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Research: Cultural Heritage of Singapore’s Over-100-Years-Old Kinship-Based Clan Associations

In 2019, the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) invited the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) to run a joint call for their Chinese Arts and Culture Research Grant, open exclusively to members of SHS. The grant was awarded to Lynn Wong Yuqing and Dr Lin Chia Tsun for the project, “Cultural heritage of Singapore’s over-100-years-old kinship-based clan associations”and the project was completed in March 2021.

Download the key findings report here.

The researchers presented their findings in two talks at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre on 13 and 14 Nov 2021. The talks can be viewed online at SCCC’s Facebook Page.

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Jalan-Jalan di Ubin – a guide to cultural heritage sites on Pulau Ubin

Download our tour handbook for a brief introduction to the tour stops at Pesta Ubin 2017

For Pesta Ubin 2017, the Singapore Heritage Society conducted a a special tour curated by Dr Vivienne Wee, our expert anthropologist, to the island’s little-seen heritage sites – including kampung houses, an old cemetery and a mangrove swamp. At each stop, villagers shared with us recollections from their past, their stories of their present, and their hopes for the future.

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Bukit Brown Wayfinder and Self-Guided Tour

Check out the microsite for our Bukit Brown Wayfinder, launched on 18 Nov 2017

The Wayfinder is a self-guided trail along 25 tombs in Blocks 1 and 3 of the Bukit Brown Cemetery. Uncover the history and heritage buried in one of Singapore’s largest and last-remaining cemeteries.

More on Bukit Brown can be found here

World War II @ Bukit Brown

This collection of stories, essays and poems looks at the impact of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in the Second World War (1942-1945) from the perspective of those interred at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The highlights of the book are stories shared by descendants from family oral archives and albums of their ancestors, some of whom survived and others who perished, during the darkest chapters of Singapore’s history.

Bukit Brown remains the largest cemetery in Singapore for the war dead in situ, and buried with them are many untold stories of bravery, resilience, tragedy, survival and, amid the darkness, hope. The book offers new material and insights into the human tragedy of war as an act of commemoration, thereby adding another layer to the already vast literature available on WWII in Singapore.

“The stories have taken us to the Endau Settlement in Johor, to Taiping (Malaysia) and to the battlefields of Europe in ways so unexpected they took our breath away,” said Claire Leow and Catherine Lim, the co-editors of the book. “It is a slow and at times painful unraveling of family history, lost in memory but for the persistence of descendants. It has taken seven decades for some of these fragments to be pulled together, and we see this not as a one-off book but a first step in the difficult journey of “re-discovery” and “re-membering”. The narratives also re-affirm to us Singapore’s place in regional and global historical narratives. We hope it serves as a curtain raiser to 2017, the 75 Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.”

The stories are nested around essays— which provide context and background—written by the community of volunteers, who have come to be known as brownies under the banner of All Things Bukit Brown. They are neither historians nor academics but the editorial team conduct regular guided walks on site, which in themselves are learning journeys as they expand on their body of knowledge from engaging with descendants and a myriad web of networks including academics and historians.

“Bukit Brown has unexpectedly turned out to be a touchstone about the loss of heritage— tangible and intangible— in a Singapore eager to modernise and develop,” Chua Ai Lin, President of Singapore Heritage Society. “The book is an important evolution of the civil society movement to uphold Bukit Brown as a site of national significance, and illuminate one of its more fragile narrative threads. It brings together at once the strategic and personal importance of the site.”

About the Editors

Claire Leow, works in corporate communications with a background in journalism, both local and international. Claire was instrumental in co-curating with Jon Cooper—a war archaeologist who has been based in Singapore since 2011—“The Battlefield at Bukit Brown” guided walk, which has become a monthly staple in WW II history in Singapore. She has contributed chapters on the Railway Corridor and Bukit Brown in “Public Spaces in Urban Asia” (February 2014). Her CV includes more than two decades in journalism as correspondent and editor, principally at Business Times and Bloomberg news bureau chief for Bloomberg in Jakarta, and managing editor of the flagship Global-is-Asian magazine at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy where she edited a 12-chapter book as Associate Director of Research Dissemination.

Catherine Lim works freelance in broadcast media and the flexibility of her job allowed her to kickstart the blog with the first posts and function as the main editor. She co-ordinates requests for learning journeys for guided walks in Bukit Brown. In 2012, she produced, and was co-researcher and co-writer of an 8 part documentary series on Bukit Brown called “History from the Hills”. She is the co-ordinator for All Things Bukit Brown in a working committee representing civil society in discussions with the Ministry of National Development on curating artefacts from exhumed tombs within the grounds of Bukit Brown.

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ISBN: 978-981-09-8370-3
Published: 2016
Dimension: 166mm x 240mm
Extent: 212 pages
Finish: Paperback

Published by Ethos Books and Singapore Heritage Society

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Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong temple & festival – a brief guide

Download our tour handbook for a brief introduction to the Tua Pek Kong Temple Festival held in conjunction with Pesta Ubin

In conjunction with Pesta Ubin, the Singapore Heritage Society has produced this information guide to help visitors understand the Tua Pek Kong temple & festival on Pulau Ubin, which is organised annually by the Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple. This guide was first produced in 2016, and updated in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Download the PDF: Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple & Festival Guide 2019

Facebook Event Page:

Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Festival 2019

新加坡传统文化学会去年连同Pesta Ubin制作了一份册子,帮助前往乌敏岛的游客更深地入了解一年一度,由乌敏岛佛山亭大伯公庙主办的大伯公千秋。册子最新的版本包括今年大伯公千秋的日程表,欢迎大家下载:

《乌敏岛佛山亭大伯公庙 2019大伯公千秋简介》

Spaces of the Dead: A Case from the Living (2011) by Kevin YL Tan (ed.)

Seen primarily as final resting places, cemeteries are increasingly under threat from urban redevelopment in land-scarce Singapore. Regarded as ‘excess space’ by state planners, and as ‘taboo places’ by the local populace, the rich historical and cultural heritage of our cemeteries have remained largely unappreciated and hidden. Today, there are about less than a dozen cemeteries left in Singapore. With the recent exhumation of major cemeteries like Bidadari Cemetery and Kong How Shua Cemetery, concerns have been raised about the status of cemeteries in Singapore.


Spaces of the Dead: A Case from the Living brings together various authors concerned with the need for conservation of cemeteries in Singapore. This book showcases cemeteries as spaces of historical, architectural and social merit through the writings and photo-journals of the authors. We hope it will serve as an initial step in generating greater interest in and awareness of Singapore’s cemeteries.

The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History (2010)

by Loh Kah Seng & Liew Kai Khiun (eds.)



In exploring the past, researchers labour in the present: to locate the archival document which is located somewhere behind a gate with its keeper; or to find that elusive participant who will throw light on a gap in our knowledge, and convince them to speak. The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History meditates on this relationship between past and present in a developmental city-state. The articles discusse how researchers seek to gain entry to archives and memories, in endeavours which crucially shape the imagination of Singapore as a nation and the identity of its people as citizens.

Gedung Kuning: Memories of a Malay Childhood (2010) by Hidayah Amin


Gedung Kuning or the Yellow Mansion was home to the family of Haji Yusoff ‘Tali Pinggang’ from 1912 to 1999. It was acquired by the Singapore government in August 1999 under the Land Acquisition Act. What used to house six families is now preserved as a historic building under the Malay Heritage Centre.


Hidayah Amin, one of Haji Yusoff’s great-granddaughters, revisits her childhood home and takes readers beyond the gate guarded by stone eagles, through rooms with big mirrors and marble floors, and shares interesting anecdotes growing up in Gedung Kuning. Through 28 short stories, readers get a historical narrative detailing the lives of people living in Gedung Kuning and the Malays of Singapore from 1850s to 1999.

The Triads: Chinese Secret Societies in 1950s Malaya & Singapore (2009) by Leon Comber

This volume collects together and reprints two groundbreaking publications from the 1950s by Dr Leon Comber: Introduction to Secret Societies; and Traditional Mysteries of Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya. The volumes were written to initiate laypersons to the mysterious world of Chinese secret societies. Secret societies were originally founded on the bedrock of blood ties, kinship, mutual help and rebellion against repressive regimes and especially relevant to the immigrant communities of the Nanyang (overseas) Chinese as they integrated into new homelands. To that extent, many of their rituals, codes of conduct and history held true to original ideals.


Over time however, many secret societies later turned to crime and have become synonymous with criminal organizations serving their leaders and gang members purposes rather than the wider community. Now republished in one paperback volume with new setting and design, The Triads provides a new readership with a fascinating glimpse into a world which continues to capture the imagination for both older and younger generations of students of an overseas Chinese community in Asia.

Through The Bamboo Window: Chinese Life & Culture in 1950s Malaya & Singapore (2009) by Leon Comber

This volume collects together and reprints four classic books written in the 1950s by Dr Leon Comber: Chinese Ancestral Worship; Chinese Festivals in Malaya (with Dorothy Lo); Chinese Magic & Superstition in Malaya; and Chinese Temples in Singapore. These books on Chinese life and customs were reprinted many times but have long been out of print. Written for the layperson, the style is simple and unpretentious, yet Comber’s meticulously presents a veritable cornucopia of a culture still relevant and present in modern Southeast Asia Completely reset and attractively designed this new publication addresses the rich heritage of the overseas Chinese community’s roots and practices, and for those reading about or visiting Southeast will find it a ready source of information and knowledge of ancient and classic Chinese culture in all its glory.

Singapore’s Monuments & Landmarks: A Philatelic Ramble

About This Book

The rich diversity of Singapore’s heritage in postage stamps may be something of a surprise! This finely illustrated softback written for children and adults gives details and stories about the significance of the buildings and objects depicted. These include official buildings, places of worship, rivers and bridges, nature parks, and monuments, including now-dismantled Japanese shrines. This book opens many windows onto Singapore’s history.

Format: Paper Back, 96 pages
Published: 2007, Singapore, 1st Edition
ISBN: 9789810578091

The Book of Singapore Firsts (2006) by Kay Gillis & Kevin YL Tan

This book is the first of its kind. It brings together over 300 fascinating ‘firsts’ in Singapore. Do you know who owned the first car brought into Singapore? Or who the first woman doctor was? What about the first ‘skyscraper’ or the first court house? Authors Kay Gillis and Kevin Tan have compiled a personal collection of interesting and intriguing ‘firsts’ in an A-Z encyclopaedia. Most of the listings include extensive write-ups and histories.

An Ingenious Reverie: The Photography of Yip Cheong Fun (2006) by Bridget Tracy Tan

This catalogue accompanied the 2006 exhibition of photographs by the celebrated and pioneer Singapore photographer Yip Cheong Fun (1903-1989). In these remarkable photo studies, the National Library Board and the Singapore Heritage Society have presented many aspects of both the physical fabric and the human life and emotions of Singapore in the 20th century. With biographical and professional summaries and over a hundred photographs with many smaller insets. Partly in Chinese.

Memories and the National Library: Between Forgetting And Remembering (2000)

by Kwok Kian Woon, Ho Weng Hin and Tan Kar Lin (eds.)


The Singapore Heritage Society has undertaken this compilation of articles and letters that appeared in the local press over the controversial decision by the government to demolish the National Library building at Stamford Road. Earmarked as the new site for a management university, the centrally-located area has since 1960 evoked a host of sentiments for thousands of Singaporeans, who face the loss of yet another built memory.

Rethinking Chinatown And Heritage Conservation In Singapore (2000)

by Kwok Kian-Woon, C.J. Wee Wan-Ling and Karen Chia (eds)


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SHS book in PDF: Rethinking Chinatown

N.B.: Appendix (pages 60-88) are not available in the PDF version.


A preliminary review conducted by the Singapore Heritage Society of the Singapore Tourism Board’s multi-million dollar proposal to “revitalise” Chinatown. The book documents the courses that are relevant for the implementation of the STB plans; draw lessons from the Chinatown debate and reflect on the future directions for the development of other heritage sites in Singapore.


The study presents:

1. The Chinatown heritage.

2. Challenges in the revitalization of Chinatown.

3. Opportunities for the redevelopment of Chinatown.

4. A consideration of the STB proposal.

‘We Asians’: Between Past And Future (2000)

by Kwok Kian-Woon, Indira Arumugam, Karen Chia and Lee Chee Keng (eds)


In the wide-ranging and often complex papers and discussion at the February 2000 Singapore Conference “We Asians — between Past & Future,” Japanese and Southeast Asian contributors examined concepts of Asianness. The material evolves around the following themes: The past as prologue; war and violence; history and memory; Colonialism, Communism and nation-state formation; the rise of Capitalism in Asia; Culture and consciousness and Beginning the 21st Century.

Our Place in Time: Exploring Heritage And Memory in Singapore (1999)

by Kwok Kian Woon, Kwa Chong Guan, Lily Kong and Brenda Yeoh (eds.)


Our Place in Time is a collection of papers presented at a forum on 17-18 September 1994. It discusses our search for identity as an attempt to recover and rediscover ‘the living presence of the past’, for ‘heritage is not simply what we inherit from the past, as if it were fixed and given; rather, it embodies and discloses forms of human possibilities – possible ways of life, hopes and fears, aspirations fulfilled and unfulfilled. The book discusses how heritage answers fundamental questions such as what it means to be human and how recollecting the past is a part of projecting our future.

Chinatown Memories (1998) by Geraldene Lowe-Ismail

A new and charming version of Geraldene’s well known and loved memoir of a Chinatown past. Lavishly illustrated by Derek Corke, who lived and painted Singapore for 18 years, this companion reader and guide to Singapore’s Chinatown is an ideal gift and souvenir of one of Southeast Asia’s vibrant cities and it impressive and cherished heritage.

What If? Post-War Choices In Singapore (1995) by Lee Geok Boi

An interactive game book showing the reader the choices and decisions that the ordinary person faced in Singapore during World War II and after. This book was published by the Singapore Heritage Society to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the surrender of the Japanese on 12 September 1945.

Pages from yesteryear: a look at the printed works of Singapore, 1819-1959 (1989) by Lee Geok Boi

This is a pioneering work that attempts to trace the literary heritage of Singapore from its founding in 1819 up to 1959. Covers the early religious tracts published by missionary groups; poems, short stories published in newspapers and magazines; publishing houses, book distribution; literary awareness; and writers and their works. Photographs by Albert Lim K.S. & Eng Bow Kee.