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Fort Canning Park

Fort Canning ParkBukit Larangan The Forbidden HillWelcome to the Park!Fort Canning Park is a beautiful hilltop area in the Business District of Singapore.Due to its central location, archaeologists have been able to find evidence of people utilizing this spot dating back from the 14th century all the way through World War IITogether lets explore the rich history of Fort Canning Park, one of Singapores greatest historical landmarks!

An Ancient Entrept

Bukit Larangan was home to Malay royalty during the 14th century. From their perch on this cool, shaded hill they could observe the Singapore River, a popular stop for traders going through the Straits of Malacca. In Malay, Bukit Larangan means Forbidden Hill. It is said that on the other side of this hill there used to be a beautiful spring called Pancur Larangan (Forbidden Spring), where all of the kings wives would bathe.The 1800s

Sir Stamford Raffles officially founded the city of Singapore in 1819 and chose to live on the hill which is now Fort Canning Park. This building is a much more sturdy reconstruction of the building that he called home, which was originally a very rudimentary cottage.Though it may have been simple, Raffles loved his home on the hill and got quite a kick out of knowing he lived in the same place as ancient royalty. He even wrote to the Duchess of Somerset that should his bones remain in the East they [will] have the honour of mixing with the ashes of Malayan kings. In Times of War

This is all that remains of the original Fort Canning.Built in 1859 and named after Viscount Charles John Canning, this fort marked the beginning of an era which would make this park a hub for wartime activities.During World War II it was here, at Fort Canning Park, that Lieutenant-General Percival surrendered Singapore to the Japanese (2012)A sketch of what an ancient Malayan structure may have looked like.

When Sir Raffles decided to make Fort Canning Park his home he uncovered the ruins of Malayan structures. Although his team did considerable damage to the sites, archaeologists today have been able to reimagine these ancient buildings using the remains.Excavating the SiteFort Canning Park has the proud distinction of being the first site in all of Singapore to be excavated!Excavations were begun by Dr. John Miksic in 1984 and his work immediately uncovered evidence that completely changed widely held beliefs about Singapore.The discovery of ceramics dating back to the Yuan Dynasty proved that the island of Singapore had flourished long before the 1800s.Public Outreachand the severe lack ofOne of the biggest struggles that I had doing this project was that the main section of Fort Canning Park has been closed off for construction. Nowhere on any National Parks website or even local signs was I warned of this and only found out after a very long, very hot walk across Singapore in the middle of the day. The section I was most looking forward to seeing was roped off and completely off-limits.Fortunately the entire Fort Canning area was not closed and because it is such a rich historical part of the island I was still able to get enough information. It just would have been nice to have seen the actual artifacts that place Malay royalty in the area and get to see a real archaeological site. This is a huge flaw in the National Parks program and I hope that they update their website more frequently in the future.The Artifacts at Fort Canning ParkThe artifacts discovered by Dr. John Miksic and his crew are all on display in the Fort Canning Site (currently closed to the public). They include glass beads from India, Chinese porcelain , copper coins, and ceramics dated back to the Yuan Dynasty of China.

Neither the National Parks website nor the entry to the Fort Canning Site offer any information on where to learn more about the excavations or even when the exhibit will be reopened.A Quadrilingual Country

Singapore is unique in that it recognizes four different languages as being official: Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil (Tan, 2014).

Fort Canning Park has a Heritage Trail where individuals can walk across the park and read about how the area has changed throughout history while getting to see what is left of the structures that were built here hundreds of years ago. All of the signs explaining the remains or telling old folktales are in all four languages. Some also include Japanese in order to cater to popular tourists.This is An Issue

Singapore is always growing!This construction is happening within walking distance of Fort Canning Park and there are plans for it to encroach even closer in the future.Public Outreach needs to address the fact that the government here is neglecting to preserve this historic park in its entirety. More tourism to the area would give them an economical reason to keep the park whole.And no one is addressing itThoughts on Fort Canning ParkPROSThis park is beautiful and it has so much potential to be a great way to experience historyCONSThere is very limited information available about the park from outside sources.The area is not well-maintained and was difficult to findAdvertised now as a place for parties/concerts rather than a history trail

How I Would Fix ItFirst and foremost, I would update the National Parks website!People would be much more willing to go to Fort Canning Park if they knew:Where it wasWhat it offeredWhen exhibits were openWith attendance increased there would be greater incentive to maintain the area as well as more reason for the government to keep it around.

ReferencesChoy, K.M. & Sugimoto, I. (2013). Trade, the Staple Theory of Growth, and Fluctuations, in Colonial Singapore, 1900-39. Australian Economic History Review, 53(2), 121. doi: 10.1111/aehr12007

Legends, The. (2012). About Us. Fort Canning Park.

Lim Peng, H. (2008). English Schools and School Libraries Before the Second World War: A Singapore Perspective. Singapore Journal of Library and Information Management [serial online]

Singapore (n.d.) Fort Canning Site. Southeast-Asian Archaeology.

Tan, P.W. (2014). Singapores Balancing Act, from the Perspective of the Linguistic Landscape. SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, 29(2), 438-466 doi: 10.1355/sj29-2g

**All photos are my own taken at Fort Canning Park, Dec 2014


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