This week has featured posts about quolls, the quincunx, quince trees, and qiviut. For a last q-theme post, I thought about revisiting the lovely quilin, the Chinese unicorn, but I decided that that would be too easy. To round off the week properly we must undertake a grim and harrowing journey of imagination. We need to go back to the dark mansion–once more we must descend to Diyu, Chinese hell.
As explicated in my previous post, Diyu was the Chinese afterlife for souls that lived less than exemplary lives (i.e. just about everyone). The edifice was imagined as a gigantic maze with many different chambers presided over by different competing authorities. As souls worked (or bribed) their way out of one awful torture chamber they were whisked to a new one until, eventually, their karmic slate was clean and they were ready to be reborn back into the living world.
The ruler of all hell was King Yama also known as Yen-lo-Wang (a god adapted from Yama, the Hindu death god, who merits his own post) many other potentates, gods, and spirits inhabit Diyu. Yama was once the judge of hell as well as its ruler, but he was found to be too lenient and was replaced as magistrate by Qin-Guang-Wang a much less merciful underworld deity. Qin-Guang-Wang presided over the first room of Hell where the magic mirror of retribution stood. This mirror replayed every single part of a person’s life in agonizing detail. Once Qin-Guang-Wang had watched this pitiless evidence he sent the spirit on to the proper destination. In all eternity he has only sent a handful of souls over the golden bridge to the perfect happiness of western paradise. A few more souls are allowed to cross the silver bridge which leads to the seedy and disreputable but still comfortable southern paradise. Everyone else is sent deeper into the dark mansion to report for centuries of disemboweling, flaying, boiling, impaling, roasting, crushing, skinning, and so forth.
Of course everyone–beast, human, god, demon, or even inanimate object—has a backstory in Chinese mythology and the ruthless Qin-Guang-Wang is no exception. According to myth he was once King Jiang of Qinguang, a warrior and martinet whose inflexible interpretation of rules and personal cruelty were peerless. The court of heaven noted his talents, promoted him to deity, and now he does what he loves for eternity.