Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Haw Par Villa and the Ten courts of Hell

Tiger Balm Gardens

Well I finally made it to this bizarre "theme park" a place that time seems to have almost forgotten. I arrived just after it opened, a little after nine and apart from a few workers the place was deserted which added to the atmosphere of the place.

The park was built in 1937 by the brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par who were famous for their medicinal Tiger Balm (still going strong today) They had built it to teach Chinese values. In its peak in the 1980s thousands of people used to visit, it was an attraction equalling those of Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park.  The Park has over 1,000 statues and stories depicting Chinese mythology and folklore and aspects of Confuscianism. In 1988 the Singapore Tourism Board took over and renamed it Haw Par Dragon World. Restoration took place with shows and plays taking place, however, they started to charge admission, this was high and put people off and in 10 years the park lost S$31.5 million. In 1998 admission charges were dropped to encourage people back but by then it was too late. Singapore and its people had moved on, what with Sentosa, vast shopping malls and the rapid growth and modernization in Singapore, in 2001 it was renamed again, this time to Tiger Balm Gardens.

The Ten Courts of Hell

The main attraction here is the Ten courts of Hell so on this silent damp humid murky day I entered past "Ox-head" a hell soldier and "Horse face" - Lousha a wicked ghost who would "chase me to the courts to face my punishment given to me by Yamas or the Emperors of Hell"......  wish me luck!!

The gateway to the Courts of Hell flanked by Ox-Head and Horse-face

"enjoy" my journey through each court.........

Court 1.

Yama - King Qinguang

Here the King judges everyone on their past deeds, good split from evil and the king recommends appropriate judgement. Those that were virtuous are led over the golden bridge to paradise. Those whose good deeds outweighed the bad are led over the silver bridge to paradise. Those who were evil doers are sent to repent before the "mirror of retribution" before taken to the relevant Court of Hell to be punished. You have been warned children!!

silver bridge to paradise

Court 2.

Yama - King Chujiang

for inflicting physical injury, being a conman or robber you were thrown into a volcanic pit, corruption stealing and gambling frozen into block of ice and prostitutes thrown into blood and drowned.

being frozen into block of ice 
being thrown into a volcanic pit
prostitute being dragged into blood to be drowned
drowning in blood.

Court 3.

Yama - King Songda
The Crimes - Ungratefulness, Disrespect to elders, Escaping from prison and the punishments for these is to have your heart cut out. For the crime of being drug addicts and traffickers, tomb robbers and urging people into crime and social unrest the punishment is to be tied to a red hot copper pillar and grilled!

Court 4.

Yama - King Wuguan

This court also accommodated those who were wronged and driven to their death. They would be asked to view how their enemies should receive retribution. They would then be judged on their past deeds and punished appropriately.

for tax dodgers, refusing to pay rent and business fraud you were pounded by a stone
for disobedience to siblings and lack of filial piety you were grounded by a large stone

Court 5.

Yama - King Yanluo

For the crime of plotting death for his property or money and for money lenders with exorbitant interest rates the crime was to be thrown from a hill onto knives!

Court 6.

Yama - King Piencheng

For the crime of misusing books, possessing pornographic material and breaking rules and regulations and of wasting food your body would be sawn in two! 
For the crime of cursing, cheating or abducting others the punishment was to be thrown onto a tree of knives.

Court 7.

Yama - King Taishan

For the crime of rumor-mongering, and sowing discord amongst family members your tongue would be pulled out
For rapists and driving someone to their death you would be thrown into a wok of boiling oil - And I had to walk over this!!!

Court 8.

Yama- King Dushi

For harming others to benefit oneself your body was dismembered
Lack of filial obedience, causing trouble to parents or family members and cheating through exams your intestines and organs were pulled out

Court 9.

Yama - King Pingdeng (love that name!)

for robbery, murder, rape and and other unlawful conduct your head and arms were chopped off and for neglect of the old and young you would be crushed under boulders

Court 10.

Yama - King Zhuanlun

After serving their sentences, prisoners arrive at the final court where King Zhuanlun passes final judgement at the "Pavilion of Forgetfulness" where an old lady "Men Po" hands them a magic tea making them forget their past lives. They then go through the "Wheel of Reincarnation" or Samsara where they are either reborn as human or an animal. Some would be reborn into a life of ease and comfort whilst others into sorrow and suffering.

Wheel or reincarnation (samsara) the sinners will leave through one of the six exits into their new life.
Well I travelled through and came out safely the other side! You can see why children were brought here, they were probably terrified into behaving knowing what laid ahead of them if they misbehaved!

Anyway after that experience I took a wander around the rest of the Park. It was as I had heard, quite tired in places and much of the vast site was indeed cordoned off. It was however good to see that some areas had been refreshed and that some were currently being worked on. I do think this job would be a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, never ending especially with the climate out here, but good to see.

Below are some photos that are just a snapshot of those I saw.

not sure who was eating who here?

hmm? Mum breastfeeding Granny
cleaning ears

Laughing buddha
Spider women Trap. This scene tells of Tripitakas encounter with the 7 spider spirits. The demons believed eating Tripitakas flesh would grant them immortality. When he neared their cave they turned into beautiful women to seduce him. They intended to cook and eat him but the Monkey God saved him.

Just a small part of the Park that is empty and derelict 
Good to see that there is some renovation and upkeep happening although it does appear as if the monkeys are attacking him!
A rather calming serene statue amongst all the blood and gore
I am glad to say that as I left after about 1 1/2 hours there were several people coming into the Park and for a week day I saw this as a good sign that this unusual (to put it mildly) place will continue to remain open and "instruct" us mere mortals on how we should behave and what would be waiting for us if we didn't!!

Sleep well tonight - no nightmares now!!!

There is talk that the Park will close and I expect that is likely if the visitors don't come, especially if it doesn't make any money. It would be sad to think that this iconic and unusual piece of Singapore history could disappear under yet another mall or condominium.

The Park is open 09:00-19:00 daily
admission is free
262 Pasir Panjang Rd

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