Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A fairy Cemetery - Bidadari

Bidadari Memorial Garden



Bidadari meaning fairy according to Wikipedia, coming from the Sanskrit word widyadari. These fairies are reported to be kind, an angel, a nymph. In another record its also stated that the word comes from the Malay for fairy, so I'm not sure which is correct but either way "fairy" it is! However the "fairy" in question is not a nymph, angel, sprite or any "out of the world" mythical creature, but in this case its come from the description given to Sultan Abu Bakars wife, who was reported to be a great beauty and whose land the original Bidadari cemetery was built on in the early 1900s.

The land, where once a couple of cemeteries stood on, had been a large plantation (cemeteries were often built on old plantations as they were set away from the population and covered large areas) A large house was built between 1855-61 and was later bought by The Sultan of Johor, Abu Bakar. The house was later demolished in 1915 after Abu Bakar sold the land.

1903 - 45 acres of land were sold with plans to build a Christian cemetery.
1905 - A further 33 acres bought for a Muslim cemetery as well.
30 Dec 1907 - cemetery was consecrated.
1908 - Christian cemetery was opened
1910 - Muslim cemetery opened
1925 - More landed was purchased and a Hindu cemetery was in place. According to records I've read the first Hindu to buried here was Koona Pillay.

Taken from an information board, the view of the old cemetery and the town park.
Burials ceased here in 1972 with at the time appox 147,000 graves in situ, it became a popular park. The local Gurkha's even used it for running exercises. Between 2001-4 the graves were exhumed and it was opened as a temporary town park as it was then known it would later be redeveloped. I'm beginning to feel I mention this in nearly all of my posts, redevelopment, redevelopment and yes redevelopment ... sigh, but land is scarce in Singapore I know.... In 2004 the Memorial Garden was built to remember the cemetery and a number of prominent peoples headstones were placed in the garden, with one of the sets of gates placed at the entrance. In 2012 work finally started on new homes and buildings and in August 2013 plans were announced for 3 new towns in Singapore with one being Bidadari new town. The Memorial Garden will soon ceased to exist, although plans have been made to relocate it into a new town park, covering 10 hectares which will include also a lake called Alkaff Lake.


You enter the Garden through the old gates and it is divided into 3 small sections, commemorating the 3 religions of the old cemeteries. The headstones have been taken from prominent Singaporeans and people of history. It includes 21 headstones.

Memorial plaque commemorating the British Merchant seamen. My husbands uncle served in Singapore as one.
I took a 30 minute bus ride up to visit here, before it disappears completely and it also gave me the chance to visit another new area. I passed by void decks painted along Pipit Rd which I think I'll take a trip back there to view more and take in the local shops and hawker centres - interesting.

A pagoda in the modern but not also closed Mount Vernon Columbarium
I alighted and soon found Mount Vernon Drive. The area is surrounded by military camps and as I walked up the drive I saw the sign for Gurkha's - I wasn't aware they were in Singapore. Sitting next to the Memorial Garden is Mount Vernon Columbarium, architecturally interesting in its own right with a tall pagoda in its centre. This modern place too has recently been closed and will disappear under Bidadari New Town.

The garden itself is small and I was probably only there 20/30 minutes, much smaller than I had anticipated and I wouldn't recommend people travelling far to make just one solo visit. More if you're passing, or have other things to visit nearby, take a short break to have a rest in the peaceful surroundings ..... While they're still there.

Memorial to the first Hindu to be buried at the cemetery, Koona Pillay.
The Christian Garden
Albert Bidwell, architect of Singapore
Alexander Gordon, Municipal architect of Singapore and President of the Institute of Architects of Malaya 1930-31
The Muslim Garden



Thursday, 21 August 2014

Yin Fo Fui Kun - Hakka cemetery



The same day we visited Istana Woodneuk ( http://www.singaporetales.co.uk/2014/08/istana-woodneuk.html  ) we had all met at Commonwealth MRT station and took a quick 5 minute walk to the threatened Yin Foh Kuan cemetery belonging to the Yin Fo Fui Kun clan. Nestled between towering HDBs, a petrol station and a small industrial area peacefully lies this Hakka cemetery, you will have probably spied it as you passed by above on the train.

We entered and turned left and first made our way into the red roofed Wu Fu Tang Ancestral Temple built in the traditional Chinese style and fronted by a semicircular fish pond. We were visiting during the 7th month festival (hungry ghosts) and the frontage of this temple was masked by a red and white canopy so photos don't really do it justice. 


It was built in 1887 and is also home to ancestral tablets, some of the older urns and some newer. To the right sits the larger and much newer blue roofed Shuang Long Shan memorial hall, home to the columbarium and built in the 1970s.

Ancestral tablets. The one covered in a red cloth is not yet deceased.

The older urns
Behind these 2 buildings sit the graves.....


Ying Fo Fui Kun is also known as Shan Wu Shu and means "Double Dragon Hill' being built on a hill, there was once also another cemetery nearby called Yue Shan Ting which was built on a much larger 143 acre site. Yin Fo Fui Kun originally cover 100 acres but is now down to under 5.

History

The Yin Fo Fui Kan clan are a Hakka clan from Jia Yung, Canton, China. In 1887 the clan bought the land and called it Shuang Long Shan/Shan Wu Shu (Double dragon Hill) In China in those days cremations weren't popular and it was considered good feng shui to be buried on a hill. The Yin Fo Fui clan association set up there association in 1822 and is the oldest Hakka association in Singapore. It was founded by Lui Runde and their temple was once in Telok Ayer St and now home to the clan association 

Over time land became scarce in Singapore and cremations became more the norm and were encouraged. In 1969 the Singapore State purchased the land for residential use but, as this is the only Hakka cemetery in Singapore they agreed to the clans request to keep 5 acres and allowed almost 3,000 graves to be exhumed, cremated and re interred in urns and reburied. This explains the close lines and the fact that all the graves are identical as they were placed here at the same time. 


The graves are in 65 rows, all equally apart, identically covered in plain mosaics with only a couple having the photo of the deceased. In front of these rows sit 12 larger more ornate graves, these are 12 actual graves and not cremations. Clearly people of some significance. It's strange to see Chinese grave markers like this as I have become accustomed to seeing the more ornately decorated and designed graves such as you can view at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The headstones you can see with a stone atop denotes that they are still cared for and someone has visited them recently.

A stone on top denotes it has been visited recently

Whilst looking around the cemetery we saw an "uncle" waving to us a number of times, shirtless and shoeless, we waved back. 

Our friendly and passionate uncle caretaker :)
We returned to the temple and found "uncle" and learnt he was the caretaker of the site and although he didn't speak any English he wanted to tell us about this place. So through sign language and scribbles on a paper plate he tried to tell us his and the sites story. His name I have found out from the internet is Ah Koon. From what we could understand his parents "mama, papa" are not here as he couldn't afford to pay the prices but I'm not sure if we fully understood him correctly, although he tried to explain this to us a number of times. His father had been the caretaker before him for 20 years and he himself had been here since 1982 and he was now 58 years old. We believed he explained that many of the graves no longer have urns there as there is a high price to keep them there and when this happens they are removed and placed in the ancestral hall - or at least that's what we think he was explaining. Certainly he was saying if they couldn't pay for the urn and up keep of the urns the remains are finally disposed of. He even showed us the insides of one of the urns, we were slightly taken aback! He was a friendly passionate uncle who was so keen to "talk" to us and apologised for not speaking English - well we don't speak any Chinese!

Inside an urn - I think I'm honored to have witnessed this
Afterwards he took outside and showed us, in the retaining wall behind the ancestral temple, 5 stones which represent the 5 elements. Earth, Wood, Metal (although the sign said gold) Water and Fire. These are to keep the evil spirits away.

The 5 magic stones, representing the 5 elements. 
We passed through the blue roofed memorial hall, home to the columbarium. To be honest apart from its architectural Chinese design it was nothing out of the unusual for such a building.

Shuang Long Shan memorial home. The newer building and home to the columbarium.

There have been news stories abounding for years that the site will be sold and, just this year, its been reported in the news that the clan are thinking of exhuming the remains from under the stones and placing in the columbarium, and that the land will then be used for a community centre for the clan members and the community. The caretaker though told us that nothing will happen until 2065 - I wonder how much he knows or if this is indeed true - lets hope so, for you won't see another cemetery like this.

The infamous paper plate where the caretaker tried to explain so much. A later picture of this shows all our birth years - not giving these away!!!!


The largest of the 12 actual graves and the biggest, clearly people of some importance.



The ants were enjoying this recent offering.
One of the very few grave headstones which showed a picture of the deceased.

This cemetery can be found at
9. Commonwealth Lane
Singapore
149551.
Open daily from 08:00-17:00

Monday, 18 August 2014

Singapore Flower Festival 2014 - PHOTO POST



I've just come back from a lovely morning visiting the flowers and displays at this years Flower Festival held at the Gardens by the Bay.


The festival runs for just a week from 16th -24th August so hurry and get down there while you can! It's open from 10am to 10pm daily and we paid for a weekday local resident (don't forget proof) just $10 which included entry into the flower dome, where the orchid display is and then entry into the festival itself. There are other rates and computations. More information can be found on the official website
https://www.singaporegardenfestival.com


Below are just some of the fantastic exhibits both indoors and out. If you like flowers come along and take a look :)