Note: The Ten Courts of Hell is dedicated to the teaching of ethics and morality. Due to the graphic nature of the photos, readers’ discretion / parental guidance is advised.

The 10 Courts of Hell is an attraction in Haw Par Villa that depicts in detail the punishments in the afterlife that would await the souls of sinners.

It is currently closed and will reopen as part of a new attraction, Hell’s Museum (Paid Admission), on 28 October 2021.

singapore haw par villa ten courts of hell

The origin of ‘Ten Courts of Hell’ is believed to be based on the Indian Buddhist legend of the ‘World of Sufferings’ where one would be punished in ‘Hell’ for sins committed in one’s present life.

The Buddhist concepts of ‘Hell’ and ‘Yama’ had spread to China during the late Tang Dynasty. Over the centuries, the Chinese had adopted and integrated these ideas into their own belief systems.

Each of the ‘Ten Courts’ is presided over by a ‘Yama’ taking charge of the various torture chambers to penalise evildoers. These ‘Yamas’ would decree the different methods and severity of punishments to be meted out based on one’s past deeds.

The idea of ‘One Reaps what One Sows’ and “Cause and Effect’ is the central tenet that serves to restrain anti-social behaviour and determine Chinese ethical and moral core values over the centuries.

“Ox-Head” and “Horse-Face”

“Ox-Head” and “Horse-Face” are guards or escorts of the “Nether World” (Ten Courts of Hell). Disseminated through religious and traditional folk custom, they impress people with ferocious features and are stern executors.

According to a recent publication entitled “Popular Gods of China”. “Ox-Head” is hell soldier and “Horse-Face” is Lousha a wicked ghost who acts as guardsmen at the gate of hell. When the spirits arrive, they would chase them into the gate of hell with a steel spear and ivory stick to face the various punishment given by the Yamas or Emperors of Hell.

This design of “Ox-Head” and “Horse-Face” to guard the gate of hell is based on legendary Chinese tradition beliefs.

First Court of Hell Yama: King Qinguang

In the First Court of Hell, King Qinguang conducts preliminary trials and each prisoner is judged according to his deeds in his past life. The ‘good’ is distinguished from the ‘evil’ and the King recommends appropriate reward or punishment. Punishment is then carried out in the various Courts.

haw par villa ten courts of hell court one

Those with virtuous conduct in their past lives will be led over the ‘Golden’ Bridge to reach paradise.

Those who past good deeds outweigh crimes committed will be sent to the ‘Silver Bridge’ to reach paradise.

Those who were evil doers in their past lives will be sent to repent before the ‘Mirror of Retribution’ and then taken to a subsequent Court of Hell to be punished.

haw par villa ten courts of hell scary punishments

Second Court of Hell – Yama: King Chujiang

Crime Punishment
Inflicting physical injury
Thrown into volcanic pit
Stealing and gambling
Frozen into blocks of ice
Prostitutes Thrown into a pool of blood and drown

Third Court of Hell – Yama: King Songdi

Crime Punishment
Disrespect to elders
Escape from prison
Heart cut-out
Drug addicts & traffickers
Tomd robbers
Urging people into crime and social unrest
Tied to red hot copper pillar and grilled

Fourth Court of Hell – Yama: King Wuguan

Crime Punishment
Tax dodger
Refusal to pay rent
Business fraud
Pounded by stone mallet
Disobedience to one’s siblings
Lack of filial piety
Grounded by a large stone

“Wang-Si” Town

This accommodates those who were wronged and driven to their death. They would be asked to view how their enemies receive retribution. They would then be judged on their past deeds and given an appropriate punishment.

Fifth Court of Hell – Yama: King Yanluo

Crime Punishment
Plotted another’s death for his property or money
Money lenders with exorbitant interest rates
Thrown onto a hill of knives

The “Viewing Home Tower” is for the evildoers to see how their relatives and family are suffering as a result of their wrong-doings.

Sixth Court of Hell – Yama: King Piencheng

Crime Punishment
Abducting others
Thrown onto a tree of knives
Misuse of books
Possession of pornographic materials
Breaking written rules and regulations
Wasting Food
Body sawn into two

Seventh Court of Hell – Yama: King Taishan

Crime Punishment
Sowing discord among family members
Tongue pulled out
Driving someone to their death
Thrown into wok of boiling oil

Eighth Court of Hell – Yama: King Dushi

Crime Punishment
Lack of filial obedience
Causing trouble for parents or family members
Cheating during examinations
Intestines and organs pulled out
Harming others to benefit oneself Body dismembered

Nineth Court of Hell – Yama: King Pingdeng

Crime Punishment
Any other unlawful conduct
Head and arms chopped off
Neglect of the old and the young Crushed under boulders

haw par villa ten courts of hell

Tenth Court of Hell – Yama: King Zhuanlun

In the Tenth Court, there is the ‘Wheel of Reincarnation’ and the ‘Pavilion of Forgetfulness (“Men-Po” Pavilion).

After serving their sentences, prisoners arrive at the Tenth Court where King Zhuanlun passes the final judgment. The prisoners are then brought to the ‘Pavilion of Forgetfulness’ where an old lady ‘Men Po’ hands them a cup of magic tea which on drinking, makes them forget their past lives.

They will then go through the ‘Wheel of Reincarnation’. Depending on the prisoner’s past life, he would either be reborn as a human or an animal. Some would be reborn into a life of ease and comfort while others into sorrow and suffering.

Meng Po

Sinners who have been punished will be led to the Pavilion of forgetfulness where an old lady, Meng Po hands them a cup of magic tea which when drunk helps them forget their past lives.

For more information, visit Haw Par Villa Theme Park Singapore.

Text extracted from information plaques in Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell exhibits.

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