Haw Par Villa - To Hell and Back, Without Leaving Singapore.



If you ask any Singaporean over the age of 30 about Haw Par Villa, they will tell stories about school field-trips and hot days during their childhood spent cooling off at the water-slides with friends and family. Despite the notoriety among locals,very few visitors to Singapore take the time to explore this truly hidden gem in the West side of the island.

The history of Haw Par Villa starts in 1934, about a decade after the Haw brothers, creators of the highly successful Tiger Balm brand, moved to Singapore from Burma (now Myanmar). Aw Boon Haw and his brother Aw Boon Par were extraordinarily successful from the sales of their infamous ointment, and wanted to give something back to the community. Boon Haw decided to build a grand mansion for his brother. The mansion would be surrounded by manicured gardens, which would be open to the public, featuring statues depicting the stories and moral values from Chinese legends.

Booking Singapore Gardens

The park was opened in 1937. It cost over a million dollars to build at the time, and was packed with visitors every weekend and holiday.

 Haw Par Villa Entrance

Today the park is open, free of charge, to the public, Monday-Sunday (9:00 am - 7:00 pm.). One of the best deals in Singapore that almost no travelers take advantage of, Haw Par Villa is easily accessible from the Circle MRT Line (Haw Par Villa Station), and can be reached in under 30 minutes from downtown Singapore.

Haw Par Villa Dragon

Upon entering the park, it is hard not to be in awe at the altogether strange and beautiful statues and landscaping. Colorful life-sized, and larger-than-life, depictions of everything ranging from Buddha, to scenes from “Journey to the West”, all the way to the Statue of Liberty adorn the path. It is almost reminiscent of Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona, but even more like it's straight out of a strange acid induced hallucination.

 Haw Par Villa Battle

The park is continuously maintained and undergoes regular restoration, as evident from the painters and landscapers that are present every time I have visited. Despite the best efforts of those charged with maintaining Haw Par, the extreme climate of alternating sun and rain have left the park looking a little worse for wear.

Daypack Ad

Far from lessening the experience, this shabbiness really ads to the aesthetic of Haw Par Villa, giving it the allure of a long abandoned amusement park, but with a distinctive Singaporean feel.

 Chinese Dragon

Without a doubt, the main attraction of the park, is “The Ten Courts of Chinese Hell”. Just ask any Gen-X Singaporean, and they will recount stories of being subjected to the gory terrors of the attraction in their youth.

 Gates of Hell

 

The Ten Courts of Chinese Hell

 As you approach the entrance to Hell, you will be greeted by “Ox-Head” and “Horse-Face” who will be your escorts through the grizzly experience.

 First Court of Chinese Hell

 

First Court of Hell

 Once inside of Hell, you will immediately be face-to-face with King Qinguang, the first judge who will weigh the deeds of your past life and recommend the rewards and punishments accordingly. A sign reads:

“Those who are virtuous in their past life will be led over the Golden Bridge to reach Paradise.”

 “Those whose past good deeds outweigh crimes committed, will be sent over the Silver Bridge to reach paradise.”

 “Those who were evil doers will be sent to repent before the Mirror of Retribution and then taken to the subsequent Court of Hell to be punished.”

 Boiled in Lava

 

Second Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Inflicting physical injury
Conmen
Robbers
Thrown into volcanic pit
Corruption
Stealing
Gambling
Frozen into blocks of ice.
Prositiutes Drowned in a pool of blood

 

Cut your heart out

 

Third Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Ungratefulness
Disrespect to elders
Escape from prison
Heart cut out
Drug addicts and dealers
Tomb robbers
Urging people into crime and social unrest
Tied to a red hot copper and grilled

 

Pounded with Mallet

 

Fourth Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Tax evasion
Refusal to pay rent
Business fraud
Pounded by stone mallet
Disobedience to one's siblings
Lack of Filial piety
Ground by large stone

 

Hill of Knives

 

Fifth Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Plotting murder
Loan Sharks
Thrown onto a hill of knives

 

Cut in two

 

Sixth Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Cheating
Cursing
Kidnapping
Thrown onto a tree of knives
Misuse of books
posession of pornography
breaking written law
Wasting food
Body sawn in two

 

Tongue Pulled Out

 

Seventh Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Rumor-mongering
Sowing discord among family members
Tongue pulled out
Rape
Driving someone to their death
Thrown into wok of boiling oil

 

Dismembered

 

Eighth Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Lack of filial obedience
causing trouble for parents or family members
Cheating on exams
Intestines and organs pulled out
Harming others to benefit yourself Body dismembered

 

Crushed by Boulders

 

Ninth Court of Hell 

Crime Punishment
Robbery
Murder
Rape
Any other unlawful conduct
Head and arms chopped off
Neglect of the old or the young Crushed under boulders

 

Reincarnation

 

Tenth Court of Hell

 In the tenth court, sinners face “The Wheel of Reincarnation” and the “Pavilion of Forgetfulness”. After serving their sentences, prisoners are brought before an old lady named “Men Po” who hands them a cup of magic tea that causes them to forget their sins and their past life.

 Men Po

Then “The Wheel of Reincarnation”, or “Samsara”, decides if they will be reborn as a human or as an animal. Some will be reborn into a life of ease and comfort, while others will be born into sorrow and suffering.

 Samsara

Haw Par Villa is one of the most underrated attractions in Singapore, and wandering around the park is a great way to spend a few hours, or even an afternoon. Haw Par offers a great chance to learn about Chinese culture and legends, while you marvel at the fantastic artwork and landscaping. The fact that it's free of charge is one more reason to visit, especially if you are traveling on a budget and need a break from the high costs of being a traveler in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It can get really hot, and there is not a ton of shade, so bring a hat and sunscreen. There are clean and well maintained public toilets, and usually vendors in and just outside of the park selling water and snacks. And when you've had enough, the MRT is right there.

Haw Par Villa Pavilion


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