Heritage gallery opens in Bishan

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing checking out miniature displays of past scenes at the opening of the Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng Heritage Gallery yesterday.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing checking out miniature displays of past scenes at the opening of the Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng Heritage Gallery yesterday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

More than two-thirds of the current Bishan town was once occupied by a village and a cemetery.

The story of Kampong San Teng is now being told in a new $700,000 heritage gallery on the grounds of Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng in Bishan Lane, a cultural organisation site that holds two temples and a columbarium.

The 560 sq m gallery, comprising educational boards, artefacts, photographs and electronic displays, was opened by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Redevelopment works for Bishan town began in 1979, and some of the cremated remains were moved to the columbarium. Gallery curator Lee Kok Leong, a 56-year-old freelance cultural and historical researcher, said: "We hope that people can learn more about their culture and Singapore's history after paying respects to their ancestors."

Besides showcasing elements of the former kampung, like a recreated attap house, the gallery boasts other artefacts from Singapore's past, including uniforms worn by British and Japanese soldiers, and cultural relics such as a temple bell.

Mr Chan said Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng-which is made up of 16 clan associations - has a special significance for him. As a primary school pupil in a single-parent household where his mother worked as a machine operator, he received bursaries of between $60 and over $100 to help him through school.

"They gave me bursaries to help me complete my studies. This is the kind of spirit that our forefathers had," he said. "More importantly, they've always reached out to help people from all walks of life, from all races. This is the kind of spirit we hope to pass to our next generation and more."

Mr Chan said a big part of the land where Bishan town now sits once belonged to the clan associations. But they returned the land to contribute to national development. "It is how Peck San Theng, as an institution, represents the kind of contributions, the kind of giving spirit, that represents the best of Singapore."

Former Kampong San Teng resident Chua Eik Chuan, 80, who was at yesterday's event, said: "The gallery is good. So the next generation won't forget. Many young people now can speak only English, and don't know their roots well."

Mr Kuan Ru Jing, 70, English secretary for Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng, said the gallery will showcase the organisation's rich 150-year history. "We want to change the perception that the columbarium is just for the dead. There is rich, living culture here too."

•Admission to the gallery is free. It is open from 9.30am to 4pm every day except on public holidays.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2018, with the headline 'Heritage gallery opens in Bishan'. Print Edition | Subscribe