Bukit Brown

Introduction
Bukit Brown cemetery and Kopi Sua cemetery are in fact two different cemeteries, with Bukit Brown being the older, having been in use from 1872. It comprises of the Seh Ong(also called Tai Yuan Shan), Gan Eng Seng and Lau Sua Cemeteries. These cemeteries were used specifically by the Hokkiens. Bukit Brown cemetery would encompass the area from Lornie Rd, Kheam Hock Rd and Lorong Halwa.

The other cemetery, Kopi Sua, is also a Hokkien cemetery and was owned by the Hokkien Huay Kuan (a clan association or Kongsi). It now belongs to the government through the Land Acquisition Act. This cemetery stretches from Mt Pleasant Rd to the PIE with Onaret Rd running through it.

Using Google map
There are estimated to be about 100,000 graves in total in this area.

Bukit Brown got its named from a plantation owner, Mr George Henry Brown, a shipowner, trader who came to Singapore in the 1840's and prospered, bought the land that later became his namesake and made his residence nearby where Mount Pleasant is. His foray into nutmeg and coffee plantation did not seem to do well. He experienced other misfortunes such as the accidental drowning of his son and finally a machinery incident which resulted in the lost of his arm and after his death (he died was buried in Penang), his estate was eventually sold.

George Henry Brown with daughter
(photo courtesy of Joanna Prudence, great great grand
daughter of George Henry Brown  ) 

Grave of George Henry Brown in Protestant Cemetery in Penang
(photo courtesy of Joanna Prudence, great great grand
daughter of George Henry Brown  ) 
His estate changed hands and eventually was bought over by 3 "brothers" or clansman from the Ong clan - Ong Ewe Hai, Ong Chong Chew and Ong Kwee Ho, wealthy Hokkien businessman who originally plan for it to be a village where poor members from the Ong clan can take root and live. Some did, but eventually it became a cemetery for the Seh Ong Kongsi (or Hokkien clan association for people with the surname Ong).

To meet the growing demand for a burial ground for the growing Chinese communities (with more "sinkehs" or Chinese immigrants coming to this region) as well as to better coordinate the number of burial sites (as there was uncontrolled mushrooming of Chinese burial grounds all over), the colonial authorities working the Municipal Council acquired a portion of this land and it became a municipal cemetery for all in 1922, whether rich or poor. (hence there are sections called the Pauper sections). The final burial was in 1973.

Getting there and what to bring
By public transport, the nearest MRT stations are Toa Payoh, Bishan. (North/South Line) and Caldecott, Botanic Gardens (Circle Line). Buses that stop outside Lornie Road (Bus stop No B41149) include no. 52,74,93,157,165,852,855) . 157 goes to Toa Payoh Interchange while 53 goes to Bishan Interchange.


View Bukit Brown Cemetery in a larger map

If you are walking on the huge grounds, do remember to bring water, mosquito repellent and umbrella/poncho. The mosquito's there are vicious and it can get quite humid on certain days there so remember to hydrate ! If you intend to go of the tar road and do some grave spotting, a good pair of shoes and long pants are highly recommended as well.

Prominent Personalities and Singapore Pioneers buried here
A group of dedicated individuals have been grouping together to rediscover the graves there and most importantly share it with the rest of us. Groups that have been actively promoting the heritage of this place are the Singapore Heritage Society, Nature Society, Heritage Singapore Bukit Brown Facebook group and individuals such as Raymond & Charles Goh. What i am sharing here will not be possible without insights and leads from this group and individuals that sparked my own interest to research further.

Mr. Ang Choon Seng (1805-1852), Merchant & Commission Agent, Keng Teck Whay
Mr. Boey Chuan Poh (died 1926). Sole Proprietor of Union Times and owner of house, Bin Chan.
Mr. Cheang Hong Lim (1841-1893), J.P. Opium & Spirit Farmer, Property owner
Mr. Cheang Jim Chuan (died 1940), Property owner, son of Cheang Hong Lim
Mr. Cheang Jim Hean (1873-19010, Property owner, eldest son of Cheang Hong Lim
Mr. Cheang Jim Hoe (died 1935), Rubber Planter, son of Cheang Hong Lim
Cheong Choon Beng and family, Joint proprietor of Yap Whatt & Co
Cheong Choon Kim and family, Joint proprietor of Yap Whatt & Co
Mr. Cheong Koon Seng (1880- 1934), Well know Pioneer local autioneer
Mr. Chew Bah Kah and family (died 1960). Contractor
Mr. Chew Boon Lay (1852-1933), Merchant, Estate Owner, Ho Ho Biscuit
Mr. Chew Hock Seng (1883-1957), eldest son of Chew Boon Lay
Mr. Chew Geok Leong (died 1932), Chinese Physician
Mr. Chew Joo Chiat (died 1926), Plantation and Property owner
Mr. Chia Hock Chwee (died 1956), Fishing, father-in-law of Lim Chong Pang
Mr. Chia Ah Thia (1862- 1939), Plantation and Property owner
Chia Hood Theam and family, (1863-1938), Head Shroff of Merchantile Bank
Chia Keng Tye and family (died 1961), Campradore of Merchantile Bank
Mr.Chionh Ke Hu (died 1944) rubber merchant, Director of United Chinese Bank
Mrs Choa Giang Thye (died 1934) Commissioning agents for "Giang Bros"
Mr. Choa Eng Wan (1887-1954) manager of  Investment department of Lee Cheng Yan & Co.
Mr. Chua Boon Hin, (1910-1946), Lieutenant, 2nd Singapore Volunteer Corps Bn,
Mr. Chua Cheng Hock (1998-1951) Cycle and Carriage Company
Mr. Chua Swa Chwee  (died 1940) Fishing Merchant
Mr. Gan Eng Seng and family, Chief Campradore of Guthrie and Company, founder of school.
Gan Teong Tat (1878-1969), Merchant, Municipal Commissioner, Penang
Goh Hood Kee and family, Brother Rev. Goh Hood Keng and Goh Hood Kiat, O.B.E
Mr. Ho Siak Kuan (1865-1946), M.B.E., Chief Chinese Translator
Mr. Kho Keng Chuan (died 1930), partner in Barker and Keng Chuan
Mr. Khoo Kay Hian  (died 1966), Kay Hian and Co,
Mr. Khoo Phee Soon and family , Rice Merchant
Khoo Seok Wan and family, Poet, Social and Political Reformist.
Koh Hoon Teck and family, Cornwall Minstrels, Gunong Sayang Association, Bookshop owner
Koh Eng Watt and Yamada Ofuni , Justice of Peace Labuan and his Japanese wife
Koh San Hin and family, Rubber Merchant, President of Straits Chinese British Association
Kung Tian Siong and family, managing propertier of Empire Cinema, 72th generation of Confucious
Dr. Lee Choo Neo (1895-1947), First chinese female doctor
Mr. Lee Hoon Leong (died 1942), managing director of Heap Eng Moh,grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew
Mr Lee Kim Soo (1888-1933), Industrialist
Mr Lee Pek Hoon (died 1934), Shipping, Straits Steamship
Leong Seng Ngian and family
Mr. Low Kim Swee, (died 1941)United Engineers, Ronggeng Champion,
Mr. Low Nong Nong, Rickshaw Puller
Lim Boon Keng family cluster
Mr. Lim Cheng Tee (died 1932) Managing Proprietor of Singapore Dubashes Co.
Mr. Lim Chong Pang (1904-1956), J.P, Cinema Magnate
Mr Lim Kim Seng (1884-1965), M.B.E, J.P., Teochew Community leader, Banker,
Mr. Lim Loh (died 1929), Architect and Building Contractor, father of Lim Boh Seng.
Mr. Lim Teck Kim and family.(died 1938) Amusement park owner, Happy World
Lim Nee Soon tomb cluster , Pineapple King,
Ngo Yam Cheang and family (died 1929) employee of Sime Darby
Mr. Oei Bok Sien (1865-1931), Shipping
Mr, Ng Kah Ghee (1885-1941) Managing Director of chop Bee Huat, motor oil supplier
Mr Ong Boon Tat (1888-1941), Managing Director of New World, son of Ong Sam Leong
Mr. Ong Peng Hock (died 1968), Director of New World, son of Ong Sam Leong
Mr. Ong Sam Leong (1857-1918)
Mr. Ong Soon Tee (1871-1946)
Madam Oon Chim Neo, wife of Ong Boon Tat and mother of Ong Tiang Wee
Dr. Oon Sim Kong and family (died 1943), Doctor of Town Pharmacy
Oon Chin Soon and family, (died 1929), Chief Cashier of Messrs. Katz & Bros
Mr. Poh Chong Tee and family, President of Chinese Swimming Club
Mr. Quek Guan Kiat (died 1938), Golden Minstrels member
Mr. Tan Boo Liat (died 1934), grandson of Tan Kim Ching, great-grandson of Tan Tock Seng
Mr. Tan Bin Cheng (died 1922), son of Tan Swee Lim, grandson of Tan Tock Seng
Mr & Mrs Tan Cheng Siong
Mr. Tan Chor Lam (1884-1971) alias Tan Lian Chye, President of Tung Meng Hui, Singapore
Mr. Tan Ean Kiam (died 1943), Banker, Tung Meng Hui member
Mr. Tan Ean Teck (died 1944), Merchant, brother of Tan Ean Kiam
Mr. Tan Hap Leong (died 1926), Shipping, Merchant, Banker. First Straits Chinese to travel the world
Mr. Tan Huck Wan, War hero, Straits Settlement Volunteer Force, Singapore Volunteer Field Ambulance.
Mr. Tan Kheam Hock and family (1862-1922), Senior Municipal Commissioner, J.P.
Mr. Tan Khim Ching (1829-1892)
Mr. Tan Keong Saik and family, Merchant, Social Reformist and Community leader
Tan Kim Tian and family, Tan Kim Tian and Son Steamship Company, first local Chinese steamship owners
Mr. Tan Lian Boh (died 1926), son of Tan Tye and brother of Tan Lian Chye
Mr. Tan Seng Chong (died 1927), First Chinese to start an architectural firm
Mr. Tan Swee Hoe ( died 1939), Banker
Mr. Tan Swee Kee (died 1924), Banker
Mr. Tay Koh Yat (1880-1957) Bus Owner, Anti-Japanese hero
Mr. Teo Hoo Lye (1853-1933), Shipping
Mr. Teo Teow Peng (1882-1944),Director of Sze Hai Tong Bank and Ho Aik Steamship
Mr. Teo Siok Guan (died 1957), Motor accessories and bicycle dealer
Mr. Thioe Sio Kiat (died 1931)
Mr Tok Cheng Tuan (died 1927)
Mr. Yap Geok Song (died 1928)
Mr Yeo Bian Chuan (died 1929), hero who saved 17 lives during the "Singapore Mutiny"
Mr. See Boh Ih (died 1940?) Banker
Mr. Seow Eng Tin (died 1929) shareholder of Chinese Commercial Bank
Mr. See Tiong Wah and family (1886-1940)
Mr. Sun Si Ting (died 1944)
Mr. Wee Boon Teng (1864-1929) Majoor China, Selat Panjang
Mr. Wee Chim Yean,(1885-1926) Capitan China, Bengkalis
Mrs. Wee Leong Tan (died 1927) wife of the Kapitan China, Bengkalis (mother of Mr. Wee Chim Yean)
Wee Thiam Kee and family, Brother of famous millionaire hotelier
Wee Swee Teow and family, oldest Asian law firm in Singapore
Mr. Wong Chin Yoke (died 1943) War hero, recipient of King's Medal

Sikh Guards at Bukit Brown
Volunteer Soldiers buried in Bukit Brown- a journey of rediscovery

DIY Walking trail map 
Map of graves available from API website.
Map of graves available from National Archives
Bukit Brown tours and stories available from a.t. Bukit Brown

Map describing the Hills and Division
Articles on personalities buried in Hill 1
Articles on personalities buried in Hill 2
Articles on personalities buried in Hill 3
Articles on personalities buried in Hill 4
Articles on personalities buried in Hill 5

Unique Architecture
The tombs provide glimpse of the works of Artisans that made the tombs here unique to this region.
Sikh Guards of Bukit Brown
Art deco tomb of Lee Kim Soo 

Flora and Fauna
The area has remained untouched for more than 30 years, the last burial being in 1973, when this municipal cemetery was closed and no further burial allowed. Wildlife and trees were allowed to literally "go wild" and birds make a come back or use this area as a resting point or stepping stone to other green lungs around. The Nature Society, Singapore have been organising nature and birding walks here and it is through them where i first took note of this wonderful place.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, posted on May16, 2012
Nature Ramble with Dr Ho at Bukit Brown, posted on Feb 21, 2012
Birdwatching at Bukit Brown with Dr Ho Hua Chew, posted on Dec 4, 2011
Birding in Bukit Brown , posted on Oct 2, 2010
Birding with the experts, posted on Jan 17, 2011
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Sunbathing on the road, posted on July 19, 2011

Future and Fate of Bukit Brown
A slew of activities and public concern and outcry happened after LTA/URA announced that a road will be built and that it cuts across Bukit Brown in Sept, 2011. Heritage and nature lovers banded together to try to safe the last largest and oldest cemetery from development. The press coverage and forum letters for Bukit Brown was overwhelming as well, with more people taking note of the historical significance of this place and the many, many pioneers that contributed to initial nation building years were interned here.



A symposium jointly organised by the Singapore Heritage Society & NUS Southeast Asian Studies to highlight the plight of this place was held on Nov 19, 2011 and was well attended with the entire auditorium filled to capacity. I was one of the lucky few that managed to get seats and i learned a lot from it as well with insights and perspectives from Heritage, Nature and Anthropological experts. .





Of interesting note as well, National Archives as of end November, made available online the Burial Registers of the people buried at BB from 1922 -1972 (the time when it was a municipal cemetery open to public burials).For researchers and amateur historians, it opens up some primary data of the people buried there. In fact, while i was browsing the records, i myself discovered that there were Malays buried that during the Japanese occupation and from the remarks column, they were buried together in a common grave/trench.

Dating Jun-Aug 1943, i found records of 3 Malay person
 buried in BB at the same time.
Record 4674 & 4675 seem to indicate they are brothers too.

An ode to Bukit Brown, posted on January 2014
Sikh Guards at Bukit Brown, posted on Dec 11, 2011
Birdwatching with Dr Ho Hua Chew, posted on Dec 4, 2011
Goodbye Bukit Brown, posted on May 30, 2010
Reflection in Bukit Brown, posted on Oct 03, 2010
New road to cut through Bukit Brown, posted on Sept 18, 2011
Exhumations in Bukit Brown, posted on July 8, 2014

Further reading and resources on Bukit Brown
All things Bukit Brown, from a.t. Bukit Brown
Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery, from Singapore Infopedia
Bukit Brown Cemetery, Burial Grounds of Pioneers of Singapore
Heritage Singapore-Bukit Brown Cemetery, from Facebook Group
Asia Paranormal Investigators, from API website
http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19061215-1.2.89.aspx
<more write-up and links to come>

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