Grave of Seah Eu Chin and his wives

Main structure of Seah Eu Chin's grave in January 2018

The grave of Seah Eu Chin and his wives Tan Beng Guet and Tan Beng Choo was rediscovered in 2012 by the brothers Raymond and Charles Goh. At the time, the site was heavily overgrown and difficult to access, as it had been forgotten for many decades (compare the photo above with one from 2012). Since then, the main structure has been periodically cleaned for ancestor-worship or anniversary ceremonies, and construction work nearby has made it more accessible.

View of Grave Hill from Toa Payoh Rise. SLF Towers are in the background left.

The main structure is centered around the stele, which contain the names and titles of the persons buried there. This is flanked by several panels containing text, unfortunately most are very badly eroded and illegible, as well as decorative elements. Some of the text inscriptions are made from colored ceramic tiles that have been attached or inlaid into the stone, while others are simply incised and painted in.

The stele and panels are fronted by an area of marble tiles, with granite used to make the border. In front of this is a large semicirclular concrete platform. However, the actual boundaries of the grave area are even larger. The main structure is surrounded by at least one concrete border (or holding wall), which is again enclosed by another border made from brick. However these have been so heavily overgrown with vegetation that only parts of it are visible, and it was not possible to determine how far they extend.

View of the main structure, including part of the concrete platform in front.

Adjacent to the main structure is a stele erected to the Earth god (土地之神). The design is similar to the main tomb, but on a smaller scale and with simpler inscriptions.

Stele to the Earth god (土地之神) adjacent to the main structure.

The variety of materials used to build the structure is remarkable. They have withstood weathering and overgrowth by vegetation to different degrees. The main structure appears to be carved from stone. Some of the text inscriptions and decorations, including the main stele, were carved directly into the stone. However some were also overlaid with colored ceramic tiles attached by cement, which in many places has disintegrated with time.

There has also been structural damage to the tomb. Plants growing between tiles have pried some loose. The most serious damage is to some columns and panels on the right side, which have broken and toppled over, fracturing the marble tiles below them. Given the weight and sturdiness of the stone used to make them, this may have been caused by a fallen tree.

Overview of the main structure

The panels indicated in this overview are described in more detail below. The numbering is for convenience, and does not reflect any symbolic or religious meaning.

Stele

碑文

The central stele has three vertical lines of text. The middle line records the name and title of Seah Eu Chin, using his genealogical name 佘邦從 (Shé Bāngcóng). The other two lines are for his wives, who were sisters. The first 陳明珠 (left) predeceased him, and the second 陳明月 (right) died in 1905. The inscription is surmounted by the character 清, referring to the Qing era in China, during which they lived and died.

Transcription

N.B. Chinese text may not display vertically in some browsers.

誥贈恭人茂隴明月

誥授中憲大夫邦從之墓

誥封恭人茂隴明珠

Notes

The inscription contains honorary official titles awarded by the Qing imperial government. Because Seah Eu Chin's widow died in 1905, this inscription must therefore be from that year or later, although the language used indicates that the honorary titles were conferred while she was still alive (see below).

"Hucker" refers to numbered entry in Charles O Hucker, A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985).

Explanation of imperial patents and mandates from the National Palace Museum, Taiwan.

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Altar


The altar is carved with decorations on the front (left) and sides (right), and is continuous with the stele and the rest of the structure. The carving in front depicts three animals, while on the sides is a floral motif.

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Panel La

Decorative panel without text, containing a figure of bamboo made from embedded ceramic tiles, surrounded by a carved border. Forms a matching pair with panel Ra.

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Panel Ra

Decorative panel without text, containing a figure of bamboo made from embedded ceramic tiles, surrounded by a carved border. Forms a matching pair with panel La, but this one is more badly eroded.

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Panel R1

Text in four columns formed from embedded green ceramic tiles.

Transcription: 星卦生旺例舊?/陳東南美秀/好主賢/賓

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Panel R2

Text in four columns formed from embedded green ceramic tiles. Many tiles have been lost and the panel is heavily overgrown with moss. There is one (possibly two originally) reddish-colored tile in the lower-right corner of the panel, which may have depicted a seal.

Transcription: ??垂?/(教)澤(孫)長/奕葉??

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Panel R3

Text in two columns, heavily eroded and overgrown. Based on the matching panel L3, the text was probably formed from embedded blue ceramic tiles.

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Panel R4

Text in two columns, formed from embedded blue ceramic tiles. This panel has been broken in two.

Transcription: 生?(寧)山/?歸斯土

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Column R5

Decorative column in the shape of a rolled-up scroll. Floral motifs and a flower vase figure are carved on the surface. Column is broken. Forms a matching pair with column L5.

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Panels R6 and R7

Heavily eroded and overgrown. Based on matching panels L6 and L7, appear to be decorative without text inscriptions.

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Column R8


Column with one line of text incised into the stone, no apparent mosaic inlays. The other side of the column has a floral decoration.

Transcription: 金鎮北垣涵以癸

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Panel R9

Text in four columns made from green and red ceramic tiles, as well as two round or square red tiles in the lower right corner that were probably seals. Panels R9 to R12 form a set of similar design that may have been a continuous or several complementary texts.

Transcription: 山列???/會明堂光?/風範山高水/長 ?陳??誌

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Panel R10

Text in four columns made from red ceramic tiles.

Transcription: 順彼陰?/(泉)其三光/?開福地/???昌

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Panel R11

Text in four columns made from white ceramic tiles.

Transcription: ????/???(博)/傳問??/名??川

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Panel R12

Text in four columns made from white ceramic tiles.

Transcription: ????/?(時)??/宜?孫?/受祿?天

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Column R13

Square column topped by a carved lion. Text highlighted with red paint in a single column.

Transcription: 虎伏龍蟠鐘吉地

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Panel R14

Panel that probably had text inscription that is now completely eroded away.

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Panel L1

Text in four columns from embedded green ceramic tiles.

Transcription: 朱/私?陶/?名揚外國/成邑成都??唐

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Panel L2

Text in four columns from embedded green tiles. Two reddish tiles in the lower right corner (one round and one square) were probably seals.

Transcription: ?(走)盛唐/?追東晉/??端?/?壽長老

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Panel L3

Text in two columns made from inlaid blue ceramic tiles.

Transcription: ?皇得位/?癸朝丁

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Panel L4

Text in two columns made from inlaid blue ceramic tiles.

Transcription: 佳城誌?/水行山(背)

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Column L5

Decorative column in the form of a scroll, with floral motifs and figure of a flower vase.

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Panel L6

Decorative panel with colored ceramic tiles (green, red, yellow, white). It is not clear to me what they might represent, as half of the tiles have been lost, but there appears to be a figure of a bowl filled with food on the left.

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Panel L7

Decorative panel, probably without any text. The motifs here are geometric rather than floral as in the other panels.

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Column L8

Square column topped by a peg. Single column of incised text, colored with red paint.

Transcription: 星輝南極應乎丁

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Panel L9

Text in four columns made from embedded green ceramic tiles, with traces of red ceramic tiles probably representing attribution and seals, as in panel R9.

Transcription: 吉?維戊歆/格於斯於?/萬年勿替?/之???

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Panel L10


Text probably in four columns made from embedded red ceramic tiles. Almost all the inscription is illegible except for the characters 既 and 期. The bottom of panels L9 to L12 and R9 to R12 have an attractive scrolling-cloud carved decoration.

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Panel L11

Probably contained text like the adjacent panels, but completely eroded.

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Panel L12

Probably contained text like the adjacent panels, but completely eroded.

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Column L13

Square column topped by a lion. Text in a single column, incised and colored with red paint.

Transcription: 峰迴路轉繞佳城

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Panel L14

Text in ?five columns made from embedded white ceramic tiles, but so badly eroded as to be very difficult to decipher.

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Original content and web presentation Copyright (c) 2007-2016 Brandon Seah