Amid the tranquil jungle setting, you may find a suddenly find a glimpse of colourful ceramic surfaces adorning the headstones and walls of random graves. These decorative tiles are often referred to in Singapore as 'Peranakan' tiles, and can be more commonly seen on preserved shophouses on old Peranakan enclaves such as Joo Chiat Road, Ang Siang Hill and Emerald Hill.
My favourite place to see these beautiful tiles however, is at Bukit Brown Cemetery. Located roughly in the north-west central area of Singapore, the former municipal cemetery has the largest number of Chinese graves outside mainland China. I love visiting this historical treasure-trove and the feeling of being transported to another era through these beautiful. I also visit the cemetery regularly to say hello to my relatives there!
Most of these colourful tiles there are from the early 20th century and can mostly be found adorning the graves of Chinese Peranakans. With an eclectic taste for decorative items from Europe, Peranakans are said to have been fond of such tiles despite their presumably hefty price. Shophouses and graves were said to have sometimes been decorated with the same tiles so that that deceased could continue to enjoy their beauty 'in the next life'.
I took these photos on an overcast day, which soon became a tropical downpour. Amid the jungle terrain and overgrowth, there is such an amazing quietness and serenity that it's hard to believe how close to town this area is. Since the cemetery was closed in 1973, the grounds have been maintained only minimally. As a result, the jungle has reclaimed its might with many graves covered in an overgrowth. The condition of many tiles is reasonable considering the constant exposure to the elements. I haven't edited any of these photos either, so what you see is the mostly the natural patina of nature over the course of a hundred years.
Support Bukit Brown Cemetery by joining a wonderful complimentary tour by the volunteer group All Things Bukit Brown.