Abandoned Chinese Graves and Air Raid Shelters at Botanic Gardens

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exploringsingapore is exclusive ExplorerSG mini series where we reveal some of the lesser-known places, facts and history of Singapore.

Botanic Gardens may be known for the iconic Bandstand, orchids and giant trees, but do you know the air-raid shelters and Chinese tombs in the park? 

Discovered in 2012, the World-War II air-raid shelter was stumbled upon by a staff who was wandering in the vicinity of the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. The 4m-tall, 5m-wide and 10m-long shelter was unearthed after removing approximately 2.5m of earth from the ground.

Archaeologist Lim Chen Sian believed that the bunker was built in the 1930s as a private bomb shelter in preparation for the impending World War II. It is also suggested that the structure was meant to protect important properties rather than people as there were no ventilation shafts.

A stone throw away from the bunker are three Chinese tombs discovered in 2006. The tombs date back as far as 1842, 17 years before the establishment of the Singapore Botanic Gardens at Tanglin.

Of the three tombs, two were identified to be the graves of Qiu Zheng Zhi and Huang Hui Shi from Fujian, China; the third remains unidentified. Interestingly, the tombs were built in an era when the surrounding land was a plantation (for coffee, rubber, and pepper), making historians bewildered as to why the tombs were allowed to be constructed.

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