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February 26, 2009 9:22 PM   Subscribe

A Visitor's Guide to Hell - A translation of the Chinese version of what happens to the human soul after death [with some illustrations].

e.g. for the sin of engaging in eating cinebar [red lead], cloudy jujubes [which have been placed in a woman's vagina for up to 3 months], human afterbirths, or other medicines in order to fortify your sexual power you can be sent to The Dungeon Where People Are Trampled by Mules and Chewed by Badgers.
posted by tellurian (34 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
A few photos
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 PM on February 26, 2009


Waiter: "Noses are hammered and blood swallowed, chests are split open, legs are pierced and thrust into a fiery pit, hair is torn out with iron combs, shins are gnawed by dogs, great pillars are painfully placed on heads, skulls are smashed open, then pecked by huge birds, skin is torn and pulled by pigs, then hung up by their feet and beaten with bamboo, tongues are pulled out and jaws bored, the whole carcass disembowelled, trampled by mules and chewed by badgers, fingers are ironed with flatirons, and then boiled in kettles of oil."

Man: "So that's the Number 23, huh? Hmm, sounds pretty good. What about you, love?"

Woman (aghast): "J-j-just the...umm...just the wonton soup, thank you."

Man: "Oh, and can we get some rice?"
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:47 PM on February 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Chinese have a lot of hells.
posted by adipocere at 10:04 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Reed College Chinese Hell Scrolls website .
posted by gudrun at 10:49 PM on February 26, 2009


Chinese have a lot of hells.

Indeed. With 10 Infernal Wangs all reporting to The Big Cheese: 玉皇上帝. aka Jade Sovereign of the Vast Heaven, Highest Emperor aka the Pearly Emperor.

Heh heh. Pearly.

I sent out an email, in short "henceforth I am to be known as 玉皇上帝" to all the Chinese people in my work inbox, most of whom I've never met. Crikey! What a smart move. All the girls are all "hahaha LOL you are so funny can I please go out on a date with you?"

Great read tellurian. Pic reminds me of my trip to Tiger Balm Garden many years ago.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:34 PM on February 26, 2009


I just for the first time tonight learned that the quote in revelations "and hell followed with him" was originally "and hades followed with him," which makes for a quite different storyline. Perhaps more importantly, I also learned that Jesus Christ took the idea of drinking wine as his blood from the common proactice of Dionysian cults, which used the same practice.

Not that this has anything to do with the ancient Chinese practices, just felt it was relevant on the universal scale of things.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:58 PM on February 26, 2009


Fuck, what kind of asshole gets off on writing this shit?
posted by orthogonality at 12:04 AM on February 27, 2009


Fuck, what kind of asshole gets off on writing this shit?

Settle, Gretel.

Or am I missing some kind of Metafilter in-joke? Asshole???
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:12 AM on February 27, 2009


I think what orthogonality is trying to say is that since none of these hells actually exist, it was necessary for somebody to sit down and invent them.
posted by turgid dahlia at 12:48 AM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


The superficial resemblances to Dante's Inferno are striking - different levels for different kinds of sin, a kingly judge, and so on. Could there be any connection, or is this just two expressions of the same archetype? Now I come to think about it, I have no idea where Dante got his ideas from - they don't seem to have much to do with either Biblical or classical versions of hell, which were much simpler, weren't they?
posted by Phanx at 12:54 AM on February 27, 2009


Good effort to get the text online and translated, though that was a bit ropey here and there in the bits I read.
I prefer the realist approach of the popular saying "人死如灯灭" (A person's death is like a lamp being extinguished) rather than this superstitious old tosh. Huan Tan expanded on that discussion in his 《新论》.
posted by Abiezer at 1:13 AM on February 27, 2009


I have no idea where Dante got his ideas from

Maybe Virgil, duh?
posted by Phanx at 1:20 AM on February 27, 2009


From the list of sins on the 7th Hell page:
竟然服食红铅、及泡在妇人阴中的大枣,婴儿的胞衣、脐带之类的东西,岂不是居心更坏。
but to consume red lead or to make tisanes of a "enlarged jujubes" [i.e., jujubes held for a time in a vagina, believed to create an aphrodisiac], or of a baby's afterbirth or umbilical cord and so on, that is even worse.

And then, further down the page:
此外,像阳间军事、政治的公务礼仪有违越之处;或私造违禁品等罪情,较为细琐。 而阴间法律未能尽括的部分, 一概遵照阳世各国法律所定的律例治罪。
Beyond this, as among the conventions of military and civil governments of the living may suffer disobedience or private interests may create counterfeits or produce contraband, which is trifling, so similarly the law in the netherworld cannot include every detail so let them be punished according to the laws of their various countries.


"Um, yeah, we didn't have time to think of everything, but vagberries are right out. No vagberries, we have a special place for you vagberry eaters."
posted by saysthis at 1:56 AM on February 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, this is fantastic. Thank you, tellurian. Some religious society was giving out free lavishly illustrated books on this in Chinatown, with text only in Chinese. Now I can match sinner to punishment.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:17 AM on February 27, 2009


I visited one of the largest Taoist temples in central China, it was actuall still pretty active as a religious site beyond its touristy side. Included in the site was a full scale model of the afterlife. You walked this trail winding up a mountain and faced, in life size statuary form, the same trials as a soul on it's way through the afterlife. My favorite part was the gauntlet of vices. Every vice imaginable was represented. Apparently if the soul was of someone who had that vice in life the creature would haul that soul off to hell as they passed by. There was a woman with at least 12 boobs (lust), a guy with big casks of liquor (drunkeness), a guy with majong tiles (gambling), a guy with mirors (vanity), there was even a guy with little kids, one of which he was beating (cruelty to children/pedophilia). It was really interesting to see what pre-Communist Chinese felt were vices and to note what was missing.

Another cool part was the bridge of silence, where you had to cross a long distance between two gates in complete silence. If you heard a sound you were told not to lok towards it because it was a ghost trying to tempt you off the path and you'd wind up in hell. In China everything is always crowded, but everyone dutifully clammed up to cross this area. It was rather interesting seeing thousands of people shuffling along in complete silence, with their eyes locked on the path ahead.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:51 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Dungeon Where Brains Are Taken Out and Skulls Filled With Hedgehogs.

Already been through that one. I've avoided cheap tequila ever since.
posted by gimonca at 5:53 AM on February 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's like an unholy mash-up of the Tibetan Book of the Dead with Dante's Inferno.

Man, humanity is weird about its ideas of eternal punishment. It's not like we have a zillion weirdo heavens. I guess we can all agree if you're good, you fly in the sky with magic unicorns. But if you're bad, oh man, can we ever think of some totally bizarre things to do to you.

Some of them are kind of universal - having your eyes gouged out, ripping out your fingernails. The Chinese seem to be the only ones to have a circle of hell devoted to being eaten by snakes which makes it the very scariest hell of all. G-d, I hate snakes.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:58 AM on February 27, 2009


2. The Dungeon Where People Are Placed up to Their Necks in Filth.

This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes.

A man who has lead a fairly immoral life: cheating on his wife, embezzling money from work - that sort of thing - ends up in hell. He's really not entirely surprised by this and takes the tour offered by Satan somewhat nonchalantly. He's shown to the room where's he to spend the rest of eternity and finds a room full of people standing waist-deep in excrement. They're chatting a bit and drinking coffee.

He thinks to himself "Well, I certainly expected a lot worse than this. I guess I didn't really have too much to be afraid of. This is really kind of silly."

As he's about to start introducing himself to his fellow prisoners, he hears an annoucement over a loudspeaker:

"Alright, coffee break's over. BACK ON YOUR HEADS!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:02 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There an amusing bit in one of the Appendices where people are lined up to be reincarnated, and the text sounds almost annoyed that some people are actually happy about it:

Those of a superficial nature rejoice at the prospect of being born once more as human beings; Those of a deeper nature weep and lament that in life they did not lay up a store of virtuous acts, and thus pass away from the state of mortals for ever.

Come on, people, read the pamphlet next time!
posted by gimonca at 6:04 AM on February 27, 2009


The superficial resemblances to Dante's Inferno are striking - different levels for different kinds of sin, a kingly judge, and so on. Could there be any connection, or is this just two expressions of the same archetype?

Hell is a largely Christian idea, right? They're possibly directly related.
posted by graventy at 7:50 AM on February 27, 2009


Hell is a largely Christian idea, right?
yes, so is replacing a mans vaseline with Tiger Blam
posted by clavdivs at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2009


balm...i shudder...
posted by clavdivs at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2009


Hell is a largely Christian idea, right? They're possibly directly related.

... you're saying that it's entirely possible that Chinese religious views on the afterlife were developed only after the 1300's when Dante wrote the Inferno?

Here's a question: Where does the word 'Hell' come from?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:52 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Collier's Encyclopedia (1986, Vol. 12, p. 28) says concerning "Hell": "First it stands for the Hebrew Sheol of the Old Testament and the Greek Hades of the Septuagint and New Testament. Since Sheol in Old Testament times referred simply to the abode of the dead and suggested no moral distinctions, the word 'hell,' as understood today, is not a happy translation."

It is, in fact, because of the way that the word "hell" is understood today that it is such an unsatisfactory translation of these original Bible words.'
posted by clavdivs at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2009


-from some whacky website
posted by clavdivs at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2009


Hell:

Word History: Hell comes to us directly from Old English hel. Because the Roman Church prevailed in England from an early date, the Roman—that is, Mediterranean—belief that hell was hot prevailed there too; in Old English hel is a black and fiery place of eternal torment for the damned. But because the Vikings were converted to Christianity centuries after the Anglo-Saxons, the Old Norse hel, from the same source as Old English hel, retained its earlier pagan senses as both a place and a person. As a place, hel is the abode of oathbreakers, other evil persons, and those unlucky enough not to have died in battle. It contrasts sharply with Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes. Unlike the Mediterranean hell, the Old Norse hel is very cold. Hel is also the name of the goddess or giantess who presides in hel, the half blue-black, half white daughter of Loki and the giantess Angrbotha. The Indo-European root behind these Germanic words is *kel-, "to cover, conceal" (so hell is the "concealed place"); it also gives us hall, hole, hollow, and helmet.

How does this square with Hell being a 'Christian idea'?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2009


The arrangement is modeled on a romanticized bureaucracy, with countless regulations, provisions for variation in the severity of the punishments, and records of the proceedings being passed back and forth among the various dungeons and courts.

It really does me proud that my ancestors and forefathers had such extensive machinery for divine justice, it's just so well organised and there's such a massive gap in imagination between the grotesque abjection of punishments and the orderly administration of sentences (could bureaucracy be romantic in any other setting???). It's not like Dante's inferno where people fall down some magic naturalist hole, hell no, every dungeon is attached to a court (fractal recursions?), overseen by a fat bureaucrat, tallying up the precise amount of pain, angles of dismemberment, quarts of blood spilt. I would love to see how the spatial metaphor of hell differs between east and west, ever greater concentrations of depth versus the eternal horizontal administrative sprawl of divine justice, two perpendicular axis of retribution.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2009


In different versions, Grandmother Mèng (the one who hands out the 'Five-Flavored Tea of Forgetfulness' to souls before their reincarnation) sometimes has a husband who ferries souls across 忘川 ('River of Forgetfulness') -- which is a nice parallel to the Greek's River Styx.
posted by of strange foe at 10:20 AM on February 27, 2009


THE TERRACE OF DRUNKEN OBLIVION

hmm, thought han fei controlled this along with traffic court
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2009


Man, humanity is weird about its ideas of eternal punishment. It's not like we have a zillion weirdo heavens. I guess we can all agree if you're good, you fly in the sky with magic unicorns.

I don't know about that. Valhalla is pretty different from, say, basking in the radiance of God an all his merry angels.

For one thing, Valhalla sounds like way more fun.
posted by rodgerd at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2009


The superficial resemblances to Dante's Inferno are striking...

Well let's think about that for a second, what is so similar? They both involve pain, suffering, and punishment. The people coming up with the concepts are essentially the same physically are they not? I mean what is painful to a Chinese person is painful to an Italian, no? Flaying someone's skin or burning them with a hot poker is going to hurt no matter what language they are going to scream out in. You want to develop a concept of a place where the most extreme pain and suffering is going to take place as punishment for misdeeds, it's going to look pretty much like both this Chinese hell and Dante's Inferno, or in a more modern context Abu Ghraib.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on February 27, 2009


I may be weird for this, but one of my favorite chapters of any book is when Master Li, Number Ten Ox, and Moon Boy go to hell in Barry Hughart's The Story of the Stone.
posted by wobh at 9:13 PM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


haha...funny
posted by alfonso-eudoro at 11:31 AM on February 28, 2009


When I posted this their page counter was on 74. Now it is 2813. [adversaria]
posted by tellurian at 1:51 PM on March 1, 2009


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