We’d never heard of Haw Par Villa in Singapore until we read an article which described it as Asia’s Weirdest Theme Park. This got us interested so we decided to check it out for ourselves when in Singapore in December 2014.
Originally set up as the Tiger Balm Gardens by Aw Boon Haw, the creator of Tiger Balm back in the 1930’s Haw Par Villa is today a theme park based on Chinese Mythology.
The park is a bewildering collection of garish, kitschy statues and dioramas depicting different fables and stories from Chinese folklore.
The highlight has to be the Ten Courts of Hell. It features horrific depictions of Hell, colourful scenes of punishments and the ten steps of judgement before reincarnation in Buddhism and Chinese Mythology.
As you enter the 60 m long stone tunnel that houses the Courts you are confronted by King Qinguang residing over trials of criminals, judging them according to the deeds of their past life and dishing out an array of gory and bizarre punishments.
What is particularly striking is the weight given to different crimes.
For example in the third court of hell the “crimes” of a wife whom is a worry to her husband; unreasonably delaying a funeral; and ungratefulness sit beside escaping from prison and tomb raiding. The punishment: heart cut out and/or tied to a red hot copper pillar and grilled.
Similarly in the fourth court business and tax fraudsters are grouped with ‘those who opened letters not addressed to them’ and people who throw there rubbish in the street, and all are collectively condemned to being grounded by a large stone, kneel on spikes or having their tendons cut.
In court five rapists and those who have plotted to murder another are joined by people who don’t bury a cat or dog properly to be collectively thrown upon a hill of knives.
A personal favourite is court eight where people who are rude to their parents or other elderly folk and exam cheaters have their intestines and organs pulled out and bodily dismemberment.
And in this world of equal opportunity crime and punishment rapists, murders and robbers are joined by people who write erotic books or draw lewd pictures to have their heads and arms chopped off.
But there is much more to Haw Par Villa than the Ten Courts.
We wandered for a couple of hours around the site, admiring all manner of interesting scenes.
As the adage goes a picture tells a thousand stories. We think you’ll get the idea.
It’s not our aim to give a detailed account of the many characters, myths and stories that await you at Haw Par Villa.
You can find out for yourself when you go. And you should go, you won’t regret it.
It’s easily accessed as it sits beside Haw Par Villa Metro Station.
And it’s free!
Our only regret was that the gift shop was closed. I would’ve loved a crab headed boy t-shirt.