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A granite bollard belonging to a 19th century Peranakan merchant was discovered in Dover Forest (also known as Ulu Pandan Forest).

The gravestone belonged to merchant, philanthropist and community leader Tan Kim Cheng who lived from 1806 to 1864.

Marker on site in Dover Forest. Image courtesy of NHB.

Bollards have been used in the past to demarcate and identify land holdings. In colonial times, landowners had to place landmarks at critical points, such as corners or turns, on their properties.

This particular granite marker was found along the northern boundary of the ancient Tan Estate in southwest Singapore

He bears Tan’s initials (TKC) as well as his company’s Chinese name, Hong Hin (豊 興). It is almost a meter long and weighs around 62 kg.

What the marker looks like after removing the mud. Image courtesy of NHB.

According to current research, Tan’s domain was vast.

It would have encompassed present-day Clementi Avenue 2 in the west to Dawson Road in the east, and the School of Science and Technology in the north to Southern Kent Ridge Park in the south.

Here is a map showing the original land boundaries:

The original (estimated) terrestrial boundaries of Tan Kim Seng’s domain based on ongoing research. Image courtesy of NHB.

The marker was extracted on October 27.

It was sent to NHB’s Heritage Conservation Center where it was cleaned up. It is currently the subject of conservation treatment and further research.

Extraction of the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

Extraction of the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

According to Alvin Tan, Deputy Director General (Policy and Community) of NHB, this marker has heritage significance because it is the only known boundary marker associated with Tan.

It is also one of the few terminals to be engraved with English and Chinese characters.

The Hong Hin border post will be part of the national collection where it will join 107 other objects associated with Tan and his family. It could be exhibited at the Peranakan Museum after it reopens in 2023.

Remove the mud from the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

Remove the mud from the marker. Image courtesy of NHB.

A road and a bridge bear his name

In addition to being a businessman, Tan was appointed a justice of the peace in 1850.

He helped establish one of Singapore’s first Chinese language schools, the Chinese Free School, and was well known for his donation to improve the city’s water supply.

He was also known to bring food and money to patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital every Chinese New Year.

Tan has a road and a bridge named after him. Kim Seng Road passes just behind Great World City while Kim Seng Bridge is one of the nine bridges that cross the Singapore River.

You can read more about Tan at Infopedia.

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Top image credit: NHB, roots.sg


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