Monday, July 29, 2013

George Town Penang Festival 2013

2013 marks the 5th Anniversary of George Town as a World Heritage site and this year's theme was Colour, Culture, Tradition. The heritage celebrations is an annual affair and has been gaining traction from people near and far.

This is the second time i came down to Penang on the 6 and 7th July  to enjoy the festivities. See my previous post last year July. There are many activities this year as well with some guided walks requiring prior registration. I am not able to attend all but i did manage to catch performances such as the:

  • Teochew Rod Puppet Show
  • Taiwanese Glove Puppet (Po-Te-Hi)
  • Wayang Gedek 
  • Peranakan Hokkien Rhymes
  • Menora Siam Malaysia
  • Hong Teik Lion Dance Troupe
  • Meng Eng Soo Open Day
  • Indian Muslim Music & Nasi Kandar FoodFestival
  • Teochew Food at Penang Teochew Association
Below are some the pictures i took at the various events and festivities.

Teochew Rod Puppet Show 

Menora Siam Malaysia 

Eurasian Troupe 

Peranakan Hokkien Rhymes
Wayang Gedek 

Night Festivities 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book reading at Ong Sam Leong's tomb (Bukit Brown)

A first for Bukit Brown this rainy morning is a book reading that took place at the tomb of Mr and Mrs. Ong Sam Leong. Mr John Hunt, author of the book, "Suffering through Strength - The Men Who Made Christmas Island", sportingly joined the Bukit Brown tours (on invitation by the Brownies and Singapore Heritage Society) this morning and the author shared his insights on Ong Sam Leong and his sons Ong Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock contributions and impact to Christmas Island. Also, present this morning were over 50 participants from all walks of life, both young and old.
The view from Ong Sam Leong and today's crowd 
I had the opportunity to learn more about Mr. Ong Sam Leong and hear from the author himself, on how in 1899, Ong Sam Leong was engaged by the Christmas Island Phosphate Company to provide supply coolies (labourers) from Southern China to work in this mines and was paid a monthly sum based on the how much phosphate was mined by this coolies. This coolies recruited by Ong Sam Leong were made to signed a IOU of sorts amounting to $20 Straits dollars to Ong Sam Leong and Co for the shipping travel cost to Christmas Island and paid back slowly through the wages they earned mining for his company. Ong Sam Leong provided food, a general store, gambling, prostitution and opium dens to this workers, with some of this vices leading to greater debt or increasing their stint has a worker in the company for an additional year or more !
John Hunt at Ong Sam Leong's tomb. Over 50 people came
down to Bukit Brown for the tour despite the rain
In the first 5 years of mining (1899 - 1904), just over 2400 workers were hired. Fed with only basic boiled rice and salted fish and coupled poor health care, 614 workers died from beri-beri, mining accidents, suicide or murder, a ratio of 1 out of 4. Conditions improved after worker unrest of 1919 with improvements made into the management of the workers by the company. The story of Christmas Island is not just about Ong Sam Leong but also of the coolies who dream of making it big in a foreign land and of the trials and tribulation they faced in the development of Christmas Island. This was, their story.

After the book reading at Ong Sam Leong's tomb, i had the honor of guiding John and his wife in Bukit Brown.
John Hunt  in his suit and tie with a picture
of Ong Sam Leong projected on screen  
In the afternoon, i attended John Hunt's talk jointly organised by Select Books and Singapore Heritage Society at Select Books premise in No 51, Armenian Street and took this opportunity to purchase a copy of the book, Suffering through Strength - The Men Who Made Christmas Island and also got the author to sign my copy.

Limited copies of the book are still available at Select Books at a retail price of SGD$49.22

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Statues covered by roots of trees (Bukit Brown)

You do not necessary need to leave your backyard to see the iconic statues covered by roots of trees like the ones you see in Ta Phrom of Angkor, Sieam Reap or Ayutthaya, Thailand. Just head down to Bukit Brown and with some sharp eyes you can find it here too !
Jade Maiden

Golden Boy 

Sikh Guard
A tomb engulfed by a fig tree

A Jade maiden smiling behind the follage

A lion caught up by vines

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kwa Soon Hock (Bukit Brown)

Kwa Soon Hock is the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Kwa Siew Tee. He was a staff of the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation, Ltd. He was studying for the Institute of Bankers, London and Passed Part I of the exam in 1935.He was an avid photographer and participated in the first of its kind "Overseas Chinese Photographic Exhibition" organised by Overseas Chinese in Malaya in 1935.
Tomb of Kwa Soon Hock
He passed away at No 236 Pasir Panjang Road on July 28, 1936.
Picture taken by avid photograher: Kwa Soon Hock
(source: NewspaperSG)
Parents (Mr. Kwa Siew Tee and Madam Wee Yew Neo)
His father is Kwa Siew Tee, a Java-born Chinese and mother, Wee Yew Neo (daughter of Wee Theam Seng), a Straits-born Chinese. Kwa Siew Tee was a Municipal Commissioner. He was also the General Manager of Overseas Chinese Bank Corporation Limited, Assistant General Manager of The Eastern United Assurance Corporation, Limited and a Member of the Hospital Board. He received a Certificate of Honour (1951).
Group photo of the founding of Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation in 1932
Kwa Siew Tee is standing behind.  (source: a2o)
Madam Wee Yew Neo passed away on May 14, 1980. She is survived by 3 sons; Kwa Soon Siew, Kwa Soon Chuan, Kwa Soon Bee ; 4 daughters; Kwa Geok Neo, Kwa Geok Lan, Kwa Geok Choo, Kwa Geok Eng.

Brother: Kwa Soon Chuan
Mr Kwa Soon Chuan, fourth son of Mr Kwa Siew Tee in 1949 got engaged with Ivy Lim Seok Cheng (second daughter of Mr Lim Chong Pang). Kwa Soo Chuan retired after 26 years of government service at the age of 55 in 1977. He was educated in Anglo-Chinese School and Raffles College. He was the first local appointed to the then Colonial Administration in 1950. He went through many posting including the Land Office, acting collector of Land Revenue, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Permanent Secretary (Labour) and finally Permanent Secretary (Culture).


Sister: Kwa Geok Lan (Mrs Yong Nyak Lin )
Miss Kwa Geok Lan married Mr. Yong Nyak Lin (son of Mr Yong Tian Yong and late Mrs Yong Tian Yong in September 1939.
MissKwa Geok Lan and Mr Yong Nyak Lai
Sister: Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew)
Miss Kwa Geok Choo is the third daughter of Mr and Mrs Kwa Geok Choo. She married Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the eldest son of Mr. Lee Chin Koon in 1950. Madam Kwa Geok Choo graduated from Raffles College in 1947 with first class honors in Arts Diploma and was awarded the Queen's scholarship. She later passed her professional bar at Cambridge in 1950. Both Kwa Geok Choo and Lee Kuan Yew made legal history for being the first husband and wife team to be admitted to Singapore's colony bar.
Miss Kwa Geok Choo and Mr Lee Kuan Yew

References
Photographic Show. (1935, February 28). The Singapore Free Press
Untitled. (1935, March 28).The Straits Times
Domestic Occurrences. (1936, July 28). The Straits Times
The Lee's make legal history. (1951, August 8). The Straits Times
Soo Chuan to retire after 26 years. (1977, January 5). The Straits Times
Untitled. (1980, May 15). The Straits Times

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Naturalist Guide to The Birds of Singapore (Book launch)

Birds of Singapore 
I found time to head down to Kinokuniya today at 2 pm to witness and support the launching of a bird book with an updated list and photos of 280 birds seen in Singapore. The book authors, Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Kee were present in the launch, book signing cum mini exhibition ceremony. Also present in the book launch were members of the birding community, Nature Society Singapore members and nature enthusiast.

Lim Kim Chuah (In yellow polo), Yong Di Li (standing)
Lee Tiah Kee (in red t-shirt) 

Beauty bird pictures in the book launch 
It was also heartening to see parents bringing their young ones and getting them interested in reading (or browsing the beauty pictures) of nature.

Young nature enthusiast in the making
As for me, it was good to support and cultivate the interest of nature loving, as birdwatching has always been my first love. I went away with my own signed copy.
Signed copy by the authors
Happening this two days are also the Festival of Biodiversity,with exhibitions and programmes happening today (13 July) and tomorrow (14 July) in Vivocity. I read in the papers today an app was made available in conjunction with this festival that help to identify snakes in Singapore. I so far see it on itunes only. (i could be wrong). 




Friday, July 12, 2013

Chew Joo Chiat (Bukit Brown)

Chew Joo Chiat

Chew Joo Chiat, (周如切 ) a hokkien from Amoy, came to Singapore as a penniless boy, but through a mixture of sheer hard work, business acumen and marriage to a peranakan family, he went on to be a plantation owner of coconuts and rubber in the area called Confederate Estate where Joo Chiat is and expanded to be property tycoon leaving behind properties and houses (mostly) in the East Coast District of Joo Chiat estimated to be worth a million dollars in 1926 and it another article dated 1930, 4 million dollars.

What started with plantation grew into streets with buildings. The streets were named after him as when the colonial government wanted to build roads expanding to the east, Chew Joo Chiat gave it away without seeking compensation. It is believed that his business acumen came to play, predicting that with government building roads and infrastructure, he could make even more money renting or selling houses in this area as well as to transport his copra and rubber easier. Indeed a shrewed man and aptly nicknamed as the "King of Katong".

Death
Chew Joo Chiat passed away at the age of 69 on February, 5, 1926 at the family residence in 246 Joo Chiat Road. He left behind two sons, Chew Cheng Yam (Chew Cheng Liam)  and Chew Cheng Swee.


source: NewspaperSG

Wife: Name unknown, from China. 
First wife of Chew Joo Chiat. Sons are Chew Cheng Yam (Chew Cheng Liam)  and Chew Cheng Swee and 2 daughters, Chew Xian Neo 周羡娘 and Chew Su Lan 周素蘭 .

Wife: Tan Quan Neo (Tan Kwan Neo / Tan Guan Neo)
Tan Guan Neo was a Peranakan and was the second wife of Chew Joo Chiat. When Chew Joo Chiat left China and came over to Singapore, he married Tan Quan Neo. Their daughter is Chew Quee Neo.

Tan Quan Neo passed away at the age of 59 on April 19, 1927.
Tan Quan Neo (before and after)
Tan Quan Neo (Mrs. Chew Joo Chiat)
Son: Chew Cheng Yam /Chew Cheng Liam  ( 周清廉 )
Mrs Chew Cheng Liam (nee Yap Kin Neo) passed away at the age of 81 on May 28, 1962. She was the first daughter-in-law of the late Chew Joo Chiat. She left behind 2 sons, Chew Ann Siong, Chew Ann Hoo and 2 daughters, Chew Poon Neo and Chew Hian Neo.

Chew Poon Neo (left) with Lee Kuan Yew (1963)
Chew Poon Neo is the grand daughter of Chew Joo Chiat
(source: a2o)

Son: Chew Cheng Swee (周请水)
In a court case, stretching from 1930-1932, Chew Cheng Swee put a defence plea to court that he was heavily indebted (due to unpaid promissory notes worth $82,000) was the reason he was unable to pay his second wife, Madam Chan Chye Neo and children the $150 monthly maintenance. It was also mentioned that Chew Cheng Swee bought a third wife for $600 after an accident to Madam Chan that led to her left hand being crippled. The court ruled for the complainant, Madam Chan and ask the defendant, Mr Chew Cheng Swee to pay the $450 maintenance in arrears.

Daughter: Chew Quee Neo (Mrs Lee Tian Seck) 周桂娘
Madam Chew Quee Neo ( listed in the papers as the only daughter of Chew Joo Chiat and nickname the Grand old lady of Joo Chiat) is the wife of Mr Lee Tian Seck (campradore of Batu Pahat Bank). She passed away at the age of 71 years old on December 12, 1962. 

She played an important role in 1960 by being one of the principal donor in the Buddhist Temple, Mangala Vihara (Shrine of Blessing) Temple in No 38 Jalan Eunos.

Chew Quee Neo (source: NewspaperSG)

Reference
Deaths. (1926, February 8). The Straits Times, page 8
Untitled. (1926, February 11). The Straits Times, page 8
Advertisements. (1929, January 22). The Straits Times, page 13
Advertisements. (1929, May 17). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Second wife to be paid $450. (1932, August 5). The Straits Times, page 12
Madam Chew made a vow to build a temple home for the dead...and does it. (1960, May 13). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Death. (1962, May 30). The Straits Times, page 10
"Grand old lady dies". (1962, December 12). The Straits Times, page 13
Micellanous.(1984, July 25). Singapore Monitor, page 20

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jewish Cemetery (Penang)

As i was walking back after having a good lunch in Macalister Road, i stumbled upon a rod iron gate that was inscribed with the words Jewish Cemetery. Penang is well known for its food and heritage, but i have not heard before of its Jewish community let alone cemetery. Curious, I walked towards the gate and was greeted by a friendly Indian lady who spoke fluent Hokkien. Chatting with her, i found out she was a third generation caretaker who lived within the cemetery compounds with her children and grandchildren. She invited me in for a quick tour and of course i obliged. I tipped her at the end of the tour, for her time and patience in showing me around and sharing with me the stories of some of the Jews buried here.
Entrance to Jewish Cemetery

Back in Singapore, i learned further that the Penang Jewish Cemetery was established in 1805 and is believed to be the oldest single Jewish cemetery in Asia. It forms a 38,087 square foot cleaver shaped plot of land situated alongside Jalan Zainal Abidin which was formerly known as Jahudi or Jewish Road, in the heart of Georgetown, Penang. There are approximately 107 graves located in the cemetery, with the most recent tombstone dated 2011. It is the only cemetery established solely for the once small and thriving Jewish community in Peninsular Malaysia, although there may be a few Jewish graves in other non-Jewish cemeteries.  The cemetery is still managed by a board of trustees that was established and registered in 1885.
Oldest Jewish tomb - Mrs Shoshan Levi
The oldest Jewish tombstone in the Jewish Cemetery dates back to July 9, 1835 and is said to belong to  Mrs. Shoshan Levi, an English woman of Jewish faith who donated the land where the current cemetery stands.
Reserved site for Cohens and Levis
The graves of the Cohens and Levis are located separately from the main group of graves on one corner of the cemetery and it includes the grave of an English Lieutenant killed during World War II,  Second Lieutenant Eliaho Hayeem Victor Cohen, 2/9 Jat Regiment , born November 29, 1918 -died October 10, 1941, the son of Sassoon Jacob and Seemah Cohen, of Calcutta, India.
Second Lieutenant Eliaho Hayeem Victor Cohen
Commonwealth War Grave Commission
Isaac Abraham Cohen 

History of the Jewish community in Penang

The Jews were said to have visited and traded with the Hindu influenced satellite ports located in the riverbanks of  the Bujang Valley, Kedah as early as the 9th Century and 18th Century in emporium of the east, Malacca. The rise in large number of arrival of the Penang Jewish community, happened in the 19th century with large number of  Baghdadi Jews (Persian Jews who escaped persecution by settling first in India before expanding to Malaya and Singapore ) set foot on its shores to explore the trade opportunities.
World War II was the marking point of the decline of the Jewish Community with many fleeing to Singapore and either settling there or eventually homes in Australia or Israel. The Jewish Welfare Board of Singapore recorded that by 1963, only 20 Jewish families remained in Malaya. The Jewish community only synagogue at Nagore Road closed its doors in 1976 due to a lack of quorum.

Tomb Design

I noticed clean pebbles being placed in front of some of the tombstones. I read that it symbolises remembrance of the deceased and that they are not forgotten. Most of the graves take the design of a triangular vaulted-lid casket, resembling what is term as ossuaries commonly found in Israel.


Tomb of infants and children 

The last Jew in Penang and hope for it's future

The last resident Penang Jew
The last known remaining Jew in Penang passed away at the age of 90. His name was David Mordecai, the former general manager for the E&O Hotel. What is the future for the Jewish Cemetery?  Hopefully with Georgetown gaining UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008, some level of protection and conservation will be granted to this place.

Rest in Peace

Reference

Casulty Details. [website] War Grave Commission
Penang Jewish Cemetery. [website] Penang Jewish Cemetery Trust

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Parliamentary Question by Ms. Janice Koh (Bukit Brown)

It has come to my attention that Nominated Member of Parliament, Ms Janice Koh has tabled in Twelfth Parliament Sitting (First Session), Order Paper at the House today, 9 Jul 13, 1.30 pm , under Questions for Oral Answers.

Reference:
Question No 40 : Ms Janice Koh: To ask the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth
(a) whether the Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery meets the "Outstanding Universal Values" criteria to qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage site;
(b) whether the Government will conduct a study to ascertain if the Bukit Brown cemetery meets these criteria; and
(c) whether the Government will consider gazetting a portion of the Bukit Brown cemetery that is not designated for future residential development.

*Members may postpone their Questions to a later sitting day if their Questions are not reached by the end of Question Time. The postponement forms are available at the Chamber entrances and Members’ Room. To ensure timely notice of such postponements, Members should submit their notices to the Clerk by the end of Question Time. Questions will be given a written answer if no such notices are received by the Clerk.

Facebook post by NMP Janice Koh 
Screencap of article from NMP Ms Janice Koh

A friend alerted me that on NMP Ms. Janice Koh facebook page today, she shared and made referenced to my article on Bukit Brown Cemetery,a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I am very touched that this article has made some impact on influential community leaderse like NMP Ms Janice Koh and I would like to thank her for sharing my article to help create more awareness for the preservation of Bukit Brown and for also tabling the possibility of Bukit Brown as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site at parliament.

On a final word, my article would not have been possible as i myself was inspired to write it after reading Raymond Goh's inspirational article: The forgotten heritage at our own backyard.


Response to NMP Ms Janice Koh by Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth

We recognise that there is heritage value in the Bukit Brown municipal cemetery. This is why government agencies, including the National Heritage Board (NHB), have been working with experts and stakeholders on various efforts to document and commemorate the memories of Bukit Brown for future generations.

The NHB is also studying how the heritage of Bukit Brown can be preserved, taking into account future development plans for the area.Not all sites with local heritage value will qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The standards required by UNESCO are very stringent, especially to meet the criteria of “outstanding universal value”. This was why when the Ministry first explored the possibility of a UNESCO listing, it had engaged a technical expert to do a thorough and in-depth assessment to determine the site with the best chance of meeting the UNESCO criteria. As part of this process, we had done a consultation on possible sites that could be put up for the UNESCO bid.

At that time, none of our stakeholders had surfaced the Bukit Brown cemetery as a candidate for consideration. As I had mentioned previously in Parliament, having worked through an extensive process of identifying the Singapore Botanic Gardens as our first nomination for the UNESCO World Heritage Site, our efforts are now focused on this bid.

This will also give us an opportunity to better understand UNESCO’s requirements and processes, before exploring other possibilities in the future.

Source: http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20130709-435996.html

Friday, July 05, 2013

Lim Teck Kim and family (Bukit Brown)

Lim Teck Kim was born in Kinmen. He passed away on June 28, 1938 at the age of 55, leaving behind 11 sons and 13 daughters.  Lim Teck Kim established the Lim Hoe Chiang Co , a General Store which marketed the "Global Brand" coffee and W.D & H.O Wills of Bristol and London "Flag Brand" cigarettes at 250 Tanjong Pagar Road. Lim Teck Kim also pioneered Singapore's first amusement park, "Old World (1921) which was later renamed "Happy Valley". Lim Teck Kim's brother-in-law, Ong Boon Tat subsequently opened "New World" (1923).

Lim Teck Kim



Lim Hoe Chiang Co promoting "Flag Brand" cigarettes

Unique tomb of Mr and Mrs Lim Teck Kim 
Wife: Mrs LimTeck Kim (Madam Ong )
Lim Teck Kim married the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Ong Sam Leong (from Kinmen as well). She passed away on January 16, 1911 at No 89 Chin Swee Road.

Wife: Mrs Lim Teck Kim (Madam Ho Ah Moey)
Ho Ah Moey passed away on June 9, 1951 at the age of 61 at 57 Buffalo Road. She is survived by 10 sons, 13 daughters, 10 son-in-laws, 6 daughter-in-laws, 43 grandchildren.
Madam Ho Ah Moey
One son, Lim Cheng San  lost his life during the Japanese occupation. He was interred at the Kranji War Memorial. Another son, Lim Cheng Lock was a Member of Parliament for River Valley (1959-1968) and Kampong Kapor (1968-1970). Lim Cheng Kiat was a clerk with the Straits Times.
Private Lim Cheng San 

Father: Lim Soon Guan (Choon Guan)
Lim Soon Guan (Choon Guan) had 5 sons, Lim Teck Siong, Lim Teck Hin, Lim Teck Chye, Lim Teck Kim and Lim Teck Locke. Lim Teck Siong took over the distribution and sale of liquor /wine business from his uncle, Lim Soon Tee. (chop Kim Hin & Co).

Mother: Tan Koon Lian
Tan Koon Lian, wife of the late Lim Soon Guan passed away on August 13, 1920 at the age of 61 at No. 25 Tras Street. She is the mother of Lim Teck Siong, Lim Teck Hin, Lim Teck Chye, Lim Teck Kim and Lim Teck Locke. She is buried in Alexandra Road Cemetery.

The Happy Valley

The amusement park was open on February 1, 1924 afternoon by Mrs Lee Choon Guan, M.B.E. who performed the cord cutting ceremony with a golden scissors at the main gates of Happy Valley just before the Chinese New Year. The main attraction includes a boxing stadium that can be adapted to use for theatrical shows and circuses. Another attraction is a big three decked steamer, nicknamed the "ship" with wide decks that accommodate hundreds of people. On the grounds also is a towering pagoda.


In 1925, Happy Valley also transformed to be a site of worship and memorial for the late Dr Sun Yat Sen and on the stage, the life size photo of the late Doctor, with hundreds of scrolls bearing messages of sorrow and admiration for the late Dr Sun Yat Sen supplied by the various guilds in Singapore. In front of the photograph were hundreds of flower wreaths of various forms. Men, women and children wearing black bands came to pay their respects. Among those who spoke included Mr Teo Eng Hock and Mr Ng Seng Pang.

When the King visited the Happy Valley

In 1924, His Majesty the King of Siam visited Happy Valley past midnight and was greeted at the gate by Lim Teck Kim who brought them on the visit of the grounds. They spent some time in Merry Opera Company before leaving at 1 am. Happy Valley was eventually sold off to British-American Tobacco Company. It's location was in Tanjong Pagar. Coincidentally, there is a street in that area named after him.
Lim Teck Kim 
Ho Ah Moey 

Lim Teck Kim is buried in Block 3 Division A, plot 252, 1/2 and plot 237

References
Advertisements. (1911, January 17). The Straits Times
Domestic Occurences. (1920, August 13). Malayan Tribune, page 4
The Happy Valley. (1924,February 2). The Straits Times
Siamese Royalties at the Happy Valley. (1924, September 30). The Singapore Free Press
Homage to Dr Sun Yat Sen. (1925, April 13). The Singapore Free Press
Saving Pneumonia Patients. (1932, July 9). The Singapore Free Press
Domestic Occurences. (1935, June 1). The Singapore Free Press
Death. (1951, June 11). The Straits Times, page 4
Casualty Details.[website] Commonwealth War Graves Commission.