Bring the Kids to Buddhist Hell at Haw Par Villa

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Aug. 6 2013 8:19 AM

Tour the Horrors of Buddhist Hell at this Graphically Violent Theme Park

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par gained fame and fortune in the early 20th century selling their self-made Tiger Balm, but their legacy goes beyond ointment. In 1937, with the aim of instilling traditional Chinese values, the siblings built Haw Par Villa, a Singapore park with 1000 statues and 150 dioramas depicting surreal scenes from Chinese mythology, aspects of Confucianism, and terrifying visions of Buddhist hell.

The Confucian virtue of filial piety finds its expression in a statue of a woman breastfeeding her starving, toothless mother-in-law. The giant blue crab with a woman's smiling head plopped on top is of murkier mythological origin, as is a domestic scene showing a clothed, bipedal reindeer and tortoise sitting at a table drinking tea.

Advertisement

The garden's most memorable attraction is its Ten Courts of Hell section, which provides a vivid look at the punishments awaiting wicked souls in the layers of the underworld. Decapitations, disemboweling, and drownings in "Filthy Blood Pond" are all on show. 

Unconventional theme parks:

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.