Archive for April, 2009

Qing Ming Is About Knowing Our Family Tree

Before the Qing Ming festival ends, let me blog something about this one month festival. This Qing Ming festival or Tomb Sweeping festival is a time where we pay our respect to our elders or relatives who have left us.

I remember when I was young during my primary school days, I love this Qing Ming festival as it was a time when I could get together with my cousins. Usually my Seventh Uncle’s family would chartered for a mini bus to pick up both families for this important day.

Of course at that time, Qing Ming festival is really a Tomb Sweeping festival as our ancestors tombs were still at those graveyard at Peck San Theng. You may take a look at the old Peck San Theng here. We need to walk a distance to the tombs then, and those Indian grass cutters who can speak Cantonese much better than my kids, will lead the way. Needless to say, we had to pay them some money to clear those wild grasses at our ancestors’ tombs.

After the relocation of tombs to temples and Government-Managed Columbaria, my Seventh Uncle’s family and ours did not go together anymore during this festival. But now only my wife and my kids will accompany me to pay our respect to our ancestors.

 My Paternal Grandmother tablet was located at the Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng, while my Paternal Grandfather and Great Grandmother are at the Mandai Columbarium. I prefer the Mandai Columbarium as it is much cleaner and tidy though the distance is much further from my house.

Mandai Columbarium;

But why I said Qing Ming festival is about knowing our Family Tree? Well how many of us especially the younger generation like my kids know the relationships of who we are paying respect to? How do our kids address them in our own dialects or in Mandarin? Of course in English is much easier but I’m talking about our Chinese Roots and our own Family Tree. How much we know about our Family Tree then? Do you keep a record of your Family Tree too? I’m glad that my father bothers to keep a record of our own Family Tree when he was much healtier;

My father has 9 brothers/sisters and my father is the youngest (10th). So the one at Peck San Theng is my Paternal Grandmother or 祖母. I will address her as 奶奶. The other 2 at Mandai Columbarium are my Paternal Grandfather or 祖父 and Paternal Great Grandmother or 曾祖母. I will address my Grandfather as 爺爺 and my Paternal Great Grandmother as 老奶奶. Of course what my kids address them will be much more complex haha. Luckily my mother kept two copies of old newspaper cuttings regarding the Family Tree address or relationship. One is from The 1981 copy of The Straits Times;

I don’t quite like this set as it’s not so detail;

 The other copy is the 1988 Straits Times;

I like this copy very much as it’s not only colorful but detail and clear; Credit : Above 4, The Straits Times, SPH

I’ve to admit that I’m no good at such Chinese addresses for our relatives and elders. My wife and I also have difficulties in teaching our kids to address our relatives in Mandarin when we visit them.

One example is my wife’s elder sister and younger sister – how should my kids address them? All the while my wife asked our kids to address them (both elder and younger sister) as 姨. But I think there should be a difference and should it be my wife’s elder sister as 姨媽 and younger sister as ? Do you think so?

You may check it out here too at this site;  

“maternal elder aunt mother’s elder sister 姨母  yi4 mou5 yi2 mu3 姨媽 yi4 ma1 yi2 ma1

maternal elder aunt’s husband mother’s elder sister’s husband; 姨夫 yi4 fu1 yi2 fu1 姨丈 yi4 jeung6 yi2 zhang4  

maternal younger aunt mother’s younger sister 姨 yi4 yi2 same

 maternal younger aunt’s husband mother’s younger sister’s husband; 姨丈 yi4 jeung6 yi2 zhang4 same”

On the lighter side, Mediacorp will be showing its new Chinese drama series “

书包太重, My School Daze”. The first series on 29 Apr 2009 at 9pm Channel 8 will be interesting especially when a lady Chinese tutors teaching Mandarin to her students.

Listen carefully to what the teacher said ‘Your Mother’s Elder and Younger Sisters called姨’;

Now the second part is really hilarious;

Credit : Mediacorps.

But why is it important to know the address and relationship for Qing Ming festival? Well at least when you burn the offerings to your ancestors, you can write down who you are offering to and their relationship to you. The Green Bag is for Female (红男绿女);

The Red Bag is for Male;

This is my Grandfather’s tablet;

This is my Great Grandmother’s tablet;

You may see that usually for female (my Great Grandmother) their names were omitted as they just take after their husband’s surname. Unfair for the fairer sex right? Also note how the years were written at that time – Min Guo 民囯.

Min Guo 民囯” refers to Zhonghua Minguo 中華民囯 (Republic of China or ROC) established in 1911, but eventually had to relocate to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese nationalist (Kuomintang) lost the civil war to the Chinese communist. Therefore, the stated Min Guo year will be based on the years starting from 1911.

So, for Min Guo 27th year, it’s 1938 (since 1911+27 years)

For Min Guo 24th year, it’s 1935 (since 1911+24 years)

Btw, I do not have any religion so I’m not so well verse with all these tradition but since I’m Chinese, I must still go along with our tradition, our roots, else next time my kids will not know what and how to do when my wife and I gone.





Guess Where Quiz No.2?

This is the second Guess Where Quiz in my blog. This time maybe not so easy as compared to the first. Any idea where is this place or location? You have to give me the name of this place. This photo was taken in 1968 together with my godsisters. I was only 6 years old then. Also take note of the fashion of the 60s.

From Amusement Park To Cement Park

Probably some youngster find the word “Gay World” amusing like someone posted in the STOMP site regarding the Gay World Hotel.

I’m surprised that there are still people not aware of the Gay World existence in Singapore. Of course Gay World is short for Gay World Amusement Park, one of the 3 main Amusement Parks in Singapore. You have probably read about my post on New World Amusement Park.

Gay World Amusement Park was originally known as Happy World Amusement Park in the 30s. Happy World was the last one to be built in 1936 after Great World (1932) and New World (1923).

How Happy World looked like in the 50s;

You can even see the British Flag then in the above photo.

Let’s take a look at Happy World Amusement Park over the years;


The Happy World Amusement Park, commonly known as 快乐世界 by the locals, was founded by George Lee Geok Eng (of George Lee Motors fame), brother of philanthropist Lee Kong Chian. He invested $350,000 to open this amusement park then in 1936.

It was a form of nightlife entertainment where East meet West, located at the junction of Geylang and Mountbatten roads. You will normally find cabaret performances, ronggeng, movies, gaming and arcades, wayang and cultural shows and even trade shows in this amusement park. It was one of those must visit places for courting couples in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Like New World, those unforgettable places of visits include dance hall where one could have a dance with taxi girls for probably twenty cents, and the popular ghost train ride;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS


The Happy World Amusement Park was used for the Singapore’s first trade show – The Engineering and Trade Exhibition.


A 1941 Japanese Map showing the Happy World location between Geylang Road and Grove Road (now known as Mountbatten Road);

Credit : Lim Shao Bin 2004 Photos of Singapore

The Straits Chinese China Relief Fund Committee of Singapore organised a modernised bangsawan (a traditional Malay opera)  for 3,000 babas and nyonya in Happy World, to raise funds for China war effort leading to WWII.

1942 to 1945:

Even during the Japanese air-raids hit Singapore in January 1942, business at Happy World continued, and the cabaret had blackout dances (with no lights) to escape the Japanese bombings. Of course this has nothing to do with the recent Earth Hour haha!

The Japanese also turned the Happy World into gambling den. As these dens were precluded from raids, the bright lights at the Happy World continued.   The Japanese were not allowed in the gambling dens but they could patronise the cabarets and nightclubs in the Happy World.  The gambling dens were closed after Japanese surrendered in 1945. The Happy World was also used as a military workshop during the Japanese Occupation.

1950s to 1960s:

After the war, the amusement park continued to operate. But what I remember best about the Happy World was the frequent fire broke out in the park. In 1962, fire broke out twice in 2 months, destroying the theatre, part of the cabaret and 26 stalls. In fact, more blazes happened in 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1988.

Stalls were burnt in 1958 at Happy World;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Mr.Sin Ma Chai, those elderly Cantonese will know who he is, performed at the Happy World in 1963;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS


The Gay World;

The Happy World was renamed as Gay World Amusement Park (繁華世界) in 1966. The word “Gay” here means “joyful”, “carefree”, “bright and showy” and only until probably later, it means “homosexuality”. Some of the main tenants were Eng Wah Organisation, Datoh Rajah Theatre and Cabaret, Tai Thong Restaurant and New Happy Cinema. By the way, the park used to have 4 cinemas, including one open-air one – Happy Theatre, Silver City and the open-air Victory Theatre. Do you remember the other one? Sin Wah Emporium, later became part of Emporium Holdings, and Tai Thong Restaurant, were my only haunt there. I went to Tai Thong Restaurant for their mooncakes.

The New Happy Theatre;

The Gay World Amusement Park ticket;

Credit : The Straits Times.

Way before the National Indoor Stadium was built, the Gay World Stadium was once the greatest covered stadium in SEA. This octagonal shaped stadium built for boxing and other sports could seat 7,000. The Gay World Stadium was later renamed as Geylang Indoor Stadium. It was even the venue for Malaya’s first badminton Thomas Cup in 1952.

The Gay World Stadium;

In 1973, the Gay World Stadium was one of the venues for the SEAP games. Boxing and wrestling fights were the popular sports held there and most paid only20 cents to see wrestlers like Tiger Ahmad and King Kong in the ring. The Gay World Stadium also held circus shows occasionally.


Even with free admission to the park, it did not attract enough visitors. The park was badly maintained and rats were seen running about. Only 1 of the 4 cinemas remained and probably only screening Tamil shows.


By 2000, the Gay World was in an abandoned state. There was no power or water supplied, and only about 40 tenants carried on business using portable generators.

The last days of Gay World;

In 2001, the bulldozers came and the Gay World and the Geylang Indoor Stadium were demolished. The site was zoned for residential development,  however, this does not material even till now. In 2004, the Nicoll Highway collapse sent one of the 2 concrete making plants there working non-stop.

Today, the two concrete-making plants and the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System site office are located there.

I’ve always wondered with 3 amusement parks in the past, why can’t we accommodate the last amusement park at Geylang – The Gay World Amusement Park and the Gay World Stadium (or Geylang Indoor Stadium). Why must we keep demolishing all these nostalgia amusement park in Singapore just for residential and commercial development?

A 1956 City Map showing the Happy World Park;

Credit : Singapore Improvement Trust, Survey Department

A 1976 Chinese Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park;

A 1988 Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park and the Geylang Indoor Stadium;

A 1998 Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park and Gay World Hotel:

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Survey Department, Ministry of Law.

The aerial view of the Happy World Park and the octagon shaped Stadium in the 50s;

Credit : Editions Didier Millet, National Archives of Singapore

Now the Geylang Indoor Stadium no longer exists though the name still remains at the Google Map;

The bus stop now stands in front of the old Gay World entrance;

The fence up area and those trees inside make the Gay World Park disappears from one memory.

The Cement Plant in the old Gay World Park as seen from the Geylang Road;

Another view of the Cement Plant as seen from Mountbatten Road;

The Cement Trucks queuing up along the Geylang Drive;

Credits : All photos above


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April 2009