Written by Frank M. Lin 4/9/2017 7:11 am @ Arcadia, California – I love history. This large graveyard is of significant historic importance. We have just passed the 100 centennial memorial for WW1. WW2 actually wasn’t all that long ago because many people alive lived it. My dad was born on 1943 he was just a little baby at the tail end of the war… but my oldest aunt and her husband are in the 90’s and 80s so they have lot of memory. Her husband was part of the young intellectual elites that retreated from China to Taiwan with the KMT after they lost the Civil war… there are many of them in Taiwan. Of course a good amount the wealthy people moved on to the West many came to USA…
Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
「你一定要把這個公墓看作一座了不起的歷史檔案庫，」新加坡國立大學(National University of Singapore)中文系主任丁荷生(Kenneth Dean)說，「但是鑒於最近事情的發展情況，我對它能存在多久深感擔憂。」
「我注意到很多墳墓看起來很老，實際上有些是萊佛士時代的，」吳說。他指的是新加坡的英國殖民地創立者史丹佛德·萊佛士爵士( Sir Stamford Raffles )。「我想知道為什麼沒人告訴我這裡有這個呢？」
多虧新加坡國立大學教授莊穎（音）、工程師洪毅瀚(Ang Yik Han)、律師池凌志(Fabian Tee)以及前記者廖雪珠(Claire Leow)等導遊的介紹，我開始理解為什麼這個城市國家對大英帝國的亞洲屬地如此重要。
我們研究了王三龍(Ong Sam Leong)的巨大陵墓，他是聖誕島的勞工供應商，於1917年去世，墓地被搬到了這裡。我還看到了陳金鐘(Tan Kim Cheng)的墓地，他是安娜(Anna)和暹羅國王姻緣的牽線人。還有那些支持孫中山的革命家的墓地——在孫中山的策劃下，中國的最後一個王朝最終被推翻。
我忍不住想到了世界上的其他很多偉大的長眠之地。從樹木和野生動物的角度講，武吉布朗讓我想起了倫敦的海格特公墓( Highgate Cemetery )；作為逃避俗世喧囂的一個去處，它感覺像布魯克林的綠樹林公墓( Green-Wood )；作為國家名人的記錄，它讓人想起了巴黎的拉雪茲神父公墓( Père Lachaise )或布宜諾斯艾利斯的雷科萊塔公墓( Cementerio de la Recoleta )。
Here Lies a Graveyard Where ‘East and West Came Together’
SINGAPORE — In the middle of this island nation of highways and high-rises lies a wrinkle in time: Bukit Brown, one of the world’s largest Chinese cemeteries.
Now neglected and overgrown, it offers an incredible array of tombstones, statues and shrines just four miles north of downtown banks, malls and regional headquarters.
For years, the 213-acre site was a destination for Halloween thrill seekers and bird watchers, a haven of green in an overcrowded land. But in recent years it has become something much more powerful: a pilgrimage site for Singaporeans trying to reconnect with their country’s vanishing past.
That has put Bukit Brown at the center of an important social movement in a country that has rarely tolerated community activism: a battle between the state, which plans to level part of the cemetery, and a group of citizens dedicated to its preservation.
Surprisingly, in a culture of relentless modernization, its advocates are scoring some successes in limiting damage to the cemetery and raising consciousness about the island’s colorful history.
Built in 1922, Bukit Brown was the final resting place for about 100,000 Singapore families until it was closed in 1972. Its importance is greater than its relatively recent 50-year history implies because many historic graves were relocated there from other cemeteries that were paved over.
Add in an abandoned cemetery next door for a prominent Chinese clan, and experts estimate that up to 200,000 graves are sprinkled amid the surrounding rain forests, including those of many of Singapore’s most famous citizens.
“You have to think of the cemetery as an amazing historical archive,” said Kenneth Dean, head of the Chinese studies department at the National University of Singapore. “But given how things have developed recently, I have deep concerns about how long it will survive.”
Those worries have to do with this city-state’s insatiable appetite for land. Singapore’s 5.7 million residents live on 277 square miles, a bit less than the area of New York City, but the land has to accommodate more than a municipality’s needs. It must hold the infrastructure of a country, including military bases, landfills, reservoirs, national parks and one of the world’s busiest airports and harbors.
More than 20 percent of the country is built on reclaimed land, leading its two immediate neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia, to ban the export of sand to Singapore in order to protect their own land. And with plans calling for Singapore’s population to increase to 6.9 million by 2030, land is at a premium.
Part of the solution has been to look inward. In 2011, the government decided to smooth out a bend in the island’s north-south highway by cutting through Bukit Brown. Soon after, the government announced that within 40 years the rest would be paved over, too.
After watching many of their best-known monuments and neighborhoods leveled over the past decades, Singaporeans began to take action — a turning point that people here compare to the 1963 destruction of Pennsylvania Station, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece in New York City whose loss catalyzed historic preservation in the United States.
At their center is an informal group of two dozen volunteers who call themselves “Brownies.” They offer free tours and run a website that details the cemetery’s history and includes testimonials by locals and visitors.
One of the first Brownies was Raymond Goh, 54, a pharmacist who used to lead Halloween tours around the cemetery. (As in many parts of the Chinese cultural world, Singapore is obsessed with ghost stories and ghoulish legends.) After a while, Mr. Goh began to read the inscriptions on the tombstones carefully and was surprised at the antiquity of the graves.
“I noticed a lot of graves looked very old and, in fact, that some were from the time of Raffles,” Mr. Goh said, referring to Singapore’s British colonial founder, Sir Stamford Raffles. “I wondered, ‘How come nobody told me this was here?’ ”
When the government’s plans were announced in 2011, Mr. Goh and his brother Charles wondered how to save Bukit Brown. They began training other volunteers, including professors familiar with the world of academic research, former journalists who help with public relations and business people who provide community outreach and funding. In other words, it was a cross section of middle-class Singaporeans who felt nostalgic about the lost city of their youth and were eager to better understand their cultural roots.
Brownies have guided me through the site several times over the past few months, and I thought it was indeed a marvel. The lush vegetation made us feel cut off from the thriving modern city, while the tombstones were beautiful in their own right, even without explanations.
Some are like mini-fortresses, guarded by stone Chinese or British lions, or even Sikh soldiers. Others were decorated with Taoist and Confucian images and symbols. Some told of the dead person’s loyalty to a political party or a lost dynasty.
Thanks to explanations by guides like Ian Chong, a professor at the National University of Singapore; Ang Yik Han, an engineer; Fabian Tee, a lawyer; and Claire Leow, a former journalist, I began to understand how this city-state was crucial to the British Empire’s Asian holdings.
We surveyed the enormous mausoleum of Ong Sam Leong, a supplier of labor to the Christmas Islands, who died in 1917 and whose grave was relocated here. I also saw the grave of Tan Kim Cheng, who introduced Anna to the King of Siam, and those of revolutionaries who supported Sun Yat-sen when he was plotting the ultimately successful downfall of China’s last dynasty.
Many of the tombs were decorated with the distinctive tiles used by longtime Chinese immigrants to these regions, while others showed the strong influence of Malayan culture.
“This is where East and West came together,” Mr. Ang said. “We are standing at the center of the island, the belly of the dragon, and we can’t let it be cut open.”
I couldn’t help but think of many of the world’s other great resting places. In terms of trees and wildlife, Bukit Brown evoked Highgate Cemetery in London; as a retreat from daily life it felt like Green-Wood in Brooklyn; and as a record of one country’s famous people it was reminiscent of Père Lachaise in Paris or Cementerio de la Recoleta in Buenos Aires.
For Professor Dean, these tombstones show the rich links between Southeast Asia and specific regions of China. Under his direction, a team of researchers is entering data from the gravestones into databases, allowing the development of maps showing how clans and villages migrated from coastal China to these faraway shores.
Recently, one of Professor Dean’s projects received government financing. Although officials refused numerous telephone and fax requests for interviews about the cemetery, they seem to be coming around to understanding its importance.
Already, the government has yielded to some of the Brownies’ demands. Originally, 5,000 graves were to be moved, but that number has been reduced to 3,700. And instead of pulverizing the tombstones, they are being cataloged and stored in a warehouse. In addition, the government has set up a heritage-assessment board to review future projects.
This willingness to compromise seems to reflect a broader sentiment in a society that has moved so quickly that people feel rootless and without deep ties to their country.
During one walk through the cemetery, I met a Ministry of Defense official who asked that only his first name, Pete, be used because of the sensitivity of his position.
“Our nation is a young one, and we’ve been so focused on the future that we sometimes forget the past,” he said. “Bukit Brown is a huge trove of stories.”