Self-made Millionaire at 30; Dead at 40; In the End, His Wordly Success and Wealth Meant Nothing — The True Story of the Late Singaporean Aesthetics Doctor, Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng

Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng had everything that most Singaporeans could aspire to by the time he was in his 30s — wealth measured in millions of dollars, a thriving aesthetics practice, and sports cars, including a Ferrari 430.

“I’m a typical product of today’s society,” said Dr Teo in a speech in November 2011.

“From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.”

Despite being born into a poor family, Dr Teo excelled in his studies and was accepted in medical school.

In medical school, he chose the quick way to big bucks — by switching from opthalmology to aesthetics.

The move paid handsomely for him, and in the first year, his cosmetic surgery clinic ‘was raking in millions’.

Dr Teo’s newly-made wealth opened the door to high-society life. He loved dinning at Michelin-rated restaurants and rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Dr Teo also loved life in the fast lane and, at the pinnacle of his life, owned sports cars like the Honda S2000, Subaru WRX, Nissan GTR and a Ferrari 430

On how he would spend his weekends, Dr Teo said, “Typically, I’d have car club gatherings. I’d take out my track car and go up to Sepang in Malaysia for car racing. It was my life.”

Dr Teo’s cars became symbols of his success, but in the end, after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, they meant nothing to him.

“Chinese new year… I would drive my Ferrari, show off to my relatives, show off to my friends, do my rounds, and then you thought that was true joy?” reflected Dr Teo during a talk to dental students.

“In truth, what you have done is just to elicit envy, jealous and even hatred. In my death bed, I found my joy whatsoever in whatever objects I had — my Ferrari, thinking of the land I was going to buy to build my bungalow, having a successful business.”

It was towards the end of his life that Dr Teo found the meaning of true joy.

“What really brought me joy in the last ten months was interaction with people, my loved ones, friends, people who genuinely care about me, they laugh and cry with me, and they are able to identify the pain and suffering I was going through. That brought joy to me, happiness,” he said, in a speech given to an undergraduate medical class before passing away in October 2012.

Dr Teo’s speech can be watched in the Youtube link below.

Dr Richard Teo

Dr Richard Teo’s story was featured in the 28 October 2012 edition of The New Paper. His story serves as a great warning against wholeheartedly pursuing after wordly wealth.

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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).