Did you know that Haw Par Villa’s name derives from the Burmese-Chinese Aw brothers’ personal names?
Boon Haw means “gentle tiger”, while Boon Par means “gentle leopard”. The Aw brothers were behind the renowned household brand Tiger Balm, and Boon Haw had created Haw Par Villa as a gift to Boon Par in 1937.
Haw Par Villa holds a piece of Singapore’s treasured past with a thousand statues and dioramas telling the tales of Chinese folklore, mythology, legends and history. It is hard to imagine that the theme park was a major local attraction during its peak in the 1970s and 1980s; particularly when Jewel Changi Airport just opened earlier this year.
Both of the attractions were created to draw in the masses. However, the stark contrast in the values of the different generations between the traditional cultural heritage site and Singapore’s latest dazzling crown jewel could not be more obvious.
As we walked around the park, it was interesting to rediscover Chinese history and the mystical legends that our forefathers conveyed to us with wonder in their eyes. This was, after all, Boon Haw’s intention in creating the park; to teach and pass on traditional Chinese values and virtues to the following generations.
With recent efforts of revitalising the park, Haw Par Villa was closed for three months from December to February for repairs.
Several of the statues and dioramas have since received a fresh coat of paint and additional lighting improvements. The park’s operating hours have also been extended to 10pm, and entry is free. All of this is done in a bid to attract more visitors to the park in order to appeal to a new generation of tourists.
In addition, the park’s operators, Journeys, has also announced that they are working with event organisers to schedule more regular events at Haw Par Villa.
Visitors could take the daily day tour to learn more about the mystical stories behind the park’s landscape. If you’re feeling more adventurous, join the park’s weekly Twilight Tour, Journeys to Hell. The Twilight Tour takes place every Friday night from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, and you’ll even get a sneak peek at the upcoming Hell’s Museum.
The most popular attraction at the park, as most Singaporeans know, is the Ten Courts of Hell. Originating from traditional Chinese mythology, the Ten Courts of Hell depicts afterlife through exhibits that are not unlike those imagined in horrible nightmares.
Each court represents a crime that is punishable through gory means; an example of this would be the Ninth Court of Hell where one’s arms and head are chopped off by a demon due to improper conduct.
A familiar Chinese folklore and legend to many of the Chinese community in Singapore would be Journey to the West.
This classic tale in Chinese literature takes up a substantial space in the theme park, telling the story of the four main characters – Monk Tang Sanzang, Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing – embarking on a journey towards the ultimate form of morality in enlightenment.
The park also presents Confucius values and virtues along with the belief of reincarnation, perhaps into an animal or human in the next life. Whether or not you are spiritually rooted, a visit to Haw Par Villa will spark an interesting debate amongst your companions on morality, beliefs in the afterlife and the topic of mythological creatures.
Our group departed Haw Par Villa with a newfound appreciation for the park’s effort in maintaining what remains of our cultural heritage in Singapore.
With signs to tell a comprehensive story behind most of the exhibits in the park, we re-educated ourselves on Chinese history, mythology and virtues. We also left realising that it was important that we grounded ourselves more in the roots of our cultural heritage and pass on its legacy.
Haw Par Villa
262 Pasir Panjang Rd
Tel: +65 6773 0103
Daily: 9am – 10pm
Nearest Station: Haw Par Villa