Excursions are funny things.
If you were to mention school excursions, most people would be able to conjure up fond childhood memories of giving hi-fives to anthropomorphic rodents/ducks/dogs in a park and stuffing their faces with all sorts of sugary junk.
If you are a child of the 80s living in Singapore (like me), there is a very high chance that the first images that slip into your mind would probably be of rats chewing on the innards of a disembowelled prisoner or watching someone getting their faces (and other less savoury body parts) cut off by demons.
You see, we have a “theme park” in Singapore called Haw Par Villa. To be honest, Haw Par Villa is more of a sculpture garden than a theme park. The former residence of two Singaporean tycoons, it is now a large area littered with statues which are supposed to graphically illustrate significant scenes from Chinese mythology and other stories of virtue. To a eight year old me, the only thing it graphically displayed was the content of my bladder on my bed at night.
The last excursion in the itinerary for our Yangtze River Cruise was to a place called Fengdu Ghost City (丰都鬼城). It is billed as a “Necropolis leading into the Gates of Hell where ghosts and demons abound”.
I was suitably excited. Jo… decidedly less so.
The Queen Victoria dropped us at a pier leading to the Ghost City. A county within the municipality of Chongqing, Fengdu (丰都县) and much of the Ghost City had been submerged since the completion of the Three Gorges project.
From the pier, we took a leisurely golf cart ride (400 metres) up a hill (did I mention we’ve been travelling in style since we got on the cruise ship?) to the Gates of Hell. Along the way, we passed this weird structure that had been carved into the side of a hill.
It’s supposed to be an uncompleted five star hotel (really!) carved in the likeness of (why not?) the King of Hell (阎罗王). The concept is that the King of Hell stands watch over all of Fengdu….
We passed by a few smaller temples before reaching the entrance to the Gates of Hell which is guarded by 18 Ghosts (each representing a different vice)
And my favourite…
We then passed through the Courts of Hell that are apparently run by a group of (dusty) demi-gods and ermm.. bureaucrats.
The highlight of the excursion was a diorama of the Chinese Eighteen Levels of Hell, that GRAPHICALLY depict the punishments evil (and some not so evil) doers go through after death.
Due to the graphic nature of the dioramas (and also us not taking enough pictures), I shall only give a small preview of what we saw that afternoon…
** WARNING: GRAPHIC GORE COMING UP NEXT **
l think it speaks volumes of my upbringing when this image makes me nostalgic about my childhood.