Hell Museum at Jalan Kayu Joint Temple | Home Tourist Photo Essay 17

Hell Museum at Jalan Kayu Joint Temple
Hell Museum at Jalan Kayu Joint Temple

Believe it, or not, there’s a mini Hell’s Museum at Jalan Kayu.

It seems an appropriate time to write about hell in Singapore, awful as it is to say.

With unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 community infections, and a school killing, it’s clear that the weeks ahead for Singapore are not going to be easy. At the moment, there are even talks about downscaling this year’s National Day Parade. (Update: It was postponed)

Coincidentally, and right before the community infection cases started spiking, there was also much hype about the renovated Har Par Villa. Particularly, the upcoming reopening of the Hell’s Museum attraction.

Well, that reopening is scheduled for October 2021. The way things are going, who knows whether it would be delayed. (I hope not)

Meanwhile, if you’re aching to have a taste of Chinese Hell, as in the Ten Courts of Hell version, err, you can rejoice? Har Par Villa is hardly the only place in Singapore that’s “hell on earth.”

Tucked away in a basement of Jalan Kayu Joint Temple is a mini Hell’s Museum. It is but a few hundred square feet large but every inch of this unusual attraction is packed full of information. The entire basement is also AIR-CONDITIONED and very atmospherically lit.

The hellish dioramas here aren’t as gory as the ones at Haw Par Villa but what they lack in blood, they more than make up for with complexity. If you are fascinated by such things, let’s just say you’d be in for a hellish treat.

Jalan Kayu Joint Temple (惹兰加由联合庙)

Some information about Jalan Kayu Joint Temple before I continue. Located alongside the southern end of Jalan Kayu, at the fringe of Sengkang Estate, the complex was built in 2011 to house four relocated temples. These being:

  • Chong Yee Temple (忠义庙): Occupying half of the complex, Chong Yee Temple venerates Xie Tian Da Di (协天大帝), Guangong in other words, and many other Chinese deities. Walking into it is akin to entering a classic Chinese ancestral hall.
  • Bao Gong Temple (包公庙): Dedicated to the legendary Song Dynasty judge Bao Zheng, this is the one with the Hell’s Museum. The shrine to Bao Zheng is itself a visual wonder.
  • Leong Nam Temple (龙南殿): The dazzling main shrine is dedicated to Jiu Huang Da Er Ye (九皇大二爷), the second of the Taoist Nine Emperors.
  • Ubin Thai Buddhist Temple (乌敏泰佛寺): I previously featured this popular Thai Buddhist shrine/temple in a home tourist post.

The summary, if you’re fascinated with Chinese mythology and Taoism, this is the temple complex to head to. While compact, you can easily spend an hour here examining the many altars and statues. Photographers fond of eastern religious motifs will naturally find it a paradise too.

Jalan Kayu Joint Temple (惹兰加由联合庙)
Clockwise from top left: Chong Yee Temple, Bao Gong Temple, Leong Nam Temple, and Ubin Thai Buddhist Temple.

As for the main altar of Bao Gong Temple, what’s most fascinating about it is that replicas of the three legendary guillotines used by Justice Bao are on display. I’m sure fans of the many TV series about the judge can easily identify the characters represented here too.

Three guillotines of Justice Bao.
The famous three guillotines of Justice Bao. The dragon one is for royal family members. The tiger one is for imperial officials and aristocrats, while the dog one is for commoners.

Jalan Kayu Bao Gong Temple Hell’s Museum

Bao Gong Temple occupies the least space in the complex, and so the staircase leading down to the museum is hard to miss. (It’s to the left of the main entrance)

The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars (二十四孝)
A visual summary of The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars (二十四孝) is the first thing you’d see upon reaching the basement. Singaporean temples venerating Chinese Hell Gods often have such depictions.
Zhong Kui (钟馗), Chinese Vanquisher of Ghosts
Zhong Kui (钟馗). The famous Chinese Vanquisher of Ghosts.
Heibai Wuchang and Xiaoziye
Painting of Heibai Wuchang (黑白无常) and Xiaoziye (孝子爷).

Mythology trivia: Heibai Wuchang, or the “Black and White Impermanence,” are the famous officers of Chinese hell responsible for escorting spirits to the underworld. Xiaoziye, on the other hand, is a character from The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars who was tasked with overseeing the underworld treasury after he performed penitence for not honouring his mother.

In Singaporean Taoism, they are often referred to as First, Second, and Third Master, respectively.

Yanluo Wang Altar in Singapore
At the deepest corner of the museum is a very, VERY atmospherically lit altar to Yanluo Wang (阎罗王), the Chinese King of Hell.

Beside the altar to Yanluo Wang is the chief attraction of this hellish mini-museum. Here, the terrifying Chinese Ten Courts of Hell are meticulously presented in a row, with each court presided by a judge.

Other than terse English explanations, what’s fascinating about the dioramas is that they somewhat resemble Chinese funeral offerings. You know, the incredible papier-mache structures, condos, cars, etc, burned for the deceased?

In all, staring at the dioramas is a very ghostly experience.

First Court of Chinese Hell.
Details of the First Court. The tower-like gate is the Chinese version of the Gates of Hell.
Jalan Kayu Joint Temple Hell Museum
The First and Second Courts. Hellish punishments for sinners begin from the Second Court onwards. (The First Court only segregates the virtuous from the sinful)
Unusual Attraction in Singapore: Jalan Kayu Hell's Museum.
The Fourth to Seventh Court at the heart of this unusual attraction in Singapore. Don’t you think the intricacy here somewhat resembles a Hieronymus Bosch painting? Smack in the middle of this picture is also the notorious Chinese Paoluo (炮烙) torture.

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More Chinese mythology trivia. It isn’t odd, at all, for a Hell’s Museum to be located within a temple enshrining Justice Bao. In Chinese Folklore, the impartial judge is said to be the Fifth Judge of the Ten Courts of Hell.

So the saying goes, Justice Bao judges the living in the daytime, and the dead after sunset.

Mountain of Knives in Chinese Hell
Hurling sinners onto the Mountain of Knives. The skewered are then attended to by giant serpents. (What an awful double whammy)
Singapore Hell Museum
I think what’s happening here is obvious. And so I’d just highlight the mini LED lamps skilfully integrated into the diorama to achieve that netherworld lighting effect.
Free Museum in Singapore | Jalan Kayu Baogong Temple Hell's Museum
Probably because of the air conditioning, the ghoulish statues here are really well-maintained.
Shidian Yanluo in Singapore
Overview of the final four courts.
Chinese Reincarnation
Details of the final, i.e., the Tenth Court. There’s no punishment here. Instead, souls who have completed their punishments enter the wheel of karma to be reincarnated.
Diyu (地狱) Display in Singapore
How the displays look like from two steps away. Incidentally, the Ten Courts of Hell are described as underneath the ocean in Chinese mythology. I presume that’s why blue was used as the dominant lighting colour.

Jalan Kayu Joint Temple is located at:
70 Sengkang West Ave, Singapore 797651

Read my other Home Tourist photo essays.

Hell Museum at Jalan Kayu Joint Temple | Home Tourist Photo Essay 17
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Hell Museum at Jalan Kayu Joint Temple | Home Tourist Photo Essay 17
Har Paw Villa is not the only place in Singapore with a Hell’s Museum. At Jalan Kayu Joint Temple is an equally grotesque exhibit.

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