Chinese culture remains focus of Haw Par Villa

We thank Mr Toh Cheng Seong (Spice up, not dilute Haw Par Villa's wild character; Oct 31) and Dr Lee Woon Kwang (Go back to roots of Haw Par Villa; Nov 3) for their feedback on Haw Par Villa.

We appreciate their passion for this national treasure, particularly against a backdrop of years of neglect and apathy.

Chinese culture remains the primary focus in the plans for Haw Par Villa's revival.

The park has more than 1,000 sculptures reflecting Chinese history, literature, syncretic Chinese faiths and traditional values. It is our desire to interpret these elements for young, Western-oriented Singaporeans.

The park has steadily declined since the 1980s. Sticking to old formulas has clearly not worked, including Hua Song, a former museum dedicated to the Chinese diaspora. It needs to be made relevant to younger Singaporeans who have lost touch with their roots.

Many local visitors are confused by the sculptures and perceive the traditional beliefs as superstition. They are oblivious to the rich cultural depth and philosophy, and 5,000 years of Chinese and pan-Asian civilisations, visible at Haw Par Villa.

There are educational programmes and activities planned, including a national schools' Sculpture Walk and a weekly "Journeys to Hell" tour - both promoting a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.

Journeys, which manages Haw Par Villa, has no intention of diluting the uniqueness and authenticity of the park.

Instead, it plans to spice it up with a Singaporean and South-east Asian story.

With regard to the Aw family's vision, Dr Lee should be aware that the Aws were never insular or chauvinistic. They had Peranakan and South-east Asian spouses, and many sculptures in the park are of non-Chinese origin.

Journeys is a Singaporean company with 22 years of experience in sharing unique Singaporean narratives. With associate companies, it manages heritage sites such as the Chinatown Heritage Centre, Changi Museum and Battlebox. With a proven track record in telling authentic and compelling stories, it will do the same for Haw Par Villa, whose official launch is in August next year.

Chan Ying Loone

Director for Research

Journeys Pte Ltd

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese culture remains focus of Haw Par Villa'. Print Edition | Subscribe