The Forgotten Theme Park of Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa Ten courts of hell

Most children would be ecstatic to learn that their favourite theme park, Disneyland or Universal Studios, has a thrilling line of rides and attractions. Despite the fact that Universal Studios Singapore in Sentosa is relatively new, Haw Par Villa, an older theme park on the west coast of Singapore, has been existing since 1937.

It’s more accurate to describe it as a different kind of theme park than calling it a similar one. It is a Chinese mythological theme park with over 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas from Chinese folklore and tales. The Ten Courts of Hell are the most spectacular section of the film, with its most outstanding features being the gory courtroom and torture sequences.

A Guide To Haw Par Villa: Singapore’s Nightmare Theme Park. Source (Culture Trip)
Haw Par Villa gardens in Singapore. Source (Depositphotos)

It was formerly a family affair, with thousands of people flocking to Haw Par Villa. It is now an odd sight. The visitor will feel like he or she has fallen into another world. Aside from a few tourists and a few caretakers, the only companion you have is the variety of sculptures that appear to glare at you with stale silence all around.

The house was built by Boon Haw (Tiger) and Boon Par (Leopard), the two sons of Aw Chu Kin, better known as the creator of Tiger Balm ointment. The name was later changed to Tiger Balm Gardens. This hillside property was initially purchased by Boon Haw in 1935 and subsequently developed into Tiger Balm Gardens for US$1.95 million and two years.

Tiger Balm Kings built a business empire on Chinese ointment and drove in “Catmobiles”. Source (Mothership.SG)
Haw Par Villa – Tales from the Crypt. Source (DriftingVoyage)
Singapore’s Beloved and Creepy Wonderland, Built on the Healing Powers of Tiger Balm. Source (Collectors Weekly)

Boon Haw intended to construct a public park in the belief that it would benefit locals and tourists alike by providing a pleasant place for families to congregate, gather stories about Chinese folklore, and relax. The museum’s doors opened in March 1937, and people flocked to it. It was a one-of-a-kind attraction. During World War II, it was abandoned and the Japanese utilized its hillside location as a lookout post for merchant vessels on the water.

In 1988, Singapore Tourism Board took over management of Tiger Balm Gardens and renamed it Haw Par Villa Dragon World. And after that, the ruined statues were mended and new facilities were built. There were juggling and puppet shows, as well as two water rides: a slow boat through a dragon’s body and the Ten Courts of Hell, and a rollercoaster-like flume ride.

The Eight Immortals. Source (Flickr)
Gorilla Statues | The Tiger Balm Gardens. Source (Flickr)

However, because entrance fees reached up to $15, visitors stopped coming back. In 1998, free entry was provided. The boat rides and entertainment displays ceased, and most importantly, the crowds diminished. It was renamed back to Tiger Balm Gardens in 2001.

Today, the park is free to enter, with the added benefit of the Haw Par Villa MRT Station, which was built in 2011 at its entrance. The site’s spooky walkthrough is now available. At the Sixth Court of Hell, you are tortured for wasting food or misusing books if you are guilty. Your body is sliced into two in the Sixth Court of Hell if you waste food or misuse books. Your intestines and organs are removed in the Eighth Court of Hell if you cheat during examinations. It comes as no surprise that Haw Par Villa.

Haw Par Villa Hell

What Are China’s Horrific Ten Courts of Hell? Source (Owlcation)
Haw Par Villa Ten Courts Of Hell. Source (The New Age Parents)
Haw Par Villa: Singapore’s Lost World of Legends. Source (Little Day Out)

I suggest you bring your next date to Haw Par Villa.

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