Tag Archives: Philosophy

Chinese Folklore

In today’s edition of Explore As Much of Singapore As Possible Before Rebecca Leaves, my friend Lauren and I ventured out to Haw Par Villa, located on the western part of the Circle Line. There’s nothing around it except for a car dealer and a Korean BBQ restaurant, meaning that Haw Par Villa has its own MRT stop! Neither of us had ever been out in that direction before.


I first heard about Haw Par Villa from a friend a number of weeks ago and promptly forgot about it. Another friend asked if I’d brought Lucas there when he visited last weekend, which reminded me that I wanted to go. (Obviously, Lucas missed that experience. He’ll just have to come back!)

Haw Par Villa was built by the brothers who developed Tiger Balm and made millions. They opened the theme park as a way of giving back to society. Entry is completely free, which is always nice. It was very hot and sunny today and we walked through the whole park in about 90 minutes.

Tiger Balm statue

Our first stop was the section of the park depicting the 10 Courts of Hell from Chinese folklore. To give you an idea, this is how each of the courts were described:

I took a picture of this sign because I particularly loved that “urging people into crime and social unrest” was listed as a sin!

Each of the courts had a sign like the one above, and all sorts of graphic depictions of the punishments, like these:

It gets stranger:

We couldn’t figure out why this was here . . .
Lady Liberty? Why?

The rest of the theme park continued depicting different Chinese tales. Having Lauren around was particularly helpful because she spent four years living in Shanghai and can read and speak what she calls elementary Mandarin. It was also just fun to point out the weird sh** everywhere to someone as intrigued as I was!

The last area we visited was called Virtues and Vices and depicted scenes of daily life, both virtues and vices, from places Lauren could identify as Shanghai and Hong Kong. I’m also pretty sure at least one scene was set in Singapore, but it’s hard to say.

It was definitely a unique and entertaining afternoon! I highly recommend a visit!


Liars, Thieves, and the Future

My landlord is stealing from me.

I won’t bore you with the details, but there’s a repair to my air-conditioning that my landlord wants me to do. She also wants me to pay for it. This repair has been recommended by the air-conditioning company since 2013; I don’t know why no one has taken care of it before now. After first telling me she would pay for the repair in full, my landlord has now threatened to evict me if I don’t pay.

As there is no rental board in Singapore, which is actually quite surprising, my hands are tied.

We’re not talking about a lot of money, but we’re talking about enough money that I had to cancel travel plans for this weekend because I simply can’t do both.

What bothers me the most is that this landlord’s word is clearly worth nothing. It is worth nothing to her, and therefore is worth nothing to anyone else. I have it in writing that she promised to pay for this repair in full; in the US, that would be the end of the dispute. Apparently, that is not the case here. I’m irritated because I have done nothing wrong. I’m disgusted because she lied to me. I’m angry because part of the lease agreement stipulates that maintenance will be done before a tenant moves in.

This clearly did not happen.

But I’m also frustrated, because I know she’s stealing from me, she knows she’s stealing from me, and now we have to have a business relationship for the duration of my lease. Where does that leave me?

Ultimately, I’m sad because I believe in the goodness of people. I believe in doing the right thing. When I told my landlord that the air-conditioning company recommended this repair after they came for a routine check (weird law in Singapore), I was doing the right thing.

In books and movies, the good guy wins. We teach children that good triumphs over evil. However, the more time I spend in this world as an adult, the more I read the news, the more I try to help my students understand all the wrong in the world, the more I am afraid that good will not triumph over evil in the end.

And then where will we be?


There’s a great deal of value in doing what is right simply for that – because it’s right. I’m lucky enough to teach at a school in which my students, for the most part, do the right thing. Maybe that’s because it’s a single-sex environment, maybe that’s because it’s a parochial environment, or maybe that’s because most people, when push comes to shove, understand the difference between right and wrong. I have to believe that most people, when faced with something bad, will try to do good.

However, I also know that that’s not always the case. I understand that doing the right thing sometimes means putting oneself or one’s family in danger, and I don’t advocate for that. For example, during the Holocaust, the people who rescued the most Jews (hid them, made fake passports, smuggled them across borders, etc.) were young, single men. Why? No families. No dependents. Fewer worries.

I do not blame those who don’t speak out for fear of very well repercussions. I do blame those who actively try to make others miserable in any situation.

But again, I have to hope that there’s more good in this world than bad. There’s an excellent BuzzFeed article (linked below) from January 2012 that I read, cried over, laughed at, and bookmarked. I look at it every now and then. I cry. I laugh. In a world filled with conflict, hate, poverty, and fear, it’s nice to remember that there’s also hope and love and compassion.