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Paintings of Hell

Does hell exist or not?

In Chinese culture's understanding, hell does exist. Paintings of hell in this page will help you understand the hell concept in Chinese culture.

In some Buddhism scriptures, the structure of hell is described in much details. The god who is in charge of the whole hell is Yan-Luo King. There are ten judicial courts in the hell, each of which is taken charge by one King. They are:

1st Court Qin Guang King
2nd Court Chu Jiang King
3rd Court Song Di King
4th Court Wu Guan King
5th Court Yan Luo King
6th Court Bian Cheng King
7th Court Tai Shan King
8th Court Du Shi King
9th Court Ping Deng King
10th Court Zhuan Lun King

There are 18 levels of hells. Each level is 20 times more painful and takes double time to get through than the previous level. So at the 18th level of hell, the extent of pain is beyond what one can describe and the time length is just endless. There are tormenting punishments corresponding to every type of wrong doings in human world.

Stories On Experience in Hell

At different periods in Chinese history, there have been a lot of stories of people, who died and became alive again, telling their experiences in hell. Among all, maybe the most famous one is the Tang Dynasty Emperor Tang Taizong's story. His experiences in hell is written in full details in the 10th chapter of the Chinese classical literature masterpiece "Journey to the West".

The Emperor was so shaken by what he saw in hell that after returning to human world, he dismissed 3000 girls in back royal court. He also allowed 400 death penalty prisoners to go back home for a one year holiday before being put to death.

Paintings of Hell by Jiang Yi-zi

In Chinese culture, hell is not only explained in words, but also depicted in visual arts.

In Tang Dynasty, there was a famous painter Wu Dao-zi. He made a fresco on hell in the Jing-yun Temple of Capital Chang-an. It is said that some people after seeing his paintings of hell changed their profession and dare not to do fishing or butcher any more.

In Beijing City, there is a place of interest called The Eight Great Places. It is a series of eight temples in a mountain. In one of the temples, there are frescoes on paintings of hell.

Here I will show you a famous modern Chinese painting about hell: "Picture Reference of Causality - Paintings of Hell", which was painted by Taiwan Chinese painting artist Jiang Yizi in 2003. The painting is a roll of 62 cm high and 50 meters wide.

All these scriptures, literatures and art paintings have made hell a commonly known concept in Chinese people. It plays an important role in maintaining Chinese people's morality. However, these traditional understandings have been totally destroyed by the Communist Party since 1949.

Below are some selected parts of the painting roll by Jiang Yizi.

Yan Luo KingYan Luo King is the god who is in charge of hell.

Hell of SwordsHell of Swords.
Hell of cold iceHell of cold ice.

Hell of bloodHell of blood.
Hell of suspending tongueHell of suspending tongue.
Hell of peeling skinHell of peeling skin.
Hell of fire vehicle.Hell of fire vehicle.
Hell of pugging.Hell of pugging.
Hell of steelyard.Hell of steelyard.
Zhuan Lun King.Zhuan Lun King is in charge of the 10th, also the last court in hell. All spirits going to reincarnation has to go through his court. He examines the spirit's past good and evil deeds and accurately decides what kind of being it should be given birth to. If to give it birth to human, he will arrange its length of life as well as its fortune and tribulations in the whole life.
Then the spirit has to go through a respective bridge according to what kind of being the spirit is given birth to. There are six kinds of bridges: Gold Bridge, Silver Bridge, Jade Bridge, Stone Bridge, Wood Bridge, and No-help Bridge.
Golden BridgeGolden Bridge.
One who in human world lives a noble life, is kind to all beings, does not kill lives, is fair, honest, is not greedy and commits no steeling, has good behavior and is not lewd, has a clear rationality, is faithful, trustable, is modest and tolerant to others. This kind of person must be able complete his whole predestined lifetime. After death he/she will be given birth to either Deva Path or Human Path in a family with great fortune. This kind of person will go through the Gold Bridge to his next life.
Ms. Meng's Pavilion Ms. Meng's Pavillion.
All spirits that will go through No-help Bridge to one's next life will have to come through Ms. Meng's Pavilion to drink her soup, which will clear all one's memory about previous life.
waiting to be born as animalsMany spirits are given an animal's skin and will be born as animals because of their karma in previous life.
rebirthBeings given rebirth in human world as humans or animals.
A new sun rises. A new life starts, which is a new chance. Should one get indulged in fight, money and lust or should one take good use of the life to learn and improve one's nature?

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