PICTURES: Beautiful tributes as families pay respects to their departed from today (Qing Ming)

In recent years, tombstones have made way for more 
elaborate creations, creating beauty amid the sombreness

A grand piano, a bass guitar and an amplifier.

Beautifully carved, they mark the tomb of a young man.

Undertaker Roland Tay, 68, from Direct Funeral Service, showed us these tombstones at the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery to show that there is great beauty too in such sombre sites.

He explained as he walked through the area: "Often, there is a specific reason when someone asks for an 'extraordinary' tombstone instead of an ordinary marble tombstone."

Among the custom jobs? Tombstones modelled with the likes Thomas The Tank Engine, a Mercedes Benz E350 and even a Bentley. There is also a naval ship here at the cemetary.

When Mr Tay gets such requests, he works with Mr Darren Tan, 37, the operations manager of Chua Chu Kang Marble.

"The family will approach and discuss with me, and let me know the requirements.

"I would also try to find out what his hobbies were, and then take mental note of his favourite items when he was alive," says Mr Tay.

Sometimes, the family provides photos for the team. Mr Tan is then roped in to help with the proposed designs for the family to select.

"Based on its complexity, it can take up to two months before we come up with a satisfactory design," says Mr Tan.

Once the family has accepted and approved the design, it is sent to a factory in China.

Mr Tay adds: "The production process takes another month or two, before it is shipped to Singapore."

After it arrives, more work has to be done.


It is Mr Tan who then works on engraving - with techniques such as sandblasting and meticulously brushing on the gold flakes - the necessary details such as the person's name, dates of birth and death, and if needed, other inscriptions that could be a poem or a saying.

The size of the tombstone must be kept within 1.37m by 2.74m by 1.07m.

Ordinary tombstones cost from $3,000, while the more elaborate ones can go for $10,000 or more.

Mr Tay says: "It really isn't about the money. But with nearly 90 per cent of the dead here being cremated, for those who have opted for burial for their loved ones, this is their way of preserving the memories."