Haw Par Villa: Fascinating Tourist Attraction in Singapore That Is Closest to “Hell”

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).

Haw Par Villa

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:

Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa

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 Craftsman

Haw Par Villa Craftsman

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:

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

(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 Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell

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).


What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? Chew Chor Meng and His Born Again Experience

The Lord Jesus Christ said that those who wished to inherit eternal life must be born again (John 3:3).

However, many have wondered what it means to be born again.

The born-again experience is a wonderful, supernatural experience in which a person’s nature undergoes a drastic change (in particular, old sinful habit get removed), and as a result of the change (and as the name ‘born again‘ implies), it is as if the person has become a ‘new person‘ or has become ‘reborn‘.

T.V. celebrity, Chew Chor Meng, shared about his born again experience in the short Youtube video clip below where he said that, without his realisation, he had lost the desire to swear (and to get angry easily) and to gamble (a pastime that he had enjoyed in the past).

It is important to note that the disappearance of these bad habits did not come by self-control or self-will (indeed, he was not conscious of the lost of his old bad habits until a colleague had mentioned it to him, leading to him suddenly becoming very alarmed and seeking advice from his good friend, Rayson Tan). Chew’s bad habits disappeared because of the amazing work and power of the Holy Spirit in his life, even though he was not aware of it.

Friend, are your bad habits destroying your life and the happiness of your family? To effectively get rid of your bad habits, you need to be born again, which can be obtained through prayer (that is, talking to God):

“Lord Jesus Christ, I confess to You my bad habits [name them specifically], and I wish to be born again. I now surrender my life to You, and ask that You please change me and make me new. Amen.”

If you have said this prayer aloud, and your heart has been sincere about wanting to be born again — congratulations! Like a seed that is planed into the ground, this prayer marks the beginning of new life in you, although you may not notice it immediately (but for some people, it happens a lot sooner).

Now, just as the seed that is pushed into the ground needs to be watered and nurtured for it to grow up strong and healthy, likewise, this new life that has begun in you can only thrive through regular prayer and reading of the bible.

If you need further advice on being born again, I’d love to help you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me by clicking the ‘Leave a comment’ link beneath the title, and write “Please contact me” in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box that appears next. God bless you!

Actor Chew Chor Meng Has An Incurable Genetic Disorder and Was Only Given 18 Months to Live, But Has Long Outlived the Doctor’s Prognosis

When actor Chew Chor Meng was diagnosed with Kennedy’s Disease (a rare genetic disorder that affects the nerves) in 2008, he had two doctors tell him that he had only 18 months to live.

Today, however, Chew remains well and alive, seven years after the prognosis given by the two doctors.

Chew shares his story in the three Youtube boxes below. The first is in Mandarin/Chinese, the second is an Teochew (however, it is incomplete), and the third is in English (but is audio-only).

Is the Spirit of the World Entrenched in the Hearts of Many Singaporean Christians?

Most churchgoers prefer sitting in the same spot week after week, and my family is no different.

Invariably, a well-dressed lady in her 40-50s, together with her husband and teenage daughter, take their seats somewhere just in front of us.

Ever so often, while the message is being preached, the lady would whip out her handphone to view photographs of branded handbags.

She seems to study each handbag closely, as I observe her scroll through multiple photographs of each handbag that cover different angles.

Is it a sin for a Christian to own a branded handbag? No, I don’t think so.

But it is clear to me that this lady has a weakness for wordly goods, and the scripture warns us against setting our hearts on these things:

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NIV)

Singapore is a materialistic society. The shopping malls are opened almost every day of the year, and are packed during the weekends. In addition, many Singaporeans enjoy travelling overseas, to places like Bangkok, to shop.

Every weekend, many Singaporeans visit condominium launches, with the intention of buying an additional property to rent out, or to upgrade their homes and live more comfortably.

Many Singaporean seem to be living beyond their means, and according to an article that recently appeared in The Straits Times, Mr Christopher Tan, chief executive of financial advisory firm Providend, was quoted as saying that Singapore is “increasingly becoming a debt-driven society“.

It is easy to get caught up with the spirit of materialism and worldliness in Singapore, and to aspire to keep up with the Joneses (we even have a commonly used term to describe this pattern of behavour — ‘kiasuness’). However, the Lord Jesus Christ has made it clear that we who belong to Him do not belong to the world (John 15:19).

Indeed, would our Lord Jesus Christ say the following to many of us Christians in Singapore?

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17; NIV)

Do’s and Don’ts When Attending Chinese Christian Funerals in Singapore

Most Chinese Christians in Singapore were brought up in non-Christian homes. Hence, while Chinese Christians do not practice the worship rituals of their former religion, some common cultural practices among the Chinese people also preserved at Chinese Christian funerals, although they are not adhered to too strictly.

That said, let me first run through the typical proceedings when one attends a Chinese Christian funeral in Singapore.

On arriving at the funeral, one is greeted by the family members. Typically, the family members of the deceased would be wearing a white T-shirt, matched with a black bottom.

One shakes hands with the family members (not necessarily all of them, but at least, all those whom one is acquainted with), and one would say something comforting like, “I am sorry about your loss”.

One or more family members whom one is acquainted with will accompany one to the coffin of the deceased. As one is standing next to the coffin, one should bow one’s head slightly as a mark of respect, and observe a few moments of silence. Unlike Chinese funerals involving other religions, there is no need for one to burn joss-sticks or bow three times before the photograph of the deceased. (The photograph of the deceased is placed in front of the coffin, similar for other Chinese religions. However, for Christian funerals, an opened-bible is placed on the altar table in front of the coffin, instead of a joss-stick holder).

After visiting the coffin, the family members will then escort one to an unoccupied dining table outside the altar area. They would then ask one whether one prefers to have water or a packet drink. And as a family member goes to fetch one’s drink, it would be a good time to get ready one’s “pek kim” (donation), and to hand it over to the family member, when he/she returns from fetching one’s drink.

Besides drinks, the family of the deceased would have prepared some other light snacks for visitors, in the form of groundnuts, melon seeds, and sweets, and these are placed on a cardboard plate on every table (and replenished regularly). In addition, if one is an evening visitor, it would not be uncommon for one to be invited by the family to help oneself at the buffet dinner.

It would be considered impolite for a visitor to be left alone. Hence, one or more family members (typically, those whom one is acquainted with) would sit and chat with one, unless they are busy attending to other visitors.

Most visitors would stay and chat with the family members for about half an hour to an hour. When it’s time to leave, one should go around shaking the hands of family members (again, not necessarily all family members, but at least those whom one is familiar with), and saying something comforting like: “Please take care”, to which, the response that one would receive would be along the lines of “Thank you for coming”.

Typically, an evening service is held only on the final night of the wake (unless the deceased in well-connected to the church, then, the church may also hold services on other nights). In my church, the evening service is held at 8pm and lasts for about an hour, during which the pastor will give a sermon, and a number of songs/hymns will be sung. Family members of the deceased may also want to give their eulogy during the funeral service.

At the end of the service, the pastor would invite family members, followed by friends, to have a view of the deceased. After the family members have viewed the deceased, they will be made to stand in a row next to the coffin. This is so that after friends have viewed the deceased, they would pass by the row of family members, and have the opportunity to shake each family member’s hand, and to wish them well (something like “Please take care”). Visitors would then usually make their way home after shaking hands with family members.

Having described the typical proceedings when one attends a Chinese Christian funeral in Singapore, here are the do’s and don’t’s

  1. Do dress appropriately

Clothes that draw attention to the flesh would not be appreciated by family members of the deceased. Also, one should pick the colour of one’s clothes carefully – dull colours (black, white, grey, or blue) would be welcome, and bright colours (yellow, green, orange, pink, red) should be avoided (especially red).

  1. Do not remove the bible from the altar

Usually, the bible at the altar doesn’t belong to the deceased, but the undertaker. It is not meant to be removed.

  1. It is acceptable to ask the family members how the deceased had passed away

Sitting together with family members of the deceased can sometimes be awkward, in that if one isn’t familiar with any of the family members, one can be at a loss for a conversation topic. Unless the deceased had died under suspicious circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the family members about how the deceased had passed away (indeed, most family like to talk about the deceased’s last days). If the family members wish to steer clear from this topic, they would lead the conversation, and ask the visitor how he/she knows the deceased, where he/she is living at nowadays, or what he/she is currently doing for a living, etc.

  1. It is acceptable to absent oneself from the funeral service

The funeral service usually lasts for about an hour, and if one does not wish to stay for the service, it is recommended that one leaves before it starts. Should one need to leave urgently midway through the funeral service, it isn’t a taboo to do so, but it simply draws too much attention. Hence, it is advised that one checks the timing to the funeral service before visiting the wake (it is usually stated on the obituary).