Her memory is better than your computer’s

90-year-old Zhang Suan has been taking care of hundreds of tombs in Bukit Brown cemetery for half a century and could pinpoint the right tomb whenever she sees a deceased’s family. She was praised for having a memory as good as a computer’s.

Zhang’s 58-year-old son, Su Deyi, said everyone affectionately calls his mother Ah Suan Ah Ma. Su also said that his mother has been cleaning the graves at Bukit Brown cemetery since he was a child and continues to do so as his energetic mother has to find something to keep occupied.

Typically, people pay their respects during Qingming Festival, otherwise known as Tomb Sweeping day. Qingming Festival is a traditional Chinese festival which falls on either 4 or 5 April every year, the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. However, Zhang starts the preparation after Christmas, as she cleans over a hundred tombs and it would not be possible to finish doing so by Qingming if she doesn’t start early.

Nearing the weeks of Qingming, Zhang starts working as early as 8am and only leaves at 4pm. During the weekends, she works from 7am to 5pm.


Zhang can remember the exact location of every deceased’s tomb.

“If she has met the deceased’s family, she would remember them. The next year when the same family returns, she would be able to bring them to the right grave,” Su attested.

Some families refuse to pay

Zhang toiled hard to keep the tombs clean, but some do not acknowledge her hard work.

Su said while many adore his mother, some simply ignore her after she has finished cleaning the graves.

“Just that day, we met someone like that. My mother has been cleaning their ancestors’ graves for 6 years, but we’ve never met them during Qingming. When we finally met them this year, they actually said they’ve never asked my mother to clean the graves for them, and refused to pay.”

He added that his mother has a good memory and would not remember such details wrongly.

Voluntarily help to clean graves

The cost of having the graves cleaned for a year starts from $50 and is determined by the size of the tomb as well as its surroundings. If the family has financial difficulties, Su and his mother would voluntarily help clean the graves, or accept a token fee.

Taking care of Lim Yew Teok’s grave

Zhang has been looking after Lim Yew Teok’s grave since last year.

From 2007 to 2010, the media reported about a legal tussle over $13 million inheritance. The businessman has stated in a will dated 22 August 1925 that his estate was divided into 95 portions to be given out 21 years after the death of his last surviving child.

Lim’s great granddaughter Lim Chhui Ngor received 40 out of the 95 shares, which was estimated to be around $13 million when she died. Because she had no children, many of her relatives were fighting for the inheritance.


An Asia paranormal investigator, Raymond Goh, found out that Lim’s grave, as well as his wife’s and daughter’s, were left unmanaged. He then contacted a trust company, which entrusted the task of cleaning Lim’s grave to Zhang.

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With reference to CARIAsia Paranormal Investigators