Tuaran Chinese Cemetery

The view from the hilltop

These photos were shot while touring an old Chinese cemetery in Kampung Bakut, a village just outside of Tuaran in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Many Hakka Chinese migrated to this area in the late 19th century, hence the need for a place formally known in Malay as Tanah Perkuburan Orang Cina Tuaran (Chinese: 斗亞蘭華人福壽山). It is a forlorn, neglected place: a hilltop encrusted with elaborate tombs in an elegant state of disrepair. Cemeteries are typically avoided by the local people, a consequence of the widely-held belief that anything to do with death will bring bad luck. Even so, these burial grounds are littered with rubbish and empty glue canisters—an indication that the cemetery entertains at least a few visitors now and then.

The tree on the hill

The cemetery looks like it is falling apart but the underlying design is carefully thought out. As with other Chinese cemeteries, this one is organized according to the principles of feng shui. I don’t know very much about feng shui but I can appreciate the sound aesthetics of the walking path that flows around the hill and the care with which the graves have been oriented with respect to the rising and setting sun.

Crumbling into dust
A neglected history
Hill of ancestors
Under the elements
Shelter from the rain
Hillside of the dead
Farewell to the setting sun
In the golden light
Fading into another world
Last remnants of daylight
Last rays of sunlight on the cemetery hillside

Not all of Sabah is so grim and desolate; browse around for more photos from my time there.