History books had always been my teenage cure for insomnia, one line from the page was enough to cause coma. But of late, I’ve developed a kind of appreciation for history and heritage. They no longer have the effect of Dormicum and I’d grown a penchant for museums both locally and overseas.
I would like to think that my interest is piqued because of the interactive ways that history is brought across now and not because age has helped me recognize the artifacts on display! Nostalgia has a certain therapeutic effect.
But of course this feeling of connection doesn’t happen at all museums. So I was getting quite an emotional high when I visited the Hwa Song Museum (华颂馆) nestled within Haw Par Villa (虎豹别墅). Now, Haw Par Villa and I go back a long way. As a kid of about 10 years-old, I’ve always liked the colourful sculptures, especially its very graphic exhibit on the 18 levels of hell. It terrified me enough to try to be good.
Then when I was about 17yo, I worked there at one of its F&B outlets selling fried chicken to tourists. It was also there that I met Kumar, a household name in Singapore’s comedic scene, for the first time. I could still remember him in gawky costumes back then before his big break into local showbiz. So Haw Par Villa and I go back a long way.
My very own growing up history at Haw Par Villa!
After I left the part-time job at Haw Par Villa, I took worked part-time in a telephony company before being enlisted for National Service. Then it’s getting a diploma, a degree and the start of my working life. For the next 17 years, I’ve not stepped foot in that place until the visit to Hua Song Museum.
More than just learning about my Chinese roots, it was a step back in time for me. It was a pity that the visit was at night for the mid-autumn festival and I didn’t have the chance to see my old ‘friends’ at the theme park again. But Hua Song created just about another experience for me… that of appreciating the life now compared to the hardships our ancestors endured coming to Singapura to find work.
Hua Song is a dedicated museum to the dexterity of the Chinese people and provided a glimpse on the lifestyle and living conditions of our forefathers in Singapore. Apart from artifacts that span the breadth and depth of early Chinese culture, my favourites were the life-size replicas of kitchen and work environments of the early Chinese here.
In the welcomed absence of ‘Do not touch’ signs, we had a lot of fun posing with the props. I hope it doesn’t seem disrespectful, that we’re making fun of the hardships, but as with all attempts to retrospect, if we can’t make fun of it, how can we have fun with it?
So another set of memories marked Haw Par Villa for me through Hua Song Museum. If you’re wondering what to do during the weekends, perhaps you can consider visiting this museum, and bring your kids, to learn more about the Chinese heritage and creating lasting memories for the children. I, too, was once a kid at Haw Par Villa… and continues to be.