Ruled by , the King of Hell, Diyu is a maze of underground levels and chambers where souls are taken to atone for their earthly sins.
Incorporating ideas from Taoism and Buddhism as well as traditional Chinese folk religion, Diyu is a kind of purgatory place which serves not only to punish but also to renew spirits ready for their next incarnation. There are many deities associated with the place, whose names and purposes are the subject of much conflicting information.
The exact number of levels in Chinese Hell - and their associated deities - differs according to the Buddhist or Taoist perception. Some speak of three to four 'Courts', other as many as ten. The ten judges are also known as the 10 Kings of . Each Court deals with a different aspect of atonement. For example, murder is punished in one Court, adultery in another. According to some Chinese legends, there are eighteen levels in Hell. Punishment also varies according to belief, but most legends speak of highly imaginative chambers where wrong-doers are sawn in half, beheaded, thrown into pits of filth or forced to climb trees adorned with sharp blades.
However, most legends agree that once a soul has atoned for their deeds and repented, he or she is given the Drink of Forgetfulness by Meng Po and sent back into the world to be reborn, possibly as an animal or a poor or sick person, for further punishment. One description of Diyu can be found in the Jade Record.
Eighteen levels of Hell
In Taoist and Buddhist mythology, hell is made up of ten courts, each ruled by one of the 10 Kings and 18 levels in which wrongdoers are punished.
In some literatures, there are references to 18 types or subtypes of hells, or 18 hells for each type of punishment, rather than just 18 levels of hell. In some literatures, there are different types of punishment on each level.
The concept of '18 levels of hell' started in the Tang Dynasty. The Buddhist text ''Jian Di Yu Jing'' mentioned 134 worlds of hell, but was simplified to 18 levels of hell for convenience.
#Chamber of Wind and Thunder – People who kill and commit heinous crimes out of greed are sent here for punishment.
#Chamber of Grinding – Wealthy men who do no good and waste food are ground into powder in this chamber.
#Chamber of Flames – People who steal, plunder, rob and cheat are sent here to be burnt.
#Chamber of Ice – Children who ill-treat their parents and elders are sent here to be frozen in ice.
#Chamber of Oil Cauldrons – Sex offenders such as rapists, lechers, adulterers are fried in oil in this chamber.
#Chamber of Dismemberment by Sawing – Kidnappers and people who force good women into prostitution suffer the fate of being sawn in this chamber.
#Chamber of Dismemberment by Chariot – Corrupt officials and landlords who oppress and exploit the people are dismembered by a chariot in this chamber.
#Chamber of Mountain of Knives – People who cheat customers by earning more than they should, profiteers who jack up prices and cheat on the quality of goods are made to shed blood by climbing the mountain of knives.
#Chamber of Tongue Ripping – Gossips who stir trouble and liars suffer the fate of having their tongues ripped out in this chamber.
#Chamber of Pounding – Cold-blooded murderers are pounded in this chamber.
#Chamber of Torso-severing – Scheming and ungrateful men have their torsos severed in this chamber.
#Chamber of Scales – Crooks who oppress the innocent, people who cheat on the quality of goods and daughters-in-law who ill-treat their in-laws have hooks pierced into their body and hung upside down.
#Chamber of Eye-gouging – Peeping toms who go around peeking and leering have their eyeballs gouged out in this chamber.
#Chamber of Heart-digging – People with evil hearts have theirs dug out in this chamber.
#Chamber of Disembowelment – Instigators, hypocrites and tomb-robbers have their bowels dug out in this chamber.
#Chamber of Blood – Blasphemous crooks who show no respect to the gods suffer the fate of being skinned in this chamber.
#Chamber of Maggots – Crooks who use loopholes in the law to cheat and engage in malpractice are being eaten alive by maggots in this chamber.
#Chamber of Avici – Crooks who have committed heinous crimes, brought misery to the people and betrayed the ruler are placed on a platform above an inferno. The unlucky ones fall off the platform into the inferno and burn while the lucky ones remain on the platform. These spirits are never to be reincarnated.
Alternate names in Chinese language
Among the more common names for the Underworld are :
*地獄 - dìyù the underworld prison
*地府 - dìf? the underworld mansion
*黃泉 - huángquán the yellow spring
*陰間 - yīnjiān the shady space
*陰府 - yīnf? the shady mansion
*陰司 - yīnsī the shady office
*森羅殿 - shēnluó diàn the court of Sinluo
*閻羅殿 - yánluó diàn the court of
*九泉 - ji?quán the nine springs
*重泉 - chóngquán the repeating spring
*泉路 - quánlù the spring road
*幽冥 - yūmíng the serene darkness
*幽壤 - yūr?ng the serene land
*火炕 - hu?kàng the fire pit
*九幽 - ji?yū the nine serenities
*九原 - ji?yuán the nine origins
*冥府 – míngf? the dark mansion
*阿鼻 - ābí , a Buddhist term, from Sanskrit , the hell of uninterrupted torture, last and deepest of eight hot hells
*足跟 - zúgēn the heel of the foot, also means hells
*酆都城 - Chéng, name of a city imagined to contain an entrance to Diyu
And terminologies related to hell:
*奈何橋 - the bridge of helplessness
*望鄉臺 - the home viewing pavilion
*油鍋 - the deep frying wok, one of the tortures in hell.
*三塗 - the three tortures, burn by fire , chop by knife , torn apart by beasts .