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Han San Teng 

Hang San Teng at Silat Road (Destroyed by fire)

Dear all,

I am glad to announce that an initiative to digitally archive all heritage material pertaining to Singapore’s past has been drawn up by me and a photographer friend. Our fortnightly fieldwork focuses on archiving architectural features and artifacts within these ‘endangered’ historical buildings for the benefit of future research and conservation purposes. So far, we have archived some buildings of heritage value, such as Tong Xian Tng at Devonshire Road and Ying Fo Fui Kun at Telok Ayer Street. As this is a non-profit initiative, our progress has been rather slow due to our involvement of the project only during weekends. We are calling for photographers equipped with 8 megapixel or more digital SLR cameras to participate in this SOH initiative. In the spirit of open source collaboration (e.g. wikipedia, Linux), a central repository of archived digital jpegs is needed for a start. I suggest that the Singapore History Museum(or Ying Fo Fui Kun) to be used as a place to convene and depositing of archived pictures. Meanwhile, we are in the process of getting support from URA, NHB, SCCCI and SHS in this project. Interested photographers and writers, please send me an email at rudolfin2@yahoo.com I will personally show you the salient architectural features and artifacts to record every alternate Saturday 10.30am at various heritage sites deemed endangered.

For a start, we will be gathering information on Singapore’s Chinese heritage since Raffles’ time. Meanwhile, we would like to encourage Singaporeans of all ethnic groups to come forth and contribute information on ‘endangered’ heritage sites (regardless of ethnic origins) that are still surviving on the island. Such heritage sites could come in the form of places of worship, houses, kampongs, familiar landmarks, cemeteries, tombs, old trees, old shops etc – essentially ‘old’ and forgotten places. It is our hope that through re-engaging our senses towards these ‘yester-year’ places physically and digitally, we can relive good memories that have so fondly been experienced by our grandfathers and greatgrandfathers. By digitizing these places and presenting it through an ‘open source’ website, we hope that the younger generation can have a better understanding of OUR common shared past as well as shared collective memories. We feel that a visit to a tourist-oriented museum such as ‘Images of Singapore’ is not sufficient. Continual participation and engagement in our real physical past could be a better alternative than merely visiting a museum once a year. Also, to debunk myths of Singapore having a short history – the oldest religeous building in Australia was built in 1801 ; in Singapore, the oldest religeous building still standing was built in 1824 (Fuk Tak Chi temple in Telok Ayer Street). The sad thing is, nobody knows that this is the oldest building in Singapore. Worst, it is not even given the due respect it deserves – a true reflection of our apathy towards our own culture. Is there value in history and the arts? Yes, there is. Art and history contribute to collective consciousness and memories; without them, we will always be that Raffles’ little trading port where goods and people come and go.

Do look out in the ‘field work’ page to see fortnightly survey sites and activity if you want to see us in action!

Thank you
Kent Neo,  

Founder & Editor, SOH

(Disclaimer: Public views posted in comments are not representational of the purpose of SOH. SOH is interested in the preservation and raising awareness of heritage architecture, artifacts, customs, food and memories via digital means.)

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Comments»

1. Jonathan - July 14, 2006

hi, i saw the url of the website in the papers today
and have decided to drop in to take a look.
i am perhaps what some may consider as an english-speaking
young singaporean, whose knowledge of chinese culture is almost close to zero. but i am really heartened that someone has the civic consciousness to start a project like this and reach out to singaporeans with little inkling about culture, save those given through mass media and globalization.

kudos to your team
and i wish u all the best!

will definitely be visiting this site more often.

2. Koh Sze Wei - July 16, 2006

Dear Mr Kent Neo,

I have read about you and your projects on the papers yesterday, and have visited your website. I applaude your efforts put in!

I have been very interested in the cultures of different localities and temple cultures (from architecture, customs, rites right down to the community) all the while. I have done some research and fieldwork especially in the area of Min-Nan culture (hokkien in Singapore’s term), and have written thesis on the topics of Hokkien taoist priests and the Hokkien community of Singapore, Hokkien Nanyin in Singapore during my days in NUS, therefore I wonder if I can contribute in anyway to the society in the future. I have an old article posted on the Lianhe Zaobao around 1.5 years ago, on the conservation of temples. The article mentioned that conservation is not only about the conservation of the architecture, but also the customs, rites and all that goes on in a traditional old temple, making it “alive” than to become a “musuem” like the Tian Hock Keng. Maybe you are interested to post it somewhere? I can send it to you, but it is in Chinese. I will also be publishing a revised edition of my thesis in a journal (Min-su Chu-i) in Taiwan in November, maybe in due time, that can also be of some contribution to the collection of literature on your website, again this is also in Chinese.

If you and your members are really interested in temple cultures, you might want to make a trip to the south of China, especially Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Xiamen (the Min-nan) area, where much of our cultural roots lie, and much is still intact from the cultural revolution. And also Taiwan, where conservation is very well done in some areas. Maybe at some point of time, the society can even consider on organising oversea fieldtrips to learn more about conservation in these areas, and putting them into the society we live in. I personally have went to Taiwan, Quanzhou and Xiamen for a few times, and find it exceptionally educational in this area.

There is a group of people in our society who are also really interested all these, but there is yet to be an organisation to gather the different specialisations. Hope that your society will be able to promote the awareness of the preservation of our true mulitculture. I am very interested in what you and your society, and hope to keep in constant touch with you and your society.

With best regards,

Sze Wei, Koh (Mr)

3. Kent Neo - July 16, 2006

Dear Sze Wei,

Thank you for your email, we will very much like to publish your article on our website. In fact,
the website is supposed to be bilingual! Just post the articles to me and I will post it up for
you. I will credit the article to your name. Also, if you like to be one of the founding member
of SOH, please tell me. We are at the moment looking for genuinely interested people to be part of
the committee. SOH will come under a Special Interest Group in Singapore Heritage Society very soon. If your friends
are interested, invite them to contribute too!.

Regards,
Kent Neo

4. Kenji - July 18, 2006

Hi, do go down to Wei Zhen Temple when free. It will be demolish by 15th Aug,according to the
caretaker. Thanks.

5. kentneo - July 29, 2006

In an era of Singapore’s history where everything is quantified by dollars & cents (inclusive of National Day tickets at the stadium), I do hope this weblog is a reminder that besides economics, a sense of the past is also important for the preparation of a mature state. In the spirit of Thong Chai Free clinic, I declare SOH as a free Heritage Clinic for anybody who is suffering from heritage woes. If you feel amnesiac about your roots, do find out more about what we do in SOH. Through our network of heritage lovers, we can help you ‘re-member’ a past which full of colour, scent and heart.

6. kentneo - August 2, 2006

The life of Tiong Bahru’s Wu Lou Miu is coming to an end, I am glad that I’ve managed to get volunteer photographers from here to capture its final grace. I believe SOCH wil be documenting more and more ‘funeral pictures’ of Chinese temples in Singapore. I sincerely give thanks to all those who have participated in documenting the last moments of Hor Lor Beo.

For me at least, Wu Lou Miu has brought back some fond memories of me and my grandmother who used to bring me to the nearby market for Wan Ton Meen. Life was certainly more carefree then, especially when your are still a kid, having your tiny hands gripped firmly by those who loved you, bringing you around places full of curiosities. Times change, values change, practices that have lost its greater function in society will be forgotten. As long as survival is equated with economic success, tabula rasa will pervade. Perhaps its time we re-evalute the definition of survival, now that most have shelter, food and clothing. In evolutionary theory, diversity is a pre-condition for survival. If our minds are stuck with a singular definition of survival, there will indeed be an imminent danger for our long term survival.

On a more practical note, heritage and eco-tourism contributes a substantial revenue for many countries in the world. Singapore was founded in 1819. With a history of almost two centuries, are we so sure that we have nothing more to show other than those picture perfect tourist spots that were designated in the 70s. I can name off-hand several districts or towns that are filled with heritage sites. Tiong Bahru, Bukit Timah, Toa Payoh, Paya Lebar and many others. Town councils and community centres should take the lead in discovering important heritage sites within their town/district with the help of historians/anthropologists and heritage organizations like the Singapore Heritage Society. With the recognition of important places within each constituent, a sense of belonging and racial harmony can be forged. I call this the decentralising of monuments. If someone were to ask me, are there monuments in Bukit Timah, I would not hesitate to tell him/her – YES! There is Ford factory, St Joseph’s church & its attached Christian cemetery (upper Bt Timah), Hoon San Geng at Jalan Lim Tai See, Masjid Al-Huda (Kampong mosque), Sri Murugan Hill Temple (only hill temple in Spore) to name a few interesting ones. So, if you are a heritage lover and you work in a town council/community centre and happen to read this article, whynot start a SOTH (Save Our Town Heritage) in your own town? I am sure CDC will provide the funding for your cause.

What I am trying to point out is, instead of complaining about the lack of history in Singapore, I would propose a counter argument – it is a matter of lack of interest rather than the lack of artifice. Hunting for heritage sites can be quite fun. Spend a day in the weekend discovering your neigbourhood and you may end up a place that you would never have imagined existed before. Also, you are likely to end up eating in unfamiliar places which is kinda exciting too. So, if you feel persuaded by now, put on your walking shoes and start discovering, don’t wait……tabula rasa is coming!

7. Stanley Tay - August 3, 2006

Dear Kent,

It was really heartening to come across this society! I am a heritage lover – it is so important and vital that we present our heritage that makes us ‘Uniquely Singaporean’.

Our quest for progress and apathy has ultimately caused a number of historic buildings, cultural or religious practices to disappear. I totally agree with you that it is the lack of interest amongst us that creates the illusion that Singapore is a place totally void of any culture or place of interest.

I have an similiar passion as to your agenda for SOH in terms of monuments and buildings preservation – ie customs and culinary – I am seeking to preserve some of the fast disppearing practices that is unique to Sg/MY – the feast of 9 emporor god, the marriage rites for the deceased etc. And ultimately the culinary aspect of it – food or the evolution of recipes that is usually tied in to a religious practice. I am wondering if you would consider this portion as I notice you have Margaret Chan on board as well and I understand that she has the similiar interest as well.

Do let me know how I can get involve?

Thank you!

8. Kent Neo - August 3, 2006

Dear Stanley,

Thank you for your passion for heritage. We conduct field work fortnitely on various old Chinese buildings in Singapore. This is a means where people can meet in real and get to know each other whilst having a tour of the old Chinese architecture. The photography volunteers will do image archiving whilst I conduct a visual survey and explanation of the architecture. Other members will conduct historical survey with the owners. This is usually followed by a makan session where we share more of our ‘interdisciplinary’ knowledge on heritage.

The writing part can be contributed through a direct email to me or you can join the Taosim Singapore yahoo group where traditional practices are discussed at length. It is really not a ‘religeous’ group, but more of a folk customs discussion group. You can find Margaret Chan there too. Our last interesting discussion was on the relation between Hokkien language and the Tang court. I will transfer interesting articles (with permission) from the group here for a handy reference. This is how open source collaboration works for this website so far. Of course, ideally you post your article here directly using WordPress, but I find that not everyone knows how to use this free web automation interface.

To find out when and where is the next field work, click on the ‘Field work’ page. To go to Taosim yahoo group, click on the Taosim-Singapore link in the blog-roll menu on your right. Have fun with heritage !

9. Mark - September 4, 2007

Hi Kent,

I came across your old site on blogspot while searching for one of the old temples. I thought it might be a gd idea for me to write to you for permission to linking my blog to yours for my own information.

Pretty into historic stuff too. Thanks! Hope to keep in touch 🙂

10. Han - March 28, 2010

Hi Kent, my friend was like suggesting that I start something to save Singapore’s heritage after I visited the cemetery today when I stumbled upon your website. Are you still active in this?

kentneo - January 24, 2011

Hi,

I only update this website once in a while nowadays. For tomb heritage, look for SPI Mr Rayomd Goh, he has been researching on them for quite a while.

Kent

11. sebastian liew - April 10, 2012

Is this group interested in info and photos on cantonese opera from the past in Singapore and Malaysia?


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