Friday, 15 November 2013

Hidden Gem. Tan Tock Seng clan's grave

Tan Tock Seng clan's grave



Following a visit to Tiong Bahru to meet a "now" friend for the first time, we both wandered around the area pointing out places that we had both spotted on solo visits previously. After taking her to Tan Boon Liat building, 315 Outram Rd, to show her some interesting furniture stores (well worth a trip if you've not been there before) we started to walk back to the MRT at Outram Park. Crossing over the footbridge over Outram road, alongside a disused road that once led to the now demolished Gongshan primary school (now relocated to Tampines) we came across two Chinese graves almost camouflaged by the encroaching undergrowth but clearly for someone of some standing. Once home I decided to see what information I could find..........


The larger more elaborate grave which you come upon first is that of Chua Seah Neo, the daughter-in-law of Tan Tock Seng. Further up the hill is a smaller grave and this is the one of interest. It belongs to Tan Tock Seng a hugely prominent Chinese immigrant from Malacca.

He was born in Malacca in 1798 the son of a chinaman from Fujian. He moved to Singapore and started hawking fruit, vegetables and poultry, later buying a shop on Boat Quay. He had some kind of business relationship with the English businessman J.H.Whitehead that proved clearly very lucrative. He was able to make his fortune and later amassed over 50 acres of land, several shophouses, an orchard and a nutmeg plantation. He became a respected Chinese leader and was made the first Asian Justice of the Peace in Singapore. He gave S$5,000 to build the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and also gave to many other charities. Tan Tock Seng was also a founder of the Thian Hock Keng Temple on Telok Ayer .




Tan Tock Seng died in 1850 aged 52. In his obituary he was described as "one of Singapores earliest settlers as well as one of the most wealthy inhabitants".This most influential of Singapores historical chinese inhabitants had 6 children, many who are buried (for how long?) in Bukit Brown cemetery. Whether any of their graves have been, or are due to be moved, to make way for the expressway who knows....  His great grandson was Tan Boo Liat, who was a strong supporter of the Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat Sen.

Information on the internet shows the descendants have tried to get these graves listed as a national monument. As they are hidden away with no signage I don't believe this has happened. I did find information dating back to 2009 that the family had set up a fund to maintain the graves.

Tiong Bahru is known as a hip and trendy place to come to and attracts many visitors both local and tourist. I wonder how many people even living there know about these graves which are so important to Singapores history?