The Largest Cemetery in Singapore

In Singapore’s northwest corner, sprawling across land once used to grow rubber, coconut, and pineapple, sits Singapore’s biggest cemetery.

This is the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Complex, a 318 hectare (786 acre) lineup of thousands of burial plots. It is neatly divided up by religion, so you can visit graves of all sorts of faiths. Closest to the main office is a small Bahai cemetery:

Just across the street sits the Muslim cemetery …

… which wins the award for the most colorful gravesites …

… and even offers a bit of extra cheer of the kind you don’t usually see around gravestones:

The Christian cemetery …

… is neatly divided up into Protestants …

… and Catholics:

Unsurprisingly, the Catholics have great statuary (lots of it, often quite small) …

… and a wide variety of tombstone materials:

Behind locked gates, you can peer into the tiny Parsi (Zoroastrian) cemetery …

… and a Jewish cemetery right next door:

There’s also a “lawn cemetery,” which I think is of the mixed Christian variety …

… and which comes with its own special sign:

The largest section of all at the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery is classified not by religion, but by ethnic heritage; this is the Chinese cemetery.

Choa Chu Kang is the only graveyard in Singapore where you can still be buried. In the third-most densely populated country in the world, space is at a premium. So even if you are buried here today, the government has the right to move your grave fifteen years later; they’ll then stack you in an underground concrete crypt, cremate you, or sent your body off for a burial at sea. And part of Choa Chu Kang Cemetery is undergoing just such a change — the government is exhuming bodies and moving 80,000 graves to make more room for an expanded Tengah Air Base.

Relocating these graves will cut the cemetery in size by a third, from 318 hectares (786 acres) to 200 hectares (500 acres). Families may claim their loved one and have them moved; but at this point, 12,500 individuals have yet to be claimed. All of this means that while some beautiful graves are still standing …

… most of this section of the Chinese graveyard feels like a giant, sad pile of rubble.

It’s an eerie (and often wet and muddy) place to walk around …

… though you can still find bits of beauty among the weeds …

… and debris:

All in all, I enjoyed exploring the jumble.

An older section of the Chinese cemetery looks to be untouched — and even more overgrown:

Then there’s this part of the cemetery complex, which is entirely pristine and somewhat mysterious — if a body has been exhumed, why rebury it in a grassy field?

There’s an unusual amount of open space here…

… but in addition to the thousands of graves, there are occasional buildings. I found a mosque, a rudimentary Christian chapel …

… and the Garden of Remembrance …

… which is not a garden at all (as I’d hoped), but a private columbarium:

If you’re tired after walking in the hot sun, this is a great place for respite. A vending machine with cold beverages — glory, hallelujah, indeed!

The easiest way to get around the cemetery would be by car, because it’s enormous. But I got around on foot, which it’s easy enough to do if you hop off the 975 bus. Just make sure to wear good shoes and bring plenty of water!

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