Haw Par Villa - An Incredible Chinese Mythological Theme Park in Singapore
A Unique Mythological Experience
During my visit to Singapore last summer, it happened to be a case of mistaken identity. Advised to avail a metro ride from the nearest MRT station, I was amazed to see a very colourful and unusually decorated front view at the station called Haw Par Villa. A few exploratory steps made me to bump into a rather strange and awesome folklore world. I thought of making a family visit to this campus, though it wasn't on my cards at all.
It proved to be a strange place with visual experiences of mythology. It fascinated us and was fabulous photo opportunity for my son. Vibrant with colours, the Park was found to be an extravaganza of sculptures and descriptive of Chinese mythology at every step. It was as if we were in a different world altogether.
Stay on with me to share this world in this Hub.
Entrance of the Park
Named after two rich brothers, Boon Haw and Boon Par, this place was earlier known as Tiger Balm Gardens. At present more than 1000 multi-coloured statues and about 150 dioramas are positioned in this Park, depicting Chinese legends and values. It is serving as an educative source for tourists who want to learn about Chinese mythology through images about fascinating stories of ancient times. The presence of such a Park in South Asia is indicative of the fact that the mysteries of mythology are still live in the hearts of Chinese.
Visit to this Park was an enormous and overwhelming experience. It was difficult to absorb and retain complete information about these sculptures specially without having a background of Chinese culture.
Very near the entrance there is a three meter high statue of a Thai dancer in a typical pose of dancing and costumes. The colourful statue of the dancer looks so real in this performance posture that it sets the pace for the visit deep into the Park.
The Tiger Car
Turning right from the main gate one comes across a vintage car, modified to look like a tiger and stationed in a garage. The rich Aw Boon Haw, the proud owner of this Tiger car in thirties, might have been a main attraction on the streets of Singapore. It is good that it is displayed today to remind people about the lifestyle of two rich brothers during good old days.
Statue of Jiang Zi Ya
A famous Chinese military strategist who became instrumental in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty. He was awarded 'Grand Duke of Qi' posthumously and was the main character in a novel Fengshen Bang. The Park has many such historical characters depicted through statues positioned in different corners.
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty finding a place in Haw Par Villa is rather intriguing. Quite a departure from the original theme but the purpose is not known. Also the size is surprising but it is displayed in a prominent part of the Park seeking attention of the visitors.
Budai or Laughing Buddha
Statues of Laughing Buddha are quite popular in many parts of the world. In its most traditional way, Budai is depicted to be a bald man who is obese and wearing robe along with prayer beads. Representing contentment the laughing man is shown carrying a cloth sack with few possessions he has. Tourists don't miss Laughing Buddha at this mysterious Park.
Buddha in Meditating Pose
One of the giant structures at Haw Par Villa is a pagoda with Buddha (Gautam Buddha) in a meditating pose. It looks like the famous 'Summoning the Earth Goddess to Witness' Mudra (hand position) and is one of the popular attractions for the tourists. The structure is colourful and designed beautifully. Pagoda looks gorgeous and occupies very prominent position in the Park.
What a pleasant visual treat at the Park!
The Earth Touching Pose from the rear side. This is facing the seaside and since it is at higher elevation, it must be visible to people near seashore and even inside sea, serving as a landmark too. One has to go up to see this side of the statue and also other wonderful creations in other parts of the Park.
'Wishing Well' has Goddess of Mercy placed at the top. There is a small pond (well) where visitors throw coins. Though throwing coins is not required as per instructions displayed there but still some of the tourists try to hit the target by their right throw, others miss it by inches or even feet. But every one is amused after the action. Right throw is synonymous with goo luck.
Haw Par Villa (Previously Tiger Balm Gardens) at Amazon
In the mid-1930s, the man who made his fortune with Tiger Balm (a popular "cure-all" medicine even today) decided to build these gardens for overseas Chinese to educate them about their culture. This book documents, with over 300 photos and supporting text, these unusual gardens and the medicine that paid for them.
Ten Courts of Hell
This is the entrance of Ten Courts of Hell. Achieving heavens is, perhaps, not an easy path as per Chinese Mythology. Enter a tunnel and trail the ten stages each representing trial in a Court of Judgement with punishment or reward according to the bad or good deeds of the previous life. Very weird and terrifying experience. It is not advisable to pass through this tunnel with young children. The video takes one round the Courts.
Enter the Hell to have a view of the Courts of Hell here
Fu Lu Shou
Three Lucky Gods depicting Good Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity occupy premier space in the Park. Small statues are known to be found in homes and shops in China. As per instructions inscribed there, I ventured to ring the 'Prosperity' bell once only and registered my presence there.
Tortoise's Sun Bath
The Pond in the Park has many tortoises, some of them were found sitting in a formation and bathing in the Sun on a clear sunny day.
Lucky money Toad or Frog
A frog with coin in its mouth is a Chinese symbol for prosperity. It has become a common showpiece in many countries and people believe that having one at home will bring more income and protect wealth. I realized that I have one at home already but am oblivious of the income or wealth part linked with it.
Monkeys in Action
Not usual monkeys. They seem to be protecting the Park. Their postures are a subtle warning to visitors to behave throughout their sojourn and such statues continue to be a source of entertainment for young children..
Hide and Seek
At some places there are caves like structures which keep children busy with their playing hide and seek. This is one place where small children can enjoy most. These being colourful are the real attraction for children.
The only Hindu deity with fruit offerings and Agarbatti (incense stick) actually burning seen towards the left on entering the Park. It seems that the management has tried to come up to the taste of every religion with a view to attract tourists. Any action for religious harmony must be welcome.