Singapore has opened the world's first museum dedicated to showcasing content on death and the afterlife, in hopes to spark local and international visitors' curiosity on Asian folklores and philosophies.
Hell’s Museum opened its gates to the living on 29 October as a new addition to Haw Par Villa, Singapore’s longest-running cultural theme park, following a revitalisation to the 84-year-old attraction executed by Journeys, a Singapore-based heritage specialist.
“Our goal is for Haw Par Villa to be reinvigorated as the heritage gem it truly is, by incorporating new, compelling content to complement the folklore and philosophy behind the park’s array of over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas,” said Jeya Ayadurai, chairman of Journeys.
A recreation of a burial crypt which is currently used in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, the only place in Singapore still open to burials today. Photo Credit: Journeys Ptd Ltd
Kicking off the first of a three-phased programme for the park's reopening, the 3,800sqm museum offers artefacts, displays and multi-media elements to explain how different communities worldwide, including Singapore, draw meaning from death and dying. Rituals and ceremonies for the dead are also featured among other topics.
Hell’s Museum will also explain the origins of Haw Par Villa's iconic 10 Courts of Hell, based on Taoist and Buddhist teachings of punishments in the afterlife — such as how the punishment for the “misuse of books” is visually represented by a figurine being sawn in half.
A pavilion with a statue of Buddha in Haw Par Villa. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Wihardja Dewi
Besides its new trademark attraction that may raise some hairs, Haw Par Villa is home to a kaleidoscopic array of displays, depicting scenes from Chinese mythology such as Journey to the West, Madame White Snake, and the Eight Immortals. The cultural park also contains gateways, ponds, pavilions and pagodas constructed based on Asian culture, history, philosophy and religion.