10 Courts of Hell; Chinese folklore exhibit at Haw Par Villa Singapore

Photo by Choo Yut Shing

Built in 1937, Haw Par Villa is famous for its often gruesome depictions of Chinese folklore’s 10 Courts of Hell.

But this wonderful theme park also has more, shall we say, tasteful scenes from other Chinese legends, such as Journey to the West and Madame White Snake.

Pick your favourite from the over 1,000 colourful statues and tableaux on display, among them a giant gorilla and massive deity heads.

Other-worldly experience

Located on a hill in Pasir Panjang, Haw Par Villa is named after the Burma-born Aw brothers, who created the medical ointment Tiger Balm.

Created for his younger brother Boon Par, the older Boon Haw saw the S$2-million circular-shaped house and its sprawling garden as a journey into Chinese mythology.

In its early years, the grounds were opened to the public, and even had a zoo. But when World War II broke out, the brothers abandoned the house and fled overseas. Japanese forces took over, using it to watch over ships at sea.

A grand revival

After the war, Boon Par’s son Aw Cheng Chye added the finishing touches to the park. Many visited in the 1970s and 1980s on day trips and school excursions—adult Singaporeans will cheekily tell you of the nightmares the park gave them as kids!

In 1985, the Singapore Tourism Board acquired the land and gave the park a face lift.

Now, you can hop on a guided tour that takes you on a trail of the world’s only eclectic Chinese mythological park of its kind. Visitor discretion and parental guidance are advised for visitors to the “10 Courts of Hell” due to the graphic nature of the exhibits. Admission to the park is free.