Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Haw Par Villa

When my cousin from Bangkok was in town the past week, I brought her to the Haw Par Villa in Pasir Panjang, used to be known as the Tiger Balm Gardens about 60 years ago. I remember my Grandfather used to bring me to this place when I was a kid. It is a park furnished with clusters of statues and figurines that depict intriguing stories of ancient Chinese mythology, legends and values. Although the place has been re-furbished, I find it to be depilated and uninviting, as the statues seemed badly needed maintenance.

One of the highlights was the '10 Courts of Hell'. It tells of the intriguing Chinese mythology of life after death through the display of colourful mythological statues and figurines. The origins of the '10 Courts of Hell' is believed to be based on the Indian Buddhist legend of the 'World of Suffering' (世间苦难) where one would be punished in 'Hell' for sins committed in one's present life. The concept of 'one reaps what one sows' and 'cause and effect' (善有善报,恶有恶报)depicted in the '10 Courts of Hell' is the central tenet that serves to restrain anti-social, unethical or immoral behaviour. Each court depict the various torture chambers to penalize evil-doers. Different methods and severity of punishments were meted out based on one's past deeds (Note: pictures not for the faint hearted).

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