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In Pictures: When night falls, Haw Par Villa’s 1,000 sculptures and dioramas come alive

Haw Par Villa: Sea of bitterness
“The sea of bitterness has no bounds, turn your head to see the shore.”

The world is the throne of evil, and as humanity goes through the cycle of sins, it is odd to say that Haw Par Villa is a place that one can get a revelation of sin. 

Built in 1937, Myanmar-Chinese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par of Tiger Balm fame erected these sculptures to educate the public on traditional Chinese folklore and mythology. It is simply unbelievable for a modern cosmopolitan like Singapore to house such a strange place like Haw Par Villa. Yet, the quirkiness and gruesome side of Haw Par Villa provides a light-hearted atmosphere to enjoy and learn Asian culture. 

For the reckless and the brave, you will be thrilled to know that the iconic theme park has extended its opening hours by three hours to 10pm. Did we also mention that admission to Haw Par Villa is also free?

With over 1,000 instalments and dioramas to check out during the extended witching hours, its infamous 10 Courts of Hell will surely get you goosebumps. I took one for the team and explored the eerie grounds at night. 

There wasn’t a crowd when I visited Haw Par Villa on a Friday evening. Having experienced the wonders of the theme park in the day, I personally found that the instalments seemed to come alive at night – there’s just something about the night that made the walk in the park much more thrilling. In fact, joining me on my evening stroll were a few adventurous couples. I guess the excitement and thrills of Haw Par Villa makes for an unconventional spot for dating, eh?

At the end of my trip, I found myself damped from perspiration as I was photographing the installations that were deeper in the park. If you are planning a trip down, it could be useful to pack a mini portable fan and some wet wipes in your bag. You may also need a mini flashlight, as some corners of the theme park are not well-lit at night, especially for the steps leading up to some of the installations.

Haw Par Villa bridges generations on the appreciation of Singapore’s cultural heritage, and it is an ideal destination for Singaporeans of all ages to understand traditional Chinese values and moral ethics. Some of these sculptures might be frightening to some, but there are lessons to be learnt behind each and every one of them. Those that appreciate Chinese folklore and artworks will find a trip down to Haw Par Villa worthwhile. 

Haw Par Villa: Entrance
There’s nothing quite like Haw Par Villa in Singapore. Its eerie entrance provides a teaser of what visitors can expect. Mortals, beware.
Located at the right side of the theme park’s entrance, this mural is the only artefact that shows evidence of the theme park’s relationship with Tiger Balm.
Haw Par Villa: Horse-Face and Ox-Head
The Horse-Face and Ox-head (牛头马面) are known in Chinese folklore as the two Asian demons that a dead soul would encounter upon entering the netherworld.
Haw Par Villa: King Qinguang
Have you been good? Enter the first hall in the hells, where King Qinguang will judge sinful souls and recommend appropriate rewards and punishments based on their past lives’ deeds.
Haw Par Villa: Silver Bridge
If the good outweighs the bad, souls will cross the Silver Bridge to reach paradise.
Haw Par Villa: Punishments
Punishments will be administered according to the different sins in different courts of Hell.
Haw Par Villa: Conmen
A volcanic pit awaits conmen, robbers, and those who have inflicted physical injuries on others. The workman from the Second Court of Hell will be responsible for pushing these condemned souls in.
Haw Par Villa: Knives
Have you tried to plot someone’s death for his money or assets? A hill of knives awaits.
Filial piety is not just a moral tenet; it is a sin punishable in the Courts of Hell. If you have ever disrespected your elders, your heart will be forcefully removed from your body. Where is your heart?
Haw Par Villa: Mallet
If you have ever evaded paying your taxes or rent, you will be pounded to perfection by a mallet with sharp spikes.
Haw Par Villa: Buddhism
The theme park is based on the notions of hell based on Buddhism. Here, these Buddhist statues make a presence in the vicinity of the 10 Courts of Hell.
Haw Par Villa: Buddhist
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” – Buddha
Haw Par Villa: Sculptures
Strange statues like this bird-looking one are the creepiest at night.
Haw Par Villa: Statue of Liberty
A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands about 2 metres tall at a corner of the theme park.
Haw Par Villa: Chicken-headed sculptures
Up till now, no one really understands what the chicken-headed sculptures represent in Haw Par Villa.
Haw Par Villa: The Eight Immortals
In Chinese mythology, the Eight Immortals were a legendary group of immortals who are endowed with special abilities to give life and fight against evil.

General admission is free. Haw Par Villa also hosts its after dark “Journey to Hell” tour every Friday night from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Tour prices start at S$10. For more information, visit the official website at https://www.hawparvilla.sg/.

Photos by Soloman Soh of the DANAMIC team.

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Soloman Soh

A preserver of memories and storyteller for the next generation and the next. From my generation onwards, it will be different!

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