s Chinese pioneers, earlier this week. I saw species of tropical birds and butterflies there that I have never before seen in my life. I touched graves adorned with colorful Peranakan tiles or marked with weathered, cameo-like photographs.

It was a haunting, eerie, serene, beautiful, contemplative, and lush experience. I don’t think there are enough adjectives in my vocabulary to convey to you how inspiring my afternoon there was. I can assure you that you will find me there again soon, if only to photograph the two statues of Sikh guards who stand faithfully over Qing Dynasty magistrate Chew Gek Leng’s tomb.

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On May 30, 2011, The Straits’ Times reported that this verdant, 213-acre piece of land will give way to a housing development sooner or later. Many Singaporeans are arguing for the preservation of Bukit Brown and sharing their memories on Facebook and elsewhere.

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(Additional credits: Distressed overlay frame via Pugly Pixel.)

6 responses

  1. Leaving me wishing for more! My grandfather is buried there, in Block III. I haven’t ever seen it. I discovered his burial in a notation written into the records, which I located in Salt Lake City in 1985 at the LDS Family History Library. Does anyone know someone who is planning another trip there? I’d like to “see” from photos, what his grave looks like. Probably nothing there. I have more info on burial site.

  2. @Ivea Mark, I will be returning in the next few weeks for sure. Please send me more information about the burial site and I’ll do my best to take pictures and send them to you. Who knew there was an LDS connection to Bukit Brown!

  3. Last year my department organised a trip with SPI and we visited the cemetary at Thomson/Lornie Road. Once we got past how creepy it was, it was super fun to learn about the history of the tombs and study their design. We also checked out the water tomb at MacRitchie reservoir. Cool post!