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An assistant to the Judge of Hell, figure from a judgement group, Ming dynasty.
Literal meaningdark capital

Youdu (Chinese: 幽都; pinyin: yōudū) in Chinese mythology is the capital of Hell, or Diyu. 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.


"You" () in Chinese means "dark". "Du" () means "capital". Thus, Youdu is the Dark Capital (Yang 2005: 236). Among other meanings, You can mean "hidden", "secluded", and is in particular used to indicate the underworld.


Youdu is located under the earth, in the Region of Darkness, also known as Diyu, or the Yellow Springs. The general ruler of this realm is Houtu, but there are many other functionaries which have been believed to inhabit this region, and with the more important individuals being located in Youdu, as the capital city and seat of government.


Youdu has been described in various texts, as well as being depicted in art. Sometimes differences exist according to the religious affiliation of the text, for example whether more Buddhist, folk-oriented, or secular. Being located in the darkness underground is the most common feature. Generally, lighting is provided by torches and candles. Youdu may be the best-lit area of Diyu.


Youdu is the home or official residence of various deities, and also the location of their official offices or palaces. The souls of the dead are their fellow inhabitants and subjects. There are also many subordinate demons which serve to carry out the commands of the judges. Many of these are concerned with punishing or processing the souls of the dead for reincarnation. The sovereign deity is generally considered to be King Yama. Beneath him in rank ten other kings serve as judges of the souls of the dead.


Various creatures also inhabit Youdu, including Tu Bo (土伯), the warden of Youdu under the rule of Houtu, while some argue that Tu Bo itself is the primordial overlord of the underworld;[1] Diting, the steed of Di Zang, which can determine truth from falsehood.


Youdu is generally conceived of as similar to a typical historical Chinese capital city, such as Chang'an. Thus, it has a city wall, palaces, a hall of justice, and various residences for the ghosts of the dead. Especially important is the housing for the official records, which allow the various judges to determine proper punishments, or occasionally to allow someone who dies before their officially allotted time has expired to be returned to life. Especially important in this regard are the place of King Yama and the Ten Courts of Justice.


Youdu is a major scene of action in various myths, as well as literary works derived from the myths, legends, or religious descriptions or depictions. In the novel Journey to the West, Sun Wukong visits it repeatedly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liao, Qun (2006). Archaeological Study of "Shi Jing" 詩騷考古研究 and "Chu Ci". Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong University Press. pp. 256–259. ISBN 978-962-209-770-4.

Works cited[edit]

  • Yang, Lihui, et al. (2005). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533263-6