The blog of author Dennis Cooper

You are sort of there: Haw Par Villa *

* (restored)


‘Haw Par Villa is a Chinese mythology theme park in Singapore with more than 1,000 statues and dioramas glorifying Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian folklore. Built in 1937 by brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par – famous for selling the popular medicinal paste Tiger Balm – older locals look back fondly at a place where parents would bring children for an education in morality, complete with bloody visual aids.

‘In 1988, the Singapore Tourism Board took charge of the Tiger Balm Gardens and renamed it “Haw Par Villa Dragon World”. The Haw Par in the park’s name is based on the Aw brothers’ personal names—Haw and Par, which literally mean “tiger” and “leopard” respectively. The dioramas and statues were restored, while plays, acrobatic displays and puppet shows were organised and held there. The management imposed entrance fees but the high fees discouraged visitors, so the management incurred a loss of S$31.5 million over 10 years. The park management made a profit during its first year of operations after renovations in 1994, broke even in 1995, but started incurring losses over the next three years and was forced to provide free entry in 1998.

‘Thousands used to throng the park, and it once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with attractions like Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park. In its glory days, this avant guard theme park was an iconic symbol in Singapore, and considered a must see by locals and foreigners alike. “Every Singaporean over the age of 35 probably has a picture of themselves at Haw Par,” said Desmond Sim, a local playwright. Those pictures would probably include the following statues, each made from plastered cement paste and wire mesh: a human head on the body of a crab, a frog in a baseball cap riding an ostrich, and a grandmother suckling at the breast of another woman.

‘But the highlight of this bizarre park are the Ten Courts of Hell. This attraction used to be set inside a 60-metre long trail of a Chinese dragon but the dragon has been demolished, so the attraction is now covered by grey stone walls. A tableau of severe disciplines are shown in painstaking detail, along with a placard stating the sin that warranted it. Tax dodgers are pounded by a stone mallet, spikes driven into a skeletal chest cavity like a bloodthirsty pestle in mortar. Spot the tiny tongue as it is pulled out of a screaming man, watch the demon flinging a young girl into a hill of knives. Ungratefulness results in a blunt metal rod cutting a very large, fleshly heart out of a woman. Perhaps the most gruesome depiction is an executioner pulling tiny intestines out from a man tied to a pole. The colons were visible and brown. The crime? Cheating during exams.

‘However, Haw Par Villa is facing an afterlife of its own. As the country of Singapore developed, and became almost futuristic in it’s modern appearance, the thousands of dated figurines that make up this park began to lose their luster along with much of their original appeal. Some of the areas of Haw Par Villa have been shut down due to lack of preservation Hardly anyone goes there anymore, and closed sections of the park point to an uncertain future. For some it’s a refreshing antidote to the mall-culture, but it looks like mall culture is winning out over a day out in hell.’ — collaged






Haw Par Villa: The Renaissance
by Genevieve Kong


Copy of Haw Par Villa
by Jiamin Wu



Haw Par Villa Singapore: The last blooming lotus

Silent visit

It will all be demolished one day. The land is worth billions.

A walkthrough of the Ten Courts of Hell attraction at Haw Par Villa


Rebranding Haw Par Villa

Proposal #1
by Leonard Koh

This rebranding project aims to promote about Haw Par Villa through the creation of a new identity to create a new impression to people who have been there before and arouse the curiosity of those who have never heard or been there before. Other materials have been created to promote about the area and others have been created as keepsakes and a reason to return.



Corporate Stationary


Postcards (Sun Wu Kong)


Postcard (10 Courts of Hell)


Postcard (Laughing Buddha)


Direct Mailer




Park Map



Proposal #2
by Chinwee

An extensive and different take on rebranding for Haw Par Villa. Targeting the youths for a change, this project aims to revive Haw Par Villa and also the traditional chinese values and cultures that comes with it.

Brand Identity


Park Map


Park Souvenirs




Brochure & Postcards


Outdoor advertising


Popup Brochure




Direct Mailer




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha. Everyone, FaBlog has something new in its uppermost register entitled ‘Let’s “Facebook” The Music’. Become one with it? Secondarily, here’s David himself: ‘Is everyone in L.A. out of town for the long weekend? If not and you’d like to score some bargains in DVDs, CDs and Books, write me at cllrdr@ehrensteinland.com’. ** Misanthrope, Pretty much whenever I’ve done mushrooms I get about 40 minutes of paranoia followed by a joy that makes the hell worth it. I went to Taco Bell the last time I was in LA after a long break. I was actually disappointed by their healthier food. I like its former trashiness. This time it seemed like a low budget Chipotle or something. Still not bad though. A lot of people I know had a fast food job at some point, and they seem to have gotten a lot of entertaining stories out of it. I read ‘The Cement Garden’. I remember liking it, but I liked the movie much more. I’ll give his later stuff a peek. Oh, right, Memorial Day today. Being over here, I totally forgot about it. Sleep in, although I guess by the time you see this it’ll be too late for my order/wish to be effective. Laze about? ** _Black_Acrylic, When I was young and when top grade LSD, mescaline, peyote, etc. was easily available, we thought the ‘shrooms people were wusses. It took a while for me to appreciate the poetry. I was just reading about ‘Beats’ and desiring to see it the other day. Huh, cool. When I do, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for Andrew. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, I wrote what I wrote too quickly and lazily. What it is is an excellent little start. Yep, ‘Parasite’ took it. I think it opens here soon. The only real surprise was the Dardennes winning best director since everything I’ve heard/read about their new film says it’s one of their weaker ones. It was funny watching the ceremony in that when Céline Sciamma won best screenplay for ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ I thought, when they announced it, she looked really disappointed, which seemed very odd. But I talked to Gisele, who has an ‘in’ because the main actress in the film, Adèle Haenel, is one of the stars of our upcoming TV series and is one of the performers in the new theater piece we’re working on, and she said that the director and cast were told to be at the closing ceremony because they were going to win something. ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ was one of the films heavily tipped to win the Palme d’Or, and Adele was heavily tipped to win Best Actress, so when the Best Screenplay award was announced, and they knew that was all the film was going to get because Cannes almost never rewards a film twice, they were in fact very disappointed. Anyway, … ** Nick Toti, Awesome that it went so well! Congrats, man! I have never seen any of his films, no. Hm, maybe I’ll see if there’s enough online to do a post about his work. Making those posts is a great way to get a fast education on a filmmaker. Thanks! Enjoy! ** Okay. Here’s another old, restored post from the blog’s faux-travelogue thematic wing. See you tomorrow.


  1. Weirs Shit! “The Amusement Park of Death” would be a great description of this place.

    Here’s Alain Delon at Cannes 2019 He’s crying!

    Marine LePen’s electoral victory is terrifying. French Jews are going to be killed now each and every day.

  2. Ah yes, I remember this day well. It obviously inspired me because I ended up referring to the place in one of the stories in my second collection (I believe the story was “Dyad”).

    Yesterday when describing you to a friend I came up with this one: “Dennis Cooper is like the Jungian shadow of Disneyland.” I wasn’t entirely sure what that even means but I liked the way it sounded, ha ha.

  3. It seems like psilocybin and mushrooms have a better reputation now than LSD or mescaline, probably because people feel safer taking something that grows naturally than a chemical whose actual strength or composition they don’t know.

    PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE was very well-received, so I was surprised that it only got an award for Screenplay. I also suspect that Netflix really acquired ATLANTICS before the festival but didn’t announce it then so that Cannes’ rules would allow it to play in competition and thus be eligible for awards. I’m seeing THE DEAD DON’T DIE for a review tomorrow.

    Have you ever done a day devoted to evangelical Christian “hell houses”?

  4. I’m so not into the glossy rebranded redesigned Haw Par Villa, just give me the old-school scuzzy dub version any day of the week.

    It looks as though Scotland did comparatively well out of the weekend’s Euro elections. While England saw massive wins for the odious Brexit Party chancers, up here there was a good night for the SNP who can use this to forge ahead with #indyref2. I’m hoping for a General Election followed by a hung Parliament, Labour then has to make a deal and grant another referendum on Scottish Independence which ends in an easy victory for Yes. Then at the end of all this, Leeds United are promoted to the Premier League and Marcelo Bielsa is canonised as a living saint.

  5. Hi Dennis,

    Oh wow. Haw Par Villa looks amazing. It reminds me of the dark ride they had at Six Flags in St. Louis when I was growing up. It was sort of a Pirates of the Caribbean knockoff, but less cartoonish and with way more death imagery. I think they saved the bones of that ride and rebranded it as a Scooby Doo thing…

    Zachary Oberzan should have plenty of stuff available online, but a lot of it might be behind a pay wall. I know this is at least true of his four features, which are available through Vimeo’s VOD thing.

    Hope your week is shaping up well. Talk soon!

  6. Dennis, I lazed about all weekend. Didn’t do shit but go to the gym, run some errands, look at porn, watch baseball, and finish Sweet Tooth.

    Stayed up late, woke up later. Ugh.

    Just finished making an appointment for this Real ID bullshit to do with our driver’s licenses. Will that affect you and being able to get over here and back? I know it affects whether you can take a domestic flight.

    Now I’ve got to cancel my appointment with the one doctor I’m leaving. I have to see if I have to put the new doctor as my primary care physician on my insurance or whatever. I don’t think so. And I’ve got to look into getting LPS a passport. That’s easy, I know.

    Otherwise, my weekend was just as boring as it sounds, and I’m okay with that.

  7. Hey D,

    Can’t sleep for some reason so I figured I’d drop in and see what you’re up to. And the answer is… this! Wow. This is wild. The whole rebranding aspect is such an unexpected turn in the day’s narrative. The sublimation of full-on hellscape evil into a sleekly corporatized portfolio is so on-point.

    Seconding the urge that you should go see Beats. I saw it today and I think it’s a stunner. The writer, Kieran Hurley, is a pal of mine, & back years ago when Beats was a one-man play of his, I got to hear him read an extract from an early draft, at a gathering of artist friends at Jonny’s studio. It’s wild that seven years on it’s a major motion picture. Anyway, I do really recommend it. Seems to capture rave/mdma experience with real flair.

    While I’m here: sorry the podcast we recorded in February hasn’t come out yet. The series has been on hold for a bit but it should restart in September. I’ll let you know.

    Hope things are peachy where you are, man. I just turned 46 today. Didn’t care for that much, but I know that’s a bullshit line of thought, haha. End of the day (which it is), the alternative is worse…

    Love to you, always. Xx

  8. Corey Heiferman

    May 28, 2019 at 7:50 am

    I really wonder what it was like designing and building this place, the interactions between folks who are really into hellish scenes and others who considered it just another gig.

    Recently I’ve been thinking more about directing people in a documentary. I have nothing against prompting, staging, or even provoking, but recently my instinct has been to run with wherever things go when they half-forget about the camera.

    Speaking of The Velvet Underground, have you seen The Chelsea Girls? I’m one episode in so still learning my way around. My video store is cool enough to have the 2003 Italian DVD, but it’s on YouTube too:


  9. Hey Dennis, I’ve been having weird network problems, with comments disappearing into the ether. We’ll see how this one fares. (First, perhaps?)

    Great to see the Haw Par Villa post again. It certainly made an impression when I was a toddler. Will have to revisit if I end up in Singapore again.

    Did I mention I met the main actor from Cement Garden 10 years ago, at a music technology workshop? Don’t know what he’s up to now.

    Having a nice time in Berlin as expected, mostly hanging with friends and enjoying all the new craft beer places. Went to a fine concert with some excellent Berlin improvisers. More concerts coming up, but Puce Mary is sold out, ah well. I should start practicing for my own gig…


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