Haw Par Villa is one of the most interesting places to visit in Singapore, but one that is overlooked by most tourists and locals alike.
It was built in the 1930s, and back then, it was a very popular place to take the family; a kind of Disneyland for Singaporeans, when they were not as spoilt for choices as they are now, when it comes to places to sightsee.
Haw Par Villa was built by entrepreneurs Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, who wished their theme park to be a place for the impartation of traditional Chinese values — something which they could have only built during their time, and probably not now in modern day Singapore, where the explicit propagation of one’s religious or moral values (like the manner in which the Aws had so blatantly done through their theme park) is taboo.
I last visited Haw Par Villa in October 2009, and unlike many other newer places of interest in Singapore, admission here is FREE (except for the “Ten Courts of Hell” section, where I recall paying a token sum to get in).
The park contains over 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas (depicting scenes from Chinese mythology and folklore). Now, here are some of the ‘milder’ looking statues:
The place was relatively quiet when I visited: just a hanful of visitors and some craftsmen at work (to maintain the statues):
Haw Par Villa is most remembered for its Ten Courts of Hell attraction, and the depictions are based on Chinese mythology, showing dead souls being tormented in hell in various ways, based on the sins they had committed during their lifetime:
(Above: The Ten Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa may be open only between 9am to 6pm daily but the real one is said to operate 24 hours a day, giving souls no reprieve from their torment, as the pictures below depict)
Haw Par Villa seems to reflect a consciousness of hell and the afterlife among many Singaporean Chinese, especially the older generation, and I would say that this is a good thing, as it restrains people from doing evil and harming others. Meanwhile, I find it striking that the mythological understanding of hell depicted at Haw Par Villa bears some resemblance to the depictions of hell made by a young Christian artist in Korea.
This young Korean artist was purportedly taken to hell by Jesus Christ for a visit, and her drawings can be viewed here (by clicking the here hyperlink. Alternatively , to watch a video that feature her drawings, click here).