I was given a tour around Bukit Brown on the sidelines of a conference on modern China-India connections back in late July. As a student of modern Chinese history, I was surprised to discover such vivid testament to the deep ties between early twentieth-century Chinese politics and the Singaporean Chinese community. Most people are aware of Nanyang Chinese support for Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance, the memory of which is well preserved in Wan Qing Yuan. Much less exhaustively documented is the Singaporean connection of those who opposed Sun and pushed for a constitutional monarchist alternative to his Republican ideals. Many of the figures buried in the Chinese cemetery were members of the Progressive Party, an interesting mix of conservatives who had once sided with Yuan Shikai in 1913. As “losers” in history, Progressives have largely fallen off the historians’, let alone the general public’s, radar. Bukit Brown is one of the few places where academics and laypeople can so easily access traces of this once influential movement. For this reason and many others, I hope the site will be preserved for future generations.
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