Illustration from the Jade Record: Sinners are being tortured in the sixth court of hell by hammering metal spikes into the body; skinning alive; sawing body in half; and having to kneel on metal filings.
|Literal meaning||earth prison|
|Vietnamese alphabet||địa ngục|
|Literal meaning||hell, underworld|
Diyu (Sanskrit: नरक "Naraka") is the realm of the dead or "hell" in Chinese mythology. It is loosely based on a combination of the Buddhist concept of Naraka, traditional Chinese beliefs about the afterlife and a variety of popular expansions and re-interpretations of these two traditions.
Diyu is typically depicted as an underground maze with various levels and chambers, to which souls are taken after death to atone for the sins they committed when they were alive. The exact number of levels in Diyu and their associated deities differ between Buddhist and Taoist interpretations. Some speak of three to four "courts"; others mention "Ten Courts of Hell", each of which is ruled by a judge (collectively known as the Ten Yama Kings); other Chinese legends speak of the "Eighteen Levels of Hell". Each court deals with a different aspect of atonement and different punishments; most legends claim that sinners are subjected to gruesome tortures until their "deaths", after which they are restored to their original state for the torture to be repeated again.
Conceptions of Diyu
According to ideas from Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese folk religion, Diyu is a purgatory that serves to punish and renew spirits in preparation for reincarnation into their next life. Many deities, whose names and purposes are the subject of conflicting accounts, are associated with Diyu.
Some early Chinese cultures speak of people going to Mount Tai, Jiuyuan, Jiuquan or Fengdu after death. At present, Fengdu and the temples on Mount Tai have been rebuilt into tourist attractions, incorporating artistic depictions of hell and the afterlife. Some controversial folk religion planchette writings, such as Journeys to the Under-World, say that new hells with new punishments are created as the world changes and there is also a City of Innocent Deaths (Chinese: 枉死城; pinyin: Wǎng Sǐ Chéng). Some claimed there are other facilities.
Ten Courts of Hell
The concept of the "Ten Courts of Hell" began after Chinese folk religions were influenced by Buddhism. In Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor put Yama in charge of overseeing the affairs of Diyu. There are 12,800 hells located under the earth—eight dark hells, eight cold hells and 84,000 miscellaneous hells located at the edge of the universe. All will go to Diyu after death but the period of time one spends in Diyu depends on the severity of the sins he or she has committed, and after receiving due punishment, he or she will eventually be sent for reincarnation. In the meantime, souls will pass from stage to stage at the decision of Yama. Yama also reduced the number of hells to ten. He later divided Diyu into ten courts, each overseen by a "Yama King", while he remained as the sovereign ruler of Diyu.
|#||Name and title||Birthday
(in the Chinese calendar)
|In charge of
(see the Cold and Hot Narakas for details)
|1||Jiang, King Qinguang
|1st day of 2nd lunar month||Life and death and fortunes of all human beings||Believed to be Jiang Ziwen of the Eastern Han Dynasty|
|2||Li, King Chujiang
|1st day of 3rd lunar month||Sañjīva, Arbuda|
|3||Yu, King Songdi
|8th day of 2nd lunar month||Kālasūtra, Nirarbuda|
|4||Lü, King Wuguan
|18th day of 2nd lunar month||Saṃghāta, Aṭaṭa|
|5||Bao, King Yanluo
|8th day of 1st lunar month||Raurava, Hahava||Believed to be Bao Zheng of the Northern Song Dynasty|
|6||Bi, King Biancheng
|8th day of 3rd lunar month||Mahāraurava, Huhuva, and City of Innocent Deaths|
|7||Dong, King Taishan
|27th day of 3rd lunar month||Tapana, Utpala||Believed to be Dong Ji (董極) of the Later Han Dynasty|
|8||Huang, King Dushi
|1st day of 4th lunar month||Pratāpana, Padma||Believed to be Huang Sile (黃思樂) of the Five Dynasties period|
|9||Lu, King Pingdeng
|8th day of 4th lunar month||Avīci, Mahāpadma|
|10||Xue, King Zhuanlun
|17th day of 4th lunar month||Sending souls for reincarnation|
Among the various other geographic features believed of Diyu, the capital city has been thought to be named Youdu. It is generally conceived as being similar to a typical Chinese capital city, such as Chang'an, but surrounded with and pervaded with darkness.
Eighteen levels of hell
The concept of the eighteen hells started in the Tang Dynasty. The Buddhist text Wen Diyu Jing (問地獄經) mentioned 134 worlds of hell, but was simplified to the Eighteen Levels of Hell for convenience. Sinners feel pain and agony just like living human beings when they are subjected to the tortures listed below. They cannot "die" from the torment because when the ordeal is over, their bodies will be restored to their original states for the torture to be repeated. The following is a list of common punishments and tortures in the eighteen levels of hell:
- Mountain of Knives: Sinners are made to shed blood by climbing a mountain with sharp blades sticking out. Some depictions show offenders climbing trees with knives or sharp thorns sticking out from trunks and branches.
- Cauldron torture: Sinners are fried in oil cauldrons. Some depictions show offenders being steamed instead of being fried.
- Dismemberment: Sinners' bodies are dismembered by various means, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Slicing into half
- Mashing or pounding into pulp
- Crushed by heavy rocks or boulders
- Run over by vehicles
- Grinding torture: Sinners are put into a grinding machine and ground into a bloody pulp.
- Tortures involving fire:
- Burning: Sinners are set aflame or cast into fiery infernos.
- Paolao torture: Sinners are stripped naked and made to climb a large metal cylinder with a fire lit at its base.
- Boiling liquid torture: Sinners have boiling liquids forced down their throats or poured on parts of their bodies.
- Tortures involving removal of body parts or organs:
- Disembowelment: Sinners have their internal organs dug out.
- Slicing off fingers and toes
- Ice World: Sinners are frozen in ice. Some depictions show unclothed sinners suffering from frostbite in an icy world. Their bodies eventually fall apart or break into pieces.
- Scales and hooks torture: Sinners have hooks pierced into their bodies and are hung upside down. Some depictions show sinners having nails hammered into their bodies (similar to crucifixion).
- Pool of Blood: Sinners are cast into a pool of blood. Blood spills from all body orifices.
- Tortures involving animals: Sinners are trampled by cattle, gored by animals with horns or tusks, mauled or eaten by predators, stung or bitten by poisonous species etc.
- Avīci: The period of suffering in this chamber is the longest and it is reserved for sinners who have committed heinous crimes, including the Five Grave Offences.
Some literature refers to eighteen types of hells or to eighteen hells for each type of punishment. Some religious or literature books say that wrongdoers who were not punished when they were alive are punished in the hells after death.
Alternate names for hell
Among the more common Chinese names for the Underworld are:
- Diyu (simplified Chinese: 地狱; traditional Chinese: 地獄; pinyin: Dìyù), "Earth Prison".
- Difu (Chinese: 地府; pinyin: Dìfǔ), "Earth Mansion".
- Huangquan (simplified Chinese: 黄泉; traditional Chinese: 黃泉; pinyin: Huángquán), "Yellow Springs", called yomi in Japanese.
- Yinjian (simplified Chinese: 阴间; traditional Chinese: 陰間; pinyin: Yīnjiān; literally "Yin dimension"), "Land of Shade".
- Yinfu (simplified Chinese: 阴府; traditional Chinese: 陰府; pinyin: Yīnfǔ), "Shady Mansion".
- Yinsi (simplified Chinese: 阴司; traditional Chinese: 陰司; pinyin: Yīnsī), "Shady Office".
- Senluo Dian (simplified Chinese: 森罗殿; traditional Chinese: 森羅殿; pinyin: Sēnluódiàn), "Court of Senluo".
- Yanluo Dian (simplified Chinese: 阎罗殿; traditional Chinese: 閻羅殿; pinyin: Yánluódiàn), "Court of Yanluo".
- Jiuquan (Chinese: 九泉; pinyin: Jiǔquán), "Nine Springs".
- Chongquan (Chinese: 重泉; pinyin: Chóngquán), "Repeating Spring".
- Quanlu (Chinese: 泉路; pinyin: Quánlù), "Road to the Spring".
- Youming (Chinese: 幽冥; pinyin: Yōumíng), "Serene Darkness".
- Yourang (Chinese: 幽壤; pinyin: Yōurǎng), "Serene Land".
- Huokang (Chinese: 火炕; pinyin: Huǒkàng), "Fire Pit".
- Jiuyou (Chinese: 九幽; pinyin: Jiǔyōu), "Nine Serenities".
- Jiuyuan (Chinese: 九原; pinyin: Jiǔyuán), "Nine Origins".
- Mingfu (Chinese: 冥府; pinyin: Míngfǔ), "Dark Mansion".
- Abi (Chinese: 阿鼻; pinyin: Ābí), "Avīci", the hell of uninterrupted torture, last and deepest of the Eight Hot Narakas.
- Zugen (Chinese: 足跟; pinyin: Zúgēn), "Heel".
- Fengdu Cheng (simplified Chinese: 丰都城; traditional Chinese: 酆都城; pinyin: Fēngdū Chéng), a reference to the Fengdu Ghost City.
Other terminology related to hell includes:
- Naihe Qiao (simplified Chinese: 奈何桥; traditional Chinese: 奈何橋; pinyin: Nàihé Qiáo), "Bridge of Helplessness", a bridge every soul has to cross before entering the Underworld, just like the River Styx in Greek mythology.
- Wang Xiang Tai (simplified Chinese: 望乡台; traditional Chinese: 望鄉臺; pinyin: Wàng Xiāng Tái), "Home-Viewing Pavilion", a pavilion every soul passes by on his / her journey to the Underworld. From there, they can see their families and loved ones in the living world.
- You Guo (simplified Chinese: 油锅; traditional Chinese: 油鍋; pinyin: Yóu Guō), "Oil Cauldron", one of the tortures in hell.
- San Tu (simplified Chinese: 三涂; traditional Chinese: 三塗; pinyin: Sān Tú), the "Three Tortures": Fire Torture (simplified Chinese: 火涂; traditional Chinese: 火塗; pinyin: Huǒ Tú), Blade Torture (simplified Chinese: 刀涂; traditional Chinese: 刀塗; pinyin: Dāo Tú), Blood Torture (simplified Chinese: 血涂; traditional Chinese: 血塗; pinyin: Xuě Tú; literally "spilling of blood").
- Bon Festival
- Ghost Festival
- Hell Bank Notes
- Hell of the Flaming Rooster
- Hell Scroll (Nara National Museum)
- Journeys to the Under-World
- Meng Po
- Ox-Head and Horse-Face
- Naraka (Buddhism)
- Yama (Buddhism and Chinese mythology)
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- (Chinese) CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripitaka Buddhist version of 18 levels of hell (佛說十八泥犁經)
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- 唐·段成式《酉阳杂俎》整部作品- 谬城