Haw Par Villa – More than just a Simple Tiger Balm Garden

at Haw Par Villa
at Haw Par Villa

When people hear about this theme park, the first thing coming to their mind might be “Tiger Balm” (the magical balm for Chinese people) because the owners of the theme park are the owners of Tiger Balm Company, Mr. Aw Boon Haw and Mr. Aw Boon Par (who are brothers). In fact, the name Haw Par Villa comes from both of their names.

The two brothers built Haw Park Villa in 1937 as the center where people can learn and get information about Chinese and Buddhism values. Not only about the values, visitors can also experience the exhibitions of Chinese mythologies inside the theme park.

The tourist attraction site is a combination of many interesting stuffs from values and teachings to folklores, myths, legends and history. As I mentioned in my earlier post briefly, I knew this place only in 2012 when I visited it for the first time. When I was enjoying the theme park, I was amazed of how much I saw there. Let’s talk about them.

Ten Courts of Hell

Exhibition at one of the courts
Exhibition at one of the courts

This is one of the most interesting attractions in Haw Par Villa. “Guarded” by ox-headed and horse-faced hell guardians in front, visitors may guess what they can expect when they get in. This attraction has form like a “cave” where there are the exhibitions of ten courts of hell according to the Chinese myth and Buddhism inside.

The exhibitions are completed with detailed explanations where there is a court judge, the accused soul and hell guards at each court. In addition, each court also displays the punishment that the accused souls receive after they are charged by the judge.

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The Twelve Chinese Zodiacs

After ten courts of hell, visitors can also enjoy the exhibition of twelve Chinese zodiacs that are composed of twelve animals including rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The twelve Chinese zodiacs represent the years when Chinese people were born and it is different from one year to another. Each zodiac is special because they have different personalities, fortunes and destinies according to the myth.

The White Snake Legend

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                This is one of the most famous Chinese legends often made into TV series. It tells a story about a white snake spirit that wanted to show gratitude and pay her “debt” to the human who had helped her. In the legend, the white snake who had been practicing Taoist magical arts transformed into human form after gaining enough magical power.

After becoming a human, she searched the man who had helped her and married him as a gratitude. In their life, the white snake spirit who had become a woman always protected the man and helped him. Their life journey wasn’t always smooth as there was a monk who wanted to capture her and in the end imprisoned her in Leifeng pagoda for twenty years.

Nevertheless, the legend ended with a happy ending story where the white snake reunited with her husband and their son, who was the one rescuing her after twenty years of imprisonment.

Monkey King Legend in Journey to the West

                 Monkey King is another hugely well-known Chinese legend in Asian countries. In the legend, there was a monkey named Sun Wu Kong, born from a stone. He acquired magical powers from his Taoist practice. However, as the monkey king rebelled against heaven, the Buddha himself punished him by imprisoning him under a mountain.

Later in the legend, the monkey king received forgiveness by accompanying a Buddhist monk to get Buddhist sutras in India. In Haw Par Villa, there is a scene where the monkey king fought with Nezha, the protection deity in Chinese folklore.

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Chinese Mythological Figures, Gods and Goddesses

Pic with my mom in front of Guan Yin Statue
Pic with my mom in front of Guan Yin Statue

Additionally, in Haw Par Villa, visitors can also find many other legends and Chinese values including Buddha, Chinese Gods and Goddesses statues. Some of the statues include Laughing Buddha and the famous Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin.

The figures in the theme park also include Jiang Ziya (Chinese military strategist) and many other memorable statues in Chinese legends. Haw Par Villa is a very particular tourist attraction that offers uniqueness to its visitors in Singapore.

                I came to the place only once in 2012 even though I have been in Singapore quite many times as my mother’s family and my brothers live there. My visit in Haw Par Villa is still memorable and I surely want to come back as I heard they plan another makeover in the theme park.

To add, what is even amazing is that there is no entrance fee and visitors can enjoy the theme park free of charge. I think that maybe their first priority is for people to be able to enjoy and know Chinese values and legends.

Moreover, I should tell you that if you visit Singapore, Haw Par Villa is absolutely an excitement to enjoy in this modern country as it brings the historical tradition and culture back to the urban life in Singapore.

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Tiger Balm Car
Tiger Balm Car near the entrance gate of the villa
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