Amidst countless ultra-modern shopping malls and world-class hotels in Singapore sits the seemingly out-of-place “family” attraction, the Tiger Balm Gardens. Created by the Boon brothers, the original producers of the Tiger Balm pain-relief ointment, these gardens were a gift to the nation of Singapore, meant to teach the lessons of Buddhism. However, the controversial nature of many of the park’s 1, 000 statues has kept the park from developing into the attraction the brothers originally anticipated.
Take a peek inside Singapore’s oddest, and most controversial, family attraction.
Tiger Balm Gardens
In addition to being one of the nation’s wealthiest families, the Boons were renowned philanthropists. One of their contributions included Tiger Balm Gardens, originally known as Haw Par Villa.
The Boon brothers’ names Haw and Par translate to “gentle tiger” and “gentle leopard.” Many tiger and leopard statues can be found throughout the park.
The first of the park’s attractions is the 10 Courts of Hell. The exhibit takes visitors through a cavern to visit a graphic interpretation of the Buddhist concept. Scenes include the portrayal of literal heart-ripping punishment for those who disrespect elders.
Also known as the Chinese Phoenix, fenghuang represents virtue, duty, propriety, belief and mercy.
There are 150 dioramas scattered throughout the park, each teaching a traditional Chinese story. This diorama features the tales of Madam White Snake, who aids Xu Xian in reuniting him with his wife, who was turned into a snake. The tale teaches the morals of true love, courage, determination and filial piety.
Meanwhile, other figures don’t appear to have more meaning than being (a little more than) slightly terrifying.
With each statue being carved with intricate detail, the total cost of the park is estimated to be at around 1,000,000 SG in 1937 (approximately C$841,000), a significant amount, considering the park proved to be too unprofitable to charge admission.
One of the featured fables includes that of Tripataka and his three disciples, an outcast group in search of sacred Buddhist scriptures and a chance at redemption. These sculptures depict a tale where spider spirits transform themselves into alluring women in order to seduce Tripitaka.
Nearing the end of the park, not even the statues seem to be enjoying themselves anymore.
While some of the scenes and stories in Haw Par Villa may be somewhat disturbing, the level of thought and artwork that went into this unique Singaporean attraction remains undeniable.
You Might Also Like…