Abode of Dead, Depository of Knowledge and Contested Realm

A Study of Chinese Cemeteries in Malaysia

Researchers: Ling Tek Soon Thock Ker Pong Lee Kam Hing Fan Pik Shy Fan Pik Wah Ching Thing HoDanny Wong Tze Ken Ding Seong Lin Ngeow Chow Bing Goh Hong Ching Teoh Hooi See

Duration: 01 May 2013 - 30 Apr 2015

Cemeteries are important Chinese legacies that exist in large numbers in various towns and settlements in Malaysia. Despite the instinct to regard them as taboo, there is a wealth of historical knowledge and information contained in the genealogical registries as well as the poems and elegant eulogies carved onto the gravestones of these land sites.

Cemeteries were important to the Chinese community, not just as a place to bury their dead, but also to physically commemorate important events and prominent individuals. In recent years, a debate as arisen concerning urban Chinese cemeteries as to wether or not or not they should be removed to make way for development.

This study proposes to investigate the evolution and development of the Chinese community through the study of the Chinese cemeteries in Malaysia. It attempts to answer the following questions:

1)      To what extent do Chinese cemeteries serve as a depository of knowledge and information on the Chinese community in Malaysia; and

2)      How important were these cemeteries in the social and economic lives of the Chinese in Malaysia?

The objectives of research are as follows:

1)      To conduct a study of the Chinese cemeteries in Malaysia through the construction of an inventory of Chinese cemeteries in Malaysia.

2)      To conduct a multidisciplinary study on the Selangor-Kuala Lumpur Hokkien (Fujian) Cemetery (138 acres) as a test case for future research.

3)      To research Chinese cemeteries in Malaysia using the techniques of humanities and social sciences.

4)      To investigate the social-economic dimensions of debate on the future of the Chinese cemeteries.

5)      To examine methods of managing the cemeteries with a view towards recommending a suitable practice.

Being the first major study on the Chinese and Hokkien (Fujian) cemeteries in Malaysia, this research will likely affect how Chinese cemeteries have been perceived in the past. It will also have an impact on future research concerning Chinese cemeteries and the community in Malaysia, as well as its relations with the Fujian community in Southeast Asia and East Asia.