Haw Par Villa, or Tiger Balm Gardens, was constructed in the mid-1930s by Aw Boon-Haw, the Chinese-Burmese co-founder of Tiger Balm, a popular pain-relieving salve made of Camphor and Menthol (similar to Vicks VapoRub.)
The theme park, originally one of three in East Asia, was designed to teach visitors Chinese folk-lore, mythology, cultural values and morality via colourful statues and dioramas.
As baffling and disturbing as some of these displays are they pale in comparison to the park’s real draw card: its graphic depiction of Diyu, or Buddhist Hell.
Much like the Hell depicted in Dante’s Inferno, Diyu is made up of different levels or courts where an individual’s sins are assessed and a variety of gruesome punishments are doled out.
According to lore, all souls go to Diyu after death but the time they spend there and the punishments they face are entirely dependent on the kind of lives they lived on Earth.
Live a good and virtuous life and your punishment is minor and reincarnation swift. Live a life of debauchery, violence and sin and find yourself in the one or more of the 18 levels of hell. Where you could be dismembered:
Crushed between two stones:
displayed on the tree of knives:
Or whatever this is:
And what’s pictured in this article is only the tip of the iceberg.
Although The Ten Courts of Buddhist Hell display is only one section of the park, there are plenty of images throughout to fuel your nightmares and Instagram accounts for weeks, if not months to come.
Making a trip to Haw Par Villa (which still has free admission the last time I checked) a must-do.
You know…if you’re into that sort of thing.