The Haw Par Villa: Singapore's 'Hell Museum'

Yithian

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Singapore's Hell's Museum demystifies death -- with a smile​

Lilit Marcus, CNN • Updated 17th November 2022

(CNN) — Singapore's Haw Par Villa is a sprawling complex of sculptures, tree-lined walkways and exhibits focused on Buddhist beliefs. But there was only one part that any visitor wanted to talk about -- hell.

The 10 Courts of Hell, specifically.

For generations, children as young as six or seven were brought here on school field trips. And it was clear that the most memorable attraction was the 10 Courts of Hell, the depiction of the Buddhist post-death experience where people are judged for their actions on Earth and then sentenced to rebirth in another form, whether as an animal or another human being.

The graphic sculptures depict potential punishments in the afterlife, like bodies on pitchforks, dismembered heads crying tears of blood and wild-eyed demons feasting on internal organs.


http___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_221114091428-05-hell-museum-singapore.jpg


Thanks to the memorably gruesome exhibit, generations of Singaporeans were scarred for life -- or at least reminded of what could happen if they disobeyed their parents and failed to show enough filial piety.

Now, eight decades later, the 10 Courts has finally been recognized as the star of the show and is the main attraction in the complex's new Hell's Museum.

But its journey from an exhibit to a standalone museum wasn't straightforward.


Continued with necessary photos:
https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/hells-museum-singapore-qwow-cmb/index.html
 

Singapore's Hell's Museum demystifies death -- with a smile​

Lilit Marcus, CNN • Updated 17th November 2022

(CNN) — Singapore's Haw Par Villa is a sprawling complex of sculptures, tree-lined walkways and exhibits focused on Buddhist beliefs. But there was only one part that any visitor wanted to talk about -- hell.

The 10 Courts of Hell, specifically.

For generations, children as young as six or seven were brought here on school field trips. And it was clear that the most memorable attraction was the 10 Courts of Hell, the depiction of the Buddhist post-death experience where people are judged for their actions on Earth and then sentenced to rebirth in another form, whether as an animal or another human being.

The graphic sculptures depict potential punishments in the afterlife, like bodies on pitchforks, dismembered heads crying tears of blood and wild-eyed demons feasting on internal organs.


View attachment 60850

Thanks to the memorably gruesome exhibit, generations of Singaporeans were scarred for life -- or at least reminded of what could happen if they disobeyed their parents and failed to show enough filial piety.

Now, eight decades later, the 10 Courts has finally been recognized as the star of the show and is the main attraction in the complex's new Hell's Museum.

But its journey from an exhibit to a standalone museum wasn't straightforward.


Continued with necessary photos:
https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/hells-museum-singapore-qwow-cmb/index.html

Hah! l went there as a kid - which probably explains a lot - but we referred to it as the “Tiger Balm Gardens”.

My young mind was particularly impressed by a sinner being boiled in a vat of pus. Fun for all the family.

maximus otter
 
It's a great place, albeit strange with the Courts of Hell the true highlight.
Also Tiger Balm comes highly recommended for most aches & pains.

There used to be a Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong too which was great, but I believe it was bulldozed stone years back to make way for more burial plots for the cemetary it adjoined.
 
It's a great place, albeit strange with the Courts of Hell the true highlight.
Also Tiger Balm comes highly recommended for most aches & pains.

There used to be a Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong too which was great, but I believe it was bulldozed stone years back to make way for more burial plots for the cemetary it adjoined.

I was about to mention the Hong Kong incarnation. Having gazed at thousands of old photos of the place, I can say that there can't have been a British serviceman in the entire colony that didn't visit the place on leave.

Tiger Balm is indeed decent stuff—helped with a back ache I developed while travelling.
 
I was about to mention the Hong Kong incarnation. Having gazed at thousands of old photos of the place, I can say that there can't have been a British serviceman in the entire colony that didn't visit the place on leave.

Tiger Balm is indeed decent stuff—helped with a back ache I developed while travelling.
The Haw Par mansion is still standing but the Tiger Balm Garden is sadly long gone. This is what has taken its place:
1668946888267.png

Bit of a shame really.

The name seems a little strange for a Chinese name - this is because the Haw Par brothers were Hakka speakers from Burma/Myanmar (part of the British Raj at the time). Hakka is a Chinese language relatively far removed from things like Mandarin or Cantonese (In Mandarin, 'Aw Boon Haw' would be pronounced 'Hu Wenhu'). The brothers were called Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par and went by the last part of their given names, which mean 'Tiger' and 'Leopard' respectively.

EDIT: Here's a badass graphic from the Haw Par website illustrating the name ;)
1668947077909.png
 
I've watched an awful lot of old footage from that channel—strongly recommended.
 
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