I first heard about Bukit Brown in a live TedxSingapore talk by Claire Leow and remember being fascinated by what she said, and decided that I had to visit one day. Bukit Brown is the oldest Chinese cemetery in Singapore. It was opened to the public in 1922 and was closed in 1973. Over the 40 last years, this cemetery has flourished with nature and wildlife, home to a quarter of the bird species in Singapore.
I recently went for two guided tours in a single weekend! First, we took the heritage tour with Claire Leow, Catherine Lim and Lim Su Min, and second a nature tour with Peter Park and other ‘Brownies’. Bukit Brown was such a magical place- I felt compelled to write about it, and definitely agree with Claire that it should be protected as a World Heritage site. All the visitors met at the entrance under the rain tree. I was sad to hear that this tree and many of the tombs will disappear due to a proposed highway that may go
through Bukit Brown.
Each tomb had its own unique characteristics, with intricate tile patterns and stone figures. I really loved the theory that most of the tombs were shaped like a mother’s womb. We come to the earth from our mother’s womb, we must return to Mother Earth’s womb.
Some of the tombs had a little altar with the symbol used for the earth goddess.
Nature is so rich and beautiful at Bukit Brown which has a calm and serene ambience. Wildlife that has been spotted there include- the Sunda Pangolin, Jambu Fruit dove, Malayan Colugo and the Red-Crowned Barbet. We saw a Collared Kingfisher, a Lesser Coucal and two Pacific Swallows. I was very excited to see two swallows sitting so calmly, as they are always flitting around swiftly and never stop to rest!
The biggest tomb in Bukit Brown is that of Om Sang Leong, a businessman. There were many stone carvings with very interesting stories as told by Peter Pak, our guide.
This is the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes) whose patterns looked like paw-prints!
I learnt so much about Bukit Brown that weekend, and I do hope this beautiful space will be preserved for a long, long time!