It’s hard to find abandonments in Singapore. If you know where to look, you will find little relics from Japanese colonial days. However, much like Seoul, old structures are getting knocked down, and sleek, state-of-the-art buildings are erected. Singapore is a tiny island nation. Space is at a premium. It’s why the country enacted a law in 1998 where the dead can only be buried for 15 years. After that, bodies must be dug up and cremated or moved to a private plot. Walk around the major shopping areas and tourist spots, and most likely, you are walking on what used to be an old cemetery. Christian, Muslim, and Buddist graveyards have been cleared throughout the years to accommodate the living. Bukit Brown Cemetary is currently going through the process. In 1872, before it was known as Bukit Brown, the Ong brothers established Seh Ong Cemetary for the Ong clan. It changed hands and its name and opened as a public cemetery for the Chinese community in 1972. Bukit Brown was officially closed to burials in 1973. It has over 100,000 graves, many being reclaimed by the wildness that serves as a demarcation line between New Singapore and Old Singapore. The government reserved Bukit Brown for residential space in 1991 with a plan in place for the land to be cleared entirely by 2030. Even though it closed to burials over forty years ago, it’s apparent families still come to pay their respects and maintain the graves. At the same time, it’s also evident that many families have neglected their loved one’s plots. The reasons are numerous, and I’ll save that discussion for the future. There is a dedicated group of volunteers who help keep graves clean. Walking through Bukit Brown Cemetary offers a history lesson of early Chinese settlers, famous businessmen, politicians, and landowners of Singapore.
I would recommend this place to anyone who has an interest in history and aesthetics. Despite some graves being better kept up than others, you can still find the beauty if you have an open mind. Tiny portraits found on some of the graves add an emotional depth to the individuals buried there.
Bukit Brown is opened to the public. All Things Bukit Brown offers a wealth of information to assist you during your visit. Please remember to bring bug spray and wear long pants. The bugs will eat you alive.
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