Singapore’s Haw Par Villa is a massive complex complete with detailed sculptures, tree-lined walkways, Buddhist exhibits and the 10 Courts of Hell.
The courts were once part of a gruesome exhibit that depicted the Buddhist post-death experience where people were judged for their actions on Earth and sentenced to be reborn in another life form. The graphic sculptures showed potential punishments in the afterlife, including bodies on pitchforks, dismembered heads crying tears of blood and demons eating on humans.
If you thought Hell Houses were bad, think again.
After nearly 80 years, the exhibit that inspired a thousand nightmares has been recognized as the main attraction in the complex’s new Hell Museum, according to CNN.
Jeya Ayadurai, the historian behind the museum’s recent reimagining, knew that the 10 Courts of Hell was the most popular site at Haw Par Villa. The attraction gave him the idea to use the 10 Courts as vehicle to get people talking about death, the afterlife and other deeper concepts.
“We wanted to take away the taboo (of death) and also look at the 10 Courts with fresh eyes,” he explains.
Ayadurai hopes that Hell’s Museum can highlight commonalities between belief systems, whether they’re Chinese or not.
One way of achieving this goal is through humor. Hell’s Museum tries to balance playful fun without crossing the line and becoming disrespectful. For example, its website’s FAQ section reminds visitors that “pets are not allowed in the Hell’s Museum complex, in order to keep our exhibits safe. Anyway, all pets go to heaven!”
The museum’s curators hope to teach people about how different faiths view topics like life and death without making it too heavy.
“That’s what our intent is — to have an impact on every person who walks through that door, to see the world differently and hopefully more positively,” Avadurai said. “Sharing knowledge leads to appreciation, which leads to understanding.”
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