Friday, February 10, 2012

History: Bukit China

Bukit China is the historical hillside in the Malaysian town of Melaka. In the 15th century, the wedding of a Chinese princess named Li Po (Hang Li Po) and the Sultan of Melaka, Mansur Shah, took place.

This was an important event in the history of China and Kingdom of Melaka. Sultan Mansor Shah presented Bukit China to the princess as a wedding gift. A residence was developed on this hill for the royal couple.

Later in the 17th century, the hill was used as the burial place for the Chinese residents of Melaka. Experts suggest that the hill is filled with 5000 to 12, 000 small and big graves.
One of the oldest graves is the double burial site of Mr. Huang Wei Hung and his wife. Visitors can see the beautiful temple of Poh San Teng at the base of the hill. This is a typical Chinese temple with magnificent surroundings.

The hill possesses lush green land, where local residents come for morning walks. This is a peaceful place to relax and to unwind.

Bukit China also known as the largest Chinese cemetery outside of mainland China. Graves can be found here that go back to the late Ming dynasty (mid 17th century). The earliest grave found so far dates to 1622, but unfortunately many graves were exhumed during the British occupation of Malaysia.

Somewhat earlier, the Portuguese built a Franciscan chapel on this hill dedicated to "Madre de Deus" (Mother of God) but it was destroyed along with an adjacent monastery during the Achinese attack of 1629.

The early cemetery that existed on this site (including the one grave dated to 1622) was fairly small. The site was greatly expanded during the Dutch occupation when Kapitan China (a Portuguese term for the head of the Chinese community) Lee Wei King bought the hill from the Dutch and donated it to the Chinese community of Melaka for use as a burial ground. It now contains over 12,500 graves and is almost full. Public burials have ceased, and what few open plots remain are reserved for members of the Standing and Advisory committee of Cheng Hoon Teng temple.