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