|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 reinterpretations of these two traditions.
Diyu is typically depicted as a subterranean 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.
Conceptions of Diyu
According to ideas from Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese folk religion, Diyu is a purgatory which serves to punish and renew spirits in preparation for reincarnation. Many deities, whose names and purposes are the subject of conflicting accounts, are associated with Diyu.
Some early Chinese societies 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 Chinese folk religion planchette writings, such as the Taiwanese novel Journeys to the Under-World, say that new hells with new punishments are created as the world changes and that there is a City of Innocent Deaths (Chinese: 枉死城; pinyin: Wǎng Sǐ Chéng) designed to house those who died with grievances that have yet to be redressed.
Ten Courts of Hell
The concept of the "Ten Courts of Hell" (Chinese: 十殿閻羅; pinyin: Shídiàn Yánluó) began after Chinese folk religion was 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 is not indefinite – it depends on the severity of the sins one committed. After receiving due punishment, one will eventually be sent for reincarnation. In the meantime, souls pass from stage to stage at Yama's decision. Yama also reduced the number of hells to ten. He divided Diyu into ten courts, each overseen by a "Yama King", while he remained as the sovereign ruler of Diyu.
(in the Chinese calendar)
|In charge of
(see the Cold and Hot Narakas for details)
|1st day of 2nd lunar month||Life and death and fortunes of all humans||Believed to be Jiang Ziwen|
|1st day of 3rd lunar month||Sañjīva, Arbuda|
|8th day of 2nd lunar month||Kālasūtra, Nirarbuda|
|18th day of 2nd lunar month||Saṃghāta, Aṭaṭa|
|8th day of 1st lunar month||Raurava, Hahava||Believed to be Bao Zheng|
|8th day of 3rd lunar month||Mahāraurava, Huhuva, and City of Innocent Deaths|
|27th day of 3rd lunar month||Tapana, Utpala|
|1st day of 4th lunar month||Pratāpana, Padma|
|8th day of 4th lunar month||Avīci, Mahāpadma|
|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 humans when they are subjected to the tortures listed below. They cannot "die" from the torture 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 hells:
- Mountain of Knives: Sinners are thrown off cliffs and land on mountainous terrain with sharp blades sticking out. Some depictions show offenders climbing trees with knives or sharp thorns sticking out of trunks and branches.
- Cauldron torture: Sinners are fried in oil cauldrons.
- Dismemberment: Sinners are dismembered by various means, including sawing, slicing into half, mashing/pounding into pulp, being crushed by rocks/boulders, being run over by vehicles, etc.
- Grinding torture: Sinners are put into a grinding machine and ground into a bloody pulp.
- Burning: Sinners are set aflame or cast into infernos.
- Paolao torture: Sinners are stripped naked and tied to a large hollow metal cylinder with a fire lit at its base.
- Boiling liquid torture: Boiling liquids are forced down sinners' throats or poured on parts of their bodies.
- Tortures involving removal of body parts or organs: Tongue ripping, eye gouging, teeth extraction, heart digging, disembowelment, skinning, etc.
- Ice World: Sinners are frozen in ice. Some depictions show unclothed sinners suffering frostbite in an icy world. Their bodies eventually fall apart or break into pieces.
- Scales and hooks torture: Sinners are pierced with hooks and hung upside-down. Some depictions show sinners having nails hammered into their bodies.
- Pool of Blood: Sinners are cast into a pool of filthy blood, where they drown. Blood spills from all bodily 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. 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; Wade–Giles: Ti4-yü4), "Earth Prison".
- Difu (Chinese: 地府; pinyin: Dìfǔ; Wade–Giles: Ti4-fu3), "Earth Mansion".
- Huangquan (simplified Chinese: 黄泉; traditional Chinese: 黃泉; pinyin: Huángquán; Wade–Giles: Huang2-ch'üan2), "Yellow Springs", called yomi in Japanese.
- Yinjian (simplified Chinese: 阴间; traditional Chinese: 陰間; pinyin: Yīnjiān; Wade–Giles: Yin1-chien1; literally: "Yin dimension"), "Land of Shade".
- Yinfu (simplified Chinese: 阴府; traditional Chinese: 陰府; pinyin: Yīnfǔ; Wade–Giles: Yin1-fu3), "Shady Mansion".
- Yinsi (simplified Chinese: 阴司; traditional Chinese: 陰司; pinyin: Yīnsī; Wade–Giles: Yin1-szu1), "Shady Office".
- Senluo Dian (simplified Chinese: 森罗殿; traditional Chinese: 森羅殿; pinyin: Sēnluódiàn; Wade–Giles: Sen1-lo2 Tien4), "Court of Senluo".
- Yanluo Dian (simplified Chinese: 阎罗殿; traditional Chinese: 閻羅殿; pinyin: Yánluódiàn; Wade–Giles: Yan2-lo2 Tien4), "Court of Yanluo".
- Jiuquan (Chinese: 九泉; pinyin: Jiǔquán; Wade–Giles: Chiu3-ch'üan2), "Nine Springs".
- Zhongquan (Chinese: 重泉; pinyin: Zhòngquán; Wade–Giles: Chung4-ch'üan2), "Heavy Spring".
- Quanlu (Chinese: 泉路; pinyin: Quánlù; Wade–Giles: Ch'üan2-lu4), "Road to the Spring".
- Youming (Chinese: 幽冥; pinyin: Yōumíng; Wade–Giles: Yu1-ming2), "Serene Darkness".
- Yourang (Chinese: 幽壤; pinyin: Yōurǎng; Wade–Giles: Yu1-jang3), "Serene Land".
- Huokang (Chinese: 火炕; pinyin: Huǒkàng; Wade–Giles: Huo3-kang4), "Fire Pit".
- Jiuyou (Chinese: 九幽; pinyin: Jiǔyōu; Wade–Giles: Chiu3-yu1), "Nine Serenities".
- Jiuyuan (Chinese: 九原; pinyin: Jiǔyuán; Wade–Giles: Chiu3-yüan2), "Nine Origins".
- Mingfu (Chinese: 冥府; pinyin: Míngfǔ; Wade–Giles: Ming2-fu3), "Dark Mansion".
- Abi (Chinese: 阿鼻; pinyin: Ābí; Wade–Giles: A1-pi2), "Avīci", the hell of uninterrupted torture, last and deepest of the Eight Hot Narakas.
- Zugen (Chinese: 足跟; pinyin: Zúgēn; Wade–Giles: Tsu2-ken1), "Heel".
- Fengdu Cheng (simplified Chinese: 丰都城; traditional Chinese: 酆都城; pinyin: Fēngdū Chéng; Wade–Giles: Feng1-tu1 Ch'eng2), 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; Wade–Giles: Nai4-ho2 Ch'iao2), "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; Wade–Giles: Wang4 Hsiang1 T'ai2), "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 world of the living.
- Youguo (simplified Chinese: 油锅; traditional Chinese: 油鍋; pinyin: Yóu Guō; Wade–Giles: Yu2-kuo1), "Oil Cauldron", one of the tortures in hell.
- Santu (simplified Chinese: 三涂; traditional Chinese: 三塗; pinyin: Sān Tú; Wade–Giles: San1-t'u2), the "Three Tortures": Fire Torture (simplified Chinese: 火涂; traditional Chinese: 火塗; pinyin: Huǒ Tú; Wade–Giles: Huo3-t'u2), Blade Torture (simplified Chinese: 刀涂; traditional Chinese: 刀塗; pinyin: Dāo Tú; Wade–Giles: Tao1-t'u2), Blood Torture (simplified Chinese: 血涂; traditional Chinese: 血塗; pinyin: Xuě Tú; Wade–Giles: Hsüeh3-t'u2; literally: "spilling of blood").
- Naraka (Buddhism), the Buddhist concept of Hell which is related to the Chinese concept of Diyu
- Yama (East Asia), the wrathful deity who rules Hell in East Asian mythology
- Ksitigarbha, a bodhisattva who vowed never to achieve buddhahood until the hells are emptied
- Maudgalyayana, one of the Buddha's disciples and the protagonist of the Chinese tale Mulian Rescues His Mother
- Meng Po, a deity who serves souls a potion that makes them forget their past lives before they go for reincarnation
- Ox-Head and Horse-Face, hell guards in Chinese mythology
- Heibai Wuchang, hell guards in Chinese mythology
- Ghost Festival, a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival celebrated in some Asian countries
- Hell money, joss paper designed to resemble banknotes and meant to be burnt as offerings to the dead
- Hell Scroll (Nara National Museum), a Japanese scroll depicting hells, kept at the Nara National Museum
- Journeys to the Under-World, a Taiwanese novel narrating a journey through Diyu
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