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Diyu (地狱)

Chinese. ‘Earth prison’ or ‘prison land’. Hell or the realm of the dead in Chinese-Taoist beliefs, loosely based upon the concept of naraka, in Thai known as narok, combined with a mixture of Chinese traditions, folk religion and mythology. It consists of an underground network of purgatorial levels and chambers, where souls are taken after death, to atone for their earthly sins, before being reincarnated (fig.). Its capital is known as You Dou (幽都), literally ‘Entirely Dark’ or ‘Entirely Quiet’, or ‒if pronounced You Du, ‘Dark Capital’. According to popular legend, Diyu is made up of ten courts, each dealing with a different aspect of atonement and ruled by one of the Ten Judicious Kings of Hell (fig.). The first court is said to be known as the ‘Mirror of Reflection’, which lets the dead see their own sins. Besides this, there are another 18 levels in which wrongdoers are punished. Reminiscent of naraka and as described in the Yu Li (Jade Register), a 17th century religious tract submitted to Yu Huang (the Jade Emperor) by Yan Wang (the ruler of the underworld, also called Yan Mo) and Kuan Yin (the goddess of mercy), these levels are highly imaginative chambers where sinners are cruelly tortured. However, after having repented and atoned for their sins, the souls are given the Five-flavoured Tea of Forgetfulness (fig.) by Meng Po (fig.) and sent back into the world to be reborn in a befitting form, determined by the Ten Kings of Hell. See also Ti Tsang.