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Postcard from the Edge II - Sung Lung San

By Dzii


                                    

                                                 (Photo courtesy of Mr Chye YY)


                         
                                   (Photo courtesy of Mr Chye YY)



                        
                                   (Photo courtesy of Mr Chye YY)


Mr Chye YY, an accountant, sent us three photos of his eldest sister and parents paying homage to their deceased relatives' tombs at the Holland Road Hakka cemetary Hill in the 1965. According to Mr Chye, his family used to live in a village next to the Ying Fo Fui Kuan Hakka cemetary hill near Holland Road. Like the Fong Yun Tai cemetary at the nearby Holland Link, Ying Fo Fui Kuan cemetary hill was acquired by the government and the remains from the coffins all over the hill collected, placed in urns and buried under neat rows of memorial stones as seen in today's YFK cemetary at Buona Vista. In other words, YFK cemetary hill was effectively reduced to a small 4.5 acres square compound of tighly packed tombs in order to save on space. Mr Chye heard from his parents that the two Hakka cemetaries were indeed the first two Chinese cemetaries to be acquired by the government in 1965 so that a "prominent figure" of the young island state could face the Chinese of other dialect groups should their cemetary hills be likewise taken away for modern development. The ancestral temple at Ying Fo Fui Kuan's compound is today a columbarium for Hakka descendents with affiliation to the association, and Mr Chye's father's cremated remains is currently housed there.

Ying Fo Fui Kuan (应和会馆) is the first Chinese Hakka clan association founded in 1822 by Hakka immigrants from the Jiayingzhou Perfecture in China. In 1887, YFK association bought over a piece of land of over 100 ha from the British government in order to meet burial demands of the increasing number of association members. The place was auspiciously named the Twin Dragon Hill, and a temple (Wu Shu Temple) was built in 1903 within the cemetary to house ancestral tablets for ceremonial purposes. Due to increasing number of Hakka settlers at the Twin Dragon Hill area, the Ying Sin Primary Branch School was established next to the ancestral temple to cater to the educational needs of Hakka children there (http://www.yingfofuikun.org.sg/). 

During the early colonial days of Singapore, cemetary hills were established for the various Chinese dialect groups (Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese etc) over different parts of the island. The cemetary hill association that was founded served as a focal point for community activities, the most important of which were the yearly tomb sweeping ceremony (Qing Ming), Chong Yang Festival in Autumn and Hungry Ghost festival (Meng Lan). The concept of filial piety or obedience to one's elderly or ancestors forms the very core of the Chinese culture. Traditionally, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors will look after the family even after they passed away.As such, offering of food and spirit money could keep them happy in the spiritual world, and in turn, the living family will continue to prosper through good harvests and more children from the ancestor's blessing. The various Chinese families kept very close ties with their affiliated cemetary hill association and this helped promote intimate interactions between Chinese settlers of not only the same dialect group but also the same hometown back in China. Cemetary hill associations such as Ying Fo Fui Kuan were thus instrumental in preservation of the various dialect group cultures, especially those pertaining to burial customs and ancestor worship (http://www.kwspecksantheng.com/Activity/Chunji.htm). 

Interestingly, the Hakka Methodist Church, founded in 1911, also has its roots in the Twin Dragon Hill. According to the church's website (http://www.hakkamc.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=41), the congregation area was at Sung Lung San (Hakka name for the Twin Dragon Hill) before the church moved to Middle Road in the city area.



                  
                   A picture of the front entrance of Ying Fo Kuan at Telok Ayer Street with its 
                  members, taken in 1927. (http://www.yingfofuikun.org.sg/)


                
                 Day view of the Wu Shu Temple within the Ying Fo Kuan cemetary compound.
                 (http://www.yingfofuikun.org.sg/)



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