Public Forum: The Cost and Value of Heritage in Singapore: The Belitung Shipwreck and Bukit Brown

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The Singapore Heritage Society is organising a public forum on April 14 to discuss several heritage-related issues that have become hot topics over the past few months – the partial destruction of a large cemetery Bukit Brown, and the controversy over the Belitung shipwreck. Register here.

The Cost and Value of Heritage in Singapore: The Belitung Shipwreck and Bukit Brown
Date: 14 April (Saturday)
Venue: Mochtar Riady Auditorium, Level 5, Administration Building, Singapore Management University, 81 Victoria Street, Singapore 188065
Start Time: 2.00 pm

In general, heritage refers to the inheritance – both physical and intangible – bequeathed on the present by the past. Beneath this straightforward understanding, however, lies myriad implications and complications, particularly in the present age of globalised interests and diverse nation-states. While there is little dispute about the overall value of heritage in providing a window of knowledge to the past, that value is usually complicated by questions of ownership, the costs of recovery and preservation/conservation. Such questions raise further issues, including the tussle between tradition and development, the ethics and legalities surrounding heritage recovery and conservation, and engagement between the state and civil society.

Such issues were ever-present in the recent Belitung shipwreck controversy as well as in the ongoing debate over the future of Bukit Brown Cemetery. The manner in which Singapore has approached these two heritage issues and others has significant implications and consequences for how Singapore determines the value of its heritage, or, indeed, how heritage is defined in Singapore in the first place. What are the considerations and concerns involved in making such decisions? How far is Singapore willing to go to preserve or to conserve heritage?

To address those questions and to raise public awareness of such issues, the Singapore Heritage Society and the School of Law, Singapore Management University, bring together a distinguished panel of professionals to share their expertise and to reflect on their experiences working in particular areas of Singapore’s heritage.

More details and registration here.

Race to save oldest Chinese tombs in Singapore

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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.