Race to save oldest Chinese tombs in Singapore

Heritage enthusiasts have prompted an investigation of what is probably the oldest Chinese tombs in situ in Singapore. The tombs, tucked in a corner of the Botanic Gardens in an area slated for redevelopment are dated as early as 1842, which make it contemporary to the early years of modern Singapore.

19 August 2006 (Straits Times) – Heritage enthusiasts have prompted an investigation of what is probably the oldest Chinese tombs in situ in Singapore. The tombs, tucked in a corner of the Botanic Gardens in an area slated for redevelopment are dated as early as 1842, which make it contemporary to the early years of modern Singapore. Land is scarce in Singapore, so much so that many tombs have been relocated to more remote parts of the island to make way for urban redevelopment. (Note: Straits Times is a paid site and content may not be accessible. You may wish to email me for a copy of the article.)

Race to save oldest Chinese tombs here

THE National Parks Board (NParks) has put on hold plans to dig up one of Singapore’s oldest Chinese tombs following a petition from a group of heritage enthusiasts.The tangible slice of history, dating back to the time this modern metropolis was a sleepy village fringed by jungle, was to have been removed to make room for a new extension to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Tucked away at the foot of a sylvan slope near the former Singapore Management University campus, the tomb dates back to 1842, and holds the remains of a Chinese settler known as Qiu Zheng Zhi, who probably lived during Sir Stamford Raffles’ time.

His wife, Madam Li Ci Shu, is buried alongside in the simple grey structure with bright red engravings.

Two other sets of tombs, also dating back to the 19th century, lie nearby. One of these, a bright orange structure with black engravings, was erected in 1881. Buried here are a Mr Huang Hui Shi and his wife, Madam Si Ma Ni.

The land, which lies on the fringes of the Botanic Gardens, was recently acquired by NParks and may be turned into landscaped horticultural displays. Last week, three heritage enthusiasts, including Singapore Heritage Society president Kevin Tan, met NParks chief executive Ng Lang and Botanic Gardens director Dr Chin See Chung to ask that they save the tombs.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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