Singapore Haw Par Villa

This is a long post with heaps of pictures because I’m going to write about a special place in Singapore. This is one of the places that I remember visiting when I was a kid. I used to love it here – the Singapore Haw Par Villa.

It’s one of those places that all parents brought their kids to when they were little. Back in the old days where there was no Universal Studios and Disneyland, the Haw Par Villa was the most fascinating place to many of us. I loved it there.

It used to be a pain getting to this attraction. I remember having to take and switch several bus rides to get there. But lately, the Circle Line of the train (Mass Rapid Transit or MRT) network has been completed and I took a glance at the network map and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a Haw Par Villa MRT station.

The train took us right to its doorstep.

The Haw Par Villa is a quirky place. There’s lots of scary things. And the hubby asked if I saw the “gruesome stuff”.

This place houses hundreds of statues and figurines depicting scenes from Chinese folklore, legends, history and Confucianism teachings. Some are pretty but many are scary looking.

The Haw Par Villa had its glorious days in the 80s. I have memories of running about with my cousins, having lots of fun snapping pictures with the statues. It was a beautiful garden. Well, it still is..

If you are a Singaporean of Chinese race and was born in the 80s or earlier, it is likely that you would have taken pictures with these three Fu, Lu and Shou statues when you were a kid.

My mother went with me to check the place out because everyone said it’s a dead place now and it may be demolished anytime. I researched it and found out that the place lost its appeal to the locals when fees were imposed in the late 90s. Today, it is free entry into the villa grounds but the place was practically deserted. I felt really sad to see this -

There were only a few tourists when we were there. The gardens were so quiet. It was a wet day and I guessed that made it worse. Sigh.

The most well-known attraction and one that every kid who has been to Haw Par Villa will remember is the Ten Courts of Hell. It has gruesome depictions of the different aspects of punishments in hell for the bad deeds that were committed while living. It’s all contained in a dark long tunnel in the shape of a dragon.

The gruesome stuff starts from outside the tunnel.

The message on the stone reads – The sea of bitterness (depth of misery) has no horizons (is endless). Turn back and you will find shore.

It means that if you repent and change for the better, you can avoid the sea of misery. Else you’ll end up miserable like this -

Yikes!

This is the door (entrance) into the Ten Courts of Hell attraction. Chinese mythical stories say that Hell is guarded by the Cow Face and the Horse Face fellows.

Inside the tunnel, there are exhibits in the form of figurines to depict the Ten Courts of Hell.

This is the First Court of Hell.

Here, the King Qinguang conducts preliminary trials and each prisoner is judged according to his deeds in his past life. The “good” are distinguised from the “evil” and the King recommends appropriate reward or punishment. Punishment is then carried out in the various Courts.

Down the tunnel is where all the other Courts are and the various scenes of torture for the “evil”.

If you were a drug trafficker or addict, tomb robbers or had coerced people into crime and social unrest, you would be punished by being tied to a red hot copper pillar and grilled.

If you were an ungrateful person or were disrespectful to elders, your heart would be cut out as punishment in the Third Court of Hell.

The Fourth Court

If you had lacked filial piety, you would be punished by being grounded by a large stone.

There are all kinds of gruesome scenes of punishment for various evil deed. The dim environment added to the scariness ad creepy feeling.

The list of names and offences..

After serving their sentences, the prisoners would arrive at the Tenth Court, where King Zhuanglun would pass judgement.The prisoners would then proceed to drink the “Meng Po Soup” which would erase their memories of their past lives. They then proceed to be reincarnated. Depending on the prisoner’s past life, he would either be reborn as a human being or an animal.

I like the Haw Par Villa and hope that some rich investor will bring money one day and revamp this place and restore its original glory.

Then we can bring our children here too and it wouldn’t be a dead town.


 

 

28 Comments

  1. Karen

    This is an amazing post. It is really good to see you being patient to write long post.

    I sometimes get pissed off if the Internet is slow. But I make sure I do my best in each post.

    Very Nice post. Really.

    Priyaa

    • Haw Par Villa has a special place in my heart. It was my childhood playground. That’s why it deserves a long post! =)

  2. Thanks for the armchair traveling this morning.

    • Arm Chair travelling! That’s a cool way to put it. It’s my favourite thing to do online!

  3. Great post. Haw Par Villa reminds me of a place in my home town that I loved visiting as a kid, called the Enchanted Forest. A similar, Western version of this concept. Sadly it’s also closed now, although lots of the structures remain and there is a society working to preserve it: http://theenchantedforest.ellicottcity.net/

    That Ten Courts of Hell place is unbelievable! My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw your pictures. I can’t imagine visiting that as a child — I would have nightmares for weeks afterward. Of course there was nothing like that in the Enchanted Forest :)

    • The Enchanted Forest looks so err.. mild in comparison! Yes, I used to get really scared in the Ten Courts of Hell. My mom would use those scenes to teach me and my brother to be better people. It worked well. Haha!

  4. Yes, indeed. It was quite mild. American children are wimps!

  5. This is a great writeup, this is one place we often went with my family when we were kids. Was considering bringing my niece who is still in pri sch to visit, she is quite keen but at the say time say it is also quite scary when I told her about the images of torture in hell.

    • The images are indeed quite scary but I think we all learnt a good lesson when we visited Haw Par Villa as kids. Even if it was all due to fear, we learnt to be good people. =)

  6. Totally agreed.
    But I think it is scarier before the renovation years back.
    Nevertheless still enjoy visiting the place during my childhood as it is always a family outing when going there. :)
    Sure miss the good old day.

    • I remember it to be scarier too! But I thought maybe it was because I was a kid and everything looked more scary then. haha…

      • Hmm… Perhaps that too. But one thing for sure. It sure makes me have second thought whenever I have any evil thoughts. Hee hee. Well at least up till now have not committed any crime yet. haha.
        Anyway, hope to see more on your blog and all the best whereever you are. Take care. :)

  7. we’ve been there way way back… courts of hell is really is really scary…there’s also a green statue of liberty..
    our souvenir..Tiger Balm!

  8. Absolutely fablous. Your comments really brought it to life! I agree it should be restored. Is it still open though?

  9. I have been there in 1992 and i loved it…cruel but interesting chinese history…..would love to go to Singapore again one day. Magnificent city, one of the best in the world.

  10. I also think its kinda dead. Just went there yesterday and found that all the stalls and even the food court was closed. The only way to get a drink was though the vending machine. Any tips for how we can improve the situation of Haw Par Villa? Cuz I’m doing a project on it

  11. Very moving post! I just discovered this so crazy and creative place… and the story behind it with these 2 fascinating Burmese-Chinese tycoons. Thanks for sharing you childhood memories, I’m sure I would have felt the same excitement if I had visited it at the same age… and I feel very sad for the lack of recognition of this park. It is much more educational and imaginative than a Universal Studio at Sentosa…

  12. I think the place is a good lesson for chinese culture .
    Thank you,.

  13. Could someone who has been help by telling me if there is still a statue of New Zealand / Moari man totem with his tongue sticking out within the Villa park. It had a Kiwi bird next to it aswell. Many thanks

  14. I was born in the 90s and I think I visited this place before. It’s been 20 years already and I hope to revisit this place.
    Is it just beside Haw Par Villa MRT station?

  15. Hi Lisa

    I was browsing through google web searching for Haw Par Villa and come across your blog. It is a very nice and well written blog that you had posted here.

    It brings me fond memories of my younger days as Haw Par Villa was a reputable theme park besides locals as well as tourists alike. It was very popular in its heydays during the 60s, 70s and even 80s.

    At one time, it was said to be closed down to public due to the huge maintaining costs. It was glad to see your posts that Haw Par Villa indeed is still open to public as it is today. I will definitely pay a visit to this memorable childhood place again to brings back my fond memrories.

    Thank you. Do keep writing wonderful blogs wherever you visit those places of interests.

    God bless.

    ROI

    • Sorry, I was refering to Bing blogs and accidently address her as Lisa.

      My sincere apology for such typo errors.

      Do write more of your nice blogs & articles.

      God Bless

      ROI

  16. What a great post. Thanks for the pictures!

  17. Hello Bing,
    I will visit Spore at August. I ever came to Haw Par Villa when I was child. I want to go there again.. Can u tell me the MRT station which stop at Haw Par Villa?

  18. Wonderful post on a simply wonderful place! I think Haw Par villa was one of the main highlights on my time in Singapore – and unbelievably, it’s free!! Thanks for sharing all your photos – of course, to really experience it, I think everyone should head over there themselves to check it out ;) It would be great if they could open up the stage again and do more performances, of whatever they used to use it for before it was closed down.

  19. Hello Bing.
    I found you when trying to find wjen the Aw brothers buolt Haw Par Villa, and whether it started as their home. I remember it well from the 1950s in the old Colonial days when I was a pre-teenager. It was always a favourite place – the colour and the grotesqueness of some of the characters. I clearly remember the fully naked women in one of the dioramas The Rape of the Priest. Lee Kwan Yew had them clothed after independance, sometime after 1959. I have been back many times since these early days and I guess as I got older, the fascination of the place waned. Now of course Sentosa has taken over as ‘the’ theme park. On the last visit in 1992 it disappionted me to see that the theme of the pqark, as representing traditional mythology was not emphasied and I learnt no more about early Asian culture. The horror hall has always frightened me – even today. Thanks for your interting post.
    Peter, Yarram, Victoria, Australia

  20. Great post! I think I’ve fall in love already with this place, I hope it never get demolished!
    I’ll visit this place on march next year during my visit to Singapore :)

  21. I’ve just visited Haw Par Villa today after 20 years when my parents brought us here for holiday. That’s why eventhough I read everywhere that this place is no longer known by people, I was determined to come here. Sad to see that it’s very quiet now, but this place will always be in my heart. Also I dont know why but I feel scared when I was there as I was pretty much alone most of the time but I kept going, especially in the hell tunnel! I hope Singapore government will not tear it down as this is one of the heritage that can be big 10-20 years from now when it will be even more oldies by then!

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