Sunday, 12 February 2012

Soothing Day @ Tiger Balm Gardens

Tiger Balm, you are not an Asian, if  you don't know Tiger Balm.  Just like Vicks vaporub, all of us, in one way or another have either smell and been rubbed by our Mothers & grandmas of this dark red brown liniment.  It's part of our culture growing up. It's the cure-all for our aches, pains, even stomach ache and mosquito bites.

But I bet you don't know that the history of this liniment, dates back 1870s and they're produced here in Singapore (not in China, as we all thought).  The formula was perfected by a herbalist Aw Chu Kin from Rangoon, Burma; and his sons  Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par brought the business here.  The brothers are best in selling & marketing techniques that they made tiger balm a household name until today.  Do you know that it used to contain Tiger bone? Do you know that the formula dates back to the Emperors in China?

Why am i telling you all this?  Because my latest adventure is a walk through Tiger Balm Gardens, a beautiful legacy of the Aw Boon brothers to Singapore.

Joining me in this adventure,  is my childhood friend from Aroroy, Masbate, Dzo Jumao-as.

Tiger Balm Gardens, are not unique to Singapore.  The Aw Boon Haw brothers built 3 of them in the world ~ Hongkong, Singapore and Fujian, China.  (I've been to Hkg's Tiger Balm garden long, long time ago....).  It's always nice to renew acquitances.

In Singapore, they call it Haw Par Villa.  It's a huge park, filled with sculptures, statues and dioramas featuring Chinese folklores, myths, representations of Confucian doctrines, histories and legends.

Rubbing the belly of a Laughing Buddha is said to bring-in Good Luck

The park is huge and every nook has something interesting to offer.  If you are interested in Buddhism, Confucianism, and oriental culture ~ this is the place for you!

The Beautiful and Ethereal Goddess of Mercy and Buddha amidst the Skyline

Little Enlightenment for you:  Fat Buddhas are from China, Thin Buddhas are those from Thailand and Buddhas in-between are from Japan :)

Needless to say,  I do pay my respect to the god of my ancestors ~

Lest you forget you are in Tiger Balm territory, there are many felines lurking around the corners.

These 3 Old Men might be familiar to you ~  whenever you go to a Chinese home, drugstore or temple, they are always present, and always together :))  They are Fuk,  Luk  and  Sau.  Although they are referred to as gods, they are not literally worshiped, in the conventional sense.  They are regarded as auspicious.  

Fuk represents prosperity, and is known as the wealth and happiness god.  Luk represents authority and is known as the God of affluence and rank.   Sau is the god of longevity and health.

Me & my friend with our chosen deities.  Mine is Sau and dzo's is Luk.

The most amusing portion, at the park,  for me, is the Ten Courts of Hell.  It's an eerie dioramas of gruesome depictions of Hell in Chinese mythology.  Yes,  H-E-L-L.

Do you remember, our high school reading,  Dante's  The Divine Comedy (which includes  Inferno,  Purgatorio and Paradiso). I used to be scared reading it or even looking at the paintings.  The concept of hell is not limited to Christianity.  In fact, it's more gruesome in oriental religions, like the ones depicted here.

No words, necessary.  I wished I brought my DSLR.   I'm using a simple point & shoot.  It would have been more morbid :))   I hope I don't give you nightmares tonight. 

After going through hell, the soul is reincarnated.... either as a another human being or worse, animals and insects :(

Funny how they localize the "usual" sins committed by people.  Here, it's a Sin not to Pay Rent to your landlord! It's a sin to bet on Lottery.   It's a peek on the culture of Singaporeans, too.

For high brow art aficionados, Tiger Balm Gardens can be construed as garish, tasteless and gaudy.  But who is to say what is Art and what is not?  :) It's a representation of a culture.  We are just audience, not judges or critics.

Oh by the way,  the Aw Boon brothers are also buried here.  They have two humongous memorials atop the hill.  I didn't analyze the shapes if it has any relevance in history.  But they're overt phallic symbols to me! :))  Oh male egos... Even at their death!


My friend Dzo and I had a fun time, posing at all those structures.  It was a weekday and there was no crowd.  Actually, the Tiger Balm gardens have been receiving fewer & fewer visitors. It's old (1937) and most people flock to the modern sights (Marina Bay, Sentosa, etc.)  It's a public park and entrance is free.

I don't know if I committed sacrilege or what.   Is this a god?   But there's a pole... and what's a girl gotta do... but dance!  :))

Hope you enjoyed!

'til next adventure!




1 comment:

  1. of course i enjoy the "trip". thanks for always taking me/us to the places i haven't seen/toured.
    ay, akala ko chinese origin ang tiger balm. =)
    anyway, i didn't know too they got a park. what a legacy. punta tayo dyan ha...someday.