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Nov 21, 2011

Bishan - Then and Now

Map of Kwong Wai Siew Pek San Teng c 1978. Source: National Archives of Singapore.

This photo of the Pek San Teng cemetery before land use from "the dead to the living".

Pek San Village Tea House c 1986.

Bishan Then .

Bishan over two decades ago was a plot of land in Singapore where the tens and thousands of dead people were buried in a resting place, rest in peace. Buried under the ground, and their tombs were seen on the surface.

The descendants will pay their respect every year during the traditional Qing Ming for prayers and offerings to the ancestors of Singaporean Chinese.

During every Qing Ming, my family and I to follow the same tradition to pray and offerings as filial piety duties to my parents. However, my late parents were not buried on land.

They were cremated at the Kong Ming San Buddhist Temple and their ashes were kept in their respective urns, located with addresses like those in apartment blocks and unit numbers and identified with each of them a photo displayed on the urn at the crematorium.

While travelling past Bishan each time, I wondered how much Bishan has transformed in physical appearance in space and time.

On this blog, Bishan in the past is shown only with a map of Bishan, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS).
Bishan, estate, located in the Central Region, lies between Ang Mo Kio Town, Toa Payoh Town and the Central Water Catchment area. It is a young housing estate made up of two older villages, namely Kampong San Theng and Soon Hock Village. Bishan with three sub-zones, is bounded by Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 to the north, Central Expressway (CTE) to the east, Braddell Road to the south and the Central Water Catchment Area to the west; and inclusive of Kallang River, Bishan has a total area of 743 ha. Modern landmarks are the Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) Marshalling Yard/Depot; Bishan MRT Station next to Junction 8 Complex with Bishan Bus Interchange at Bishan Town Centre; Raffles Institution; Catholic High Primary and Secondary School; Bishan Stadium, Sports Hall and Swimming Complex; and Bishan Regional Park.

Kampong San Theng dates back to more than a century ago. The village and its resulting temple were built by three pioneers of the Kwong Fu, Wai Chow Fu and Siew Hing Fu prefectures in Canton, China. They also set up the Singapore Kwong Wai Siew Free Hospital at Serangoon Road. The Singapore Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng, a charitable organisation by a federation of 16 clans of the Cantonese community in Singapore ran and managed Kampong San Theng. In 1982, the area was redeveloped. Today the Peck San Theng Temple/Columbarium, housing more than 100,000 niches, serve as a gentle reminder of the past. Part of the larger Kampong San Theng, the second village - the Soon Hock Village - is a predominantly Hokkien village, famous for the production of sesame oil and noodles. The Chinese architecture of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Complex with its temples, funeral parlours, columbarium and niches is an imposing sight along Sin Ming Avenue.

Source: By Cornelius-Takahama, Vernon written on 15-Mar-1999
National Library Board Singapore
Comments on article: InfopediaTalk

Bishan Now is a photographic journal with help of NAS from the same domain sources with acknowledgement of thanks for non-commercial purposes.

On this blog to express as I rambled, observations from a personal perspective:

Why is land not grown on earth the way flowers, fruits, vegetables and plants could be planted from seeds?

The first rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis)was successfully transplanted in Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1877, from seedlings taken from Brazil to the Kew Gardens in the UK. Ironically, it was Malaysia, not Singapore which became the world's biggest producer of rubber. Singapore do not have more land as natural resources than Malaysia. Wasn't this "foreign" plants which we don't have enough land for rubber industry for Singapore's economy assets.

Land is God created. Land is wiped out from earth by various natural disasters and calamities ...e.g. tsunami, flood, tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption, earthquake, heatwave, or landslide. The distribution of land is allocated in unequal sizes to each country, big or small.

Land utilisation is man-made for the benefit of the masses, for the people and the country. In economic terms, "the basic relationship between scarcity and choice"

Only if more land could be "planted" or "manufactured" in Singapore...

One way by "land reclamation from the sea" and another to recover from existing cemeteries to use land development for building houses, roads and transportation and other urban redevelopment projects. In other words, the "dead for the living" to give way to sacrifice in land scarce Singapore.

Bishan Now .

HDB Housing Estate at Bishan

Bishan MRT Station

First MRT train at Bishan on 8 July 1986.

First MRT train at Bishan on 8 July 1986.

President Wee Kim Wee's first MRT train ride at Bishan c 1986

First Lady's first MRT train ride at Bishan c 1986

President Wee Kim Wee's first MRT train ride at Bishan c 1986

Bishan Park

Bishan Fitness Park

Raffles Institution @ Bishan

ITE College @ Bishan

Architectural model of ITE College @ Bishan

The completed ITE building at Bishan.

Bishan Junction 8

Mr Lim Lian Hai's "Light for Life, Life for Light" photography galleries
was captured with light and life of Bishan Park here . Awesome masterpieces.



Blogger Lam Chun See said...

James. Like you, I went to the Kampong San Teng (KST) every year for the grave-sweeping exercise. The kampong that I grew up in was just East of KST. We were separated by the Kallang River which in those days was not so straight as it is now. Our kampong lay in what is today Lorong Chuan, CTE the MRT Depot and Bishan Parks.

To the South, KST was separated from Potong Pasir (and later Toa Payoh 'new' town) by Braddell Rd. I used to study in Braddell Rise School and late ACS. Pass by KST practically everyday.

We often went to the open-air South Country Theatre in the evenings and watched many black and white movies there. I also attended the Cantonese wayang at KST; next to the temple.

I have documented my memories of these places in my blog as well as my forthcoming book of the same title; Good Morning Yesterday.

Thanks for digging up the many photos of Bishan.

November 21, 2011 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for sharing the memories of KST where you grew up as a child. This is an area I am unfamiliar with.

Your description in the blog comment was kinda like guiding me on a virtual walk-through of these places down memory lane.

Congratulations on the release of your forthcoming "Good Morning Yesterday" nostalgia book for young and old, sharing heritage stuff which have not been written about the first-person experiences and journeys in a book before.

Great, readers now need no longer to attend funeral wakes to reminisce with old friends our fond nostalgic memories of the past about places, people and events.

The "Good Morning Yesterday" book, it is better than reading from the blogs. Bring the printed book to read it in comfort anytime, anywhere without a computer, iPad or other online devices with connection to the Net. In anticipation of a great book from you soon. Cheers!

November 21, 2011 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger lim said...

I practically traveled along Braddell Rd everyday on the way to my primary school.

I had a classmate (very proficient in Mandarin) who lived on the KST side of Braddell Rd between the now Toa Payoh flyover and the Kallang River.

I remember visiting the pond in front of his farm house to catch fighting fish.

Now, when I visit my parents' house at blk 215 Lor 8 Toa Payoh, I could look out of the window and see the whole of Bishan before me.

November 21, 2011 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for sharing your childhood memories and experiences at Kampong San Teng, Mr Lim. Isn't it wonderful that your parents' house overlook the sprawling Bishan where so residents there now live, work and play. In the past, Pek San Teng was just a burial ground without landscaped parks and ponds, shopping facilities, schools and libraries in the heartland.

November 22, 2011 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks James,
Your posting is fantastic. I was never a Bishan lover. Now I shall visit it more often.

By a strange co-incidence I boarded a double-decker SBS 56 on Tuesday, across from Novena, with my grandson and we landed at Junction 8.

But it's a pity isn't it, a lot of green spaces lost for good because of the sudden increase in apartment development in our little squeeze city?

November 26, 2011 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

Hi LIm. Since you travelled along Braddell Rd everyday, you can help me confirm my memory of this place. When you travel from Thomson towards Lor Chuan direction, just after passing the South Country Theatre, there was a pond on the left wasn't it. The location would be the traffic junction of Bishan Rd and Braddell Rd now.

November 29, 2011 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger lim said...

Hi Lam, could it be the lotus pond in front of the temple? Or not at all?

December 6, 2011 at 10:56 PM  

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