Disclaimer: Pictures in this post might be slightly graphic or morbid.
This is quite a different post to my regular fashion and travel posts. Well, it falls into the category of travel, but judging from the title, you can guess I'm not just going to talk about yet another country or city i've been to.
A couple of months ago, I visited Haw Paw Villa for the first time. It is a park located in Singapore, with stories, carvings and different statues depicting various Chinese folklore, mythology, legends, and some historical events.
I'm not extremely well verse in this area, but growing up, i'd hear my grandparents tell me about stories on life and death. My mum told me, that when she was younger, parents would bring their kids to Haw Paw Villa, into the 10 courts of hell exhibit, and "scare" them into becoming good children.
I've never been to Haw Paw Villa when I was younger, so I didn't know much about the place except for the existence of the 10 courts of hell exhibit. That was partly because my aunt brought my sister there once, and that was all she talked about.
Haw Paw Villa is in fact a pretty huge park, with a ton of incredible carvings and statues - that aren't morbid in nature. It has probably been refurbished judging by how well maintained it is, and walking through the park brought back memories of the various Chinese legends I was made to read during Chinese lessons in school, or shows that I watched on television about the different Chinese deities when I was younger.
But of course, no one will forget the 10 Stages in the Courts of Hells.
The display is located a cave which is suppose to mimic the gates of hell, and as you walk through, you see mini figurines of the 10 different levels of hell, the idea is, depending on the sins you commit in your life, you'd end up in a level of hell and be punished before you reincarnate. The was what people used to believe in the past, I think to some extent, some people might believe in that now as well.
I can probably see why adults would use this as a "scaring method" for children.
On each display of each level (or court) of hell, you'd see the "sins" that are punishable and the punishment that is believed to ensue when one commits this sin or what they call, crime. The "crimes" listed are definitely Chinese oriented, there were ones like food wastage, lack of filial piety, stealing, robbery, gambling, basically a lot of things deemed as unrighteous by traditional conservative Chinese in the past (not to say these acts are accepted in the present!)
I remember being really young and having my grand parents tell me about punishments for food wastage. Of course, as Singapore is extremely modern and as people grew with times, my grandparents knew that some of these believes can come across as rather illogical and that we weren't actually believing them, but it's hard for THEM to not subscribe to that believe especially since it is what they were taught when they were growing up.
You probably did not know, but in the last 11 months, I lost both my grandfathers, paternal and maternal, and I've never really spoken about it on the blog, partially because I try to keep this space pretty light hearted and happy. I'm alright, thank you, if you happen to be wondering. Death is part and parcel of life, I feel the lost when I think of my grandfathers, because I was rather close to both of them, but I believe they are in a happier place and are no longer suffering (they were both pretty ill before they passed on).
Another fact, if you didn't know, I'm a christian, and so I hold the believe that there is heaven and hell, and that your soul finds peace after death. But, visiting places like Haw Paw Villa, and going to the 10 courts of hell exhibit, it reminded me of what my grandparents probably believe in. It is highly likely both my grandfathers believed in this mythology of one's path after death.
It must be pretty scary to think about how you'd be punished for lying or food wastage, or any other things perceived as unvirtuous, by having your body magled up.
How horrifying must it be to feel your life flash by you, and to say goodbye to everyone you love.
I know death is something extremely morbid, and I personally don't enjoy thinking about it, but at times you do wonder, what really happens after you're gone? Where do you go?
I guess that is why we got to live life to the fullest, be the best we can and aim to have as little regrets as possible.
Reigning back on the whole talk of death, of course, aesthetically, Haw Paw Villa has much to offer. Apart from the morbidity of the exhibition, if you do not think too much of what is displayed, and enjoy it from an artistic point of view, Haw Paw Villa is an extremely unique themed park.
The amount of work that went into beautifying the surroundings, creating the individual sculptures, and giving people a glimpse of what some people believe happens after death, is pretty fantastic. It could be a whole outdoor museum in its own right.
It is places like these that a lot of tourist don't know about when they come to Singapore, and definitely deserves more attention for the uniqueness of it's concept.