The Myths of Haw Par Villa   (Part 2 of 9)


The Bloody Ten Courts of Hell


The entrance to the 10 courts of hell is at the mouth of the dragon.  Dare you come in?


The Horse-face and Ox-head, fierce guardians of Hades; their duty is to chase spirits into hell.
It is believed when one first dies, these two guardians will come to take your soul to hell.

A Horror Exhibition

If tourist sights had a ratings system, the 10 Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa would be rated R. While you don't expect hell to be a happy place, this version of the netherworld is a slaughterhouse of dismemberment and disembowelment.  It is also, strangely enough, a popular family attraction.

But on this wet day, few families are passing through the ornate granite arch that marks the entrance to Haw Par Villa. Rain is falling so heavily that the massive dragon on the hill above the vacant ticket office is obscured by haze. The taxi driver says I should count the downpour as a blessing - on a sunny day, the place can be like a concrete frying pan.  Haw Par Villa is promoted as a theme park but it is actually a sculpture garden where hundreds of statues and tableaus in brilliant reds, blues, greens and gold depict Chinese mythology and heroes.

For example, you will get to see a tableau about friendship, involving a hungry bear and two boys, forgoes subtlety to convey its message. If you betray your friends, you betray yourself, it warns; unspoken is the threat that betrayers will also be eaten by a bear, causing me to wonder whether the Brothers Grimm had a Chinese relative.

If the tales about children being eaten by bears are the appetizer at Haw Par Villa, the 10 Courts of Hell are the main course. 
My alarm at the graphic violence set in stone is equaled only by my alarm at seeing young children popping from court to court inspecting each form of torture.

The courts, which judge a person's past life before he or she is reincarnated, are thought to be derived from an Indian Buddhist legend that spread to China during the Tang Dynasty. Each court is presided over by a yama, or emperor, who determines the punishment or reward for those brought before him.


Before you enter the Ten Courts of Hell, there is a cluster of statues showing very suffering expression in waves.
They are the examples warning us not to commit sin.  The pair of words craved on the stone say:
"There is no end to suffering in here; Stop sinning before its is too late."


1. After the sinners died, they are sent to repent before the Mirror of Retribution and then taken to a court of hell for punishment
2. SPI tried to look at the Mirror of Retribution (the one on the right), but saw nothing. Isn't this a blessing? :)
3. The good guys (saints?) can cross over a golden and silver to paradise.  Then the bad guys will be harshly punished.

The Legend of Hell

Here goes the legend about the 10 Courts of Hell.

Buddhists believe that reincarnation is a form of reward a retribution on their journey to Nirvana.  The Ten Courts of Hell are purgatory where a person is sent to be punished for the sins and misdeeds of their past life.  A sinner must go through all Ten Courts and in the tenth, final judgment will determine his form of reincarnation.

The legend of the Ten Courts of Hell tells of the punishment that await sinners after their death but before reincarnation is determined.  The sinner is sent to 'hell' where he will be tormented by demonic-looking 'Yama attendants' for the misdeeds he has committed in his past life.

In purgatory, the Ten Courts of Hell are a labyrinth of infernal dungeons, each presided over by a judge who is known as the 'President' and a Registrar of Life and Death.  The Presidents are recognized by their long black beards and square flat hats from which hang strings of beads.  Registrars record the details of the punishment and hold a brush and set of documents.

The sinner will go through nine courts before judgment is finally reached.  In each of the nine courts, he is punished for the particular sin that he has committed.

In the First Court of Hell, the virtuous are led over a golden bridge to paradise.  The silver bridge to paradise is for those whose good deeds during their life outweighed the bad.  Evil doers - the ones we have really come to see - are sent to repent before the Mirror of Retribution (where all their past sins are revealed to them) and then taken to a court of hell for punishment.
 

First Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Violating the code of filial piety Put under heavy slabs and boulders or squeezed in the middle of the grinder

Second Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Gossiping Having your tongue pierced
Stealing Made to kneel on steel granules
Wickedness Boiled in a cauldron, disemboweled, and put in a volcanic chamber

Third Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Corruption and greed Handcuffed and beaten
Disobedience and disrespect to elders Have your ribs pierced, body grilled, your lungs, heart, liver, intestines and eyes torn out
Violating and state a Confucian principles or being an unjust official Have your heart removed, knees crushed and face scraped by a mental instrument

Fourth Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
General Sins Hurled into a torrential river, made to kneel on bamboo spikes, boiled in oil, head struck open
Cheating or evading income taxes Drowned under a heavy stone
Stealing Have your hands sawn off
Breaking promises have your lips split

Fifth Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Cruelty to animals and friends Have your heart torn out with hooks or thrown onto protruding swords

In this Sixth Court of Hell, those who have already been punished but are still unrepentant, are punished further.  This includes all crimes against any deity or Buddha or breaking any Buddhist or Confucian laws.

Sixth Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Stealing from temples committing blasphemy Made to kneel on iron nails, sawn in two, gnawed by rats
Killing animals Have your body chopped in half

Seventh Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Rebelling against authorities Torn apart by dogs
Spreading false rumours Have your tongue pulled out
Using drugs, causing quarrels Thrown into a pot of boiling water

Eighth Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Committing crimes against Confucianism and operating houses for immoral purposes Crushed under carriage wheels, sliced, disemboweled, struck by lighting, and having tongues, arms and legs cut off

Ninth Court of Hell

Crime Punishment
Smuggling, committing arson Attacked by snakes, stung by bees, tortured or trafficking drugs in boiling oil
Writing or painting erotic literature or scenes Flattened between two planks, have your head crushed in an iron ring, skull steamed, bones scraped and tendons pulled out

In the Tenth Court of Hell, the President passes his final judgment and the sinner goes through one of the seven-ways in the Wheel of Reincarnation.  Shaped like a wheel, wind and clouds billow out from the circle in the centre and the six other circles surrounding it.  Depending on the sinner's past life, he will enter a particular way which will determine how he will be reborn.

Tenth Court of Hell

The sinner will be reincarnated as:
First Way Wealthy and powerful human
Second Way Birds
Third Way Farmers and labourers
Fourth Way Working class folk
Fifth Way Dragons, fish, crabs, insects or sea creatures
Sixth Way Lions, tigers, horses, deer, elephant or other four-legged animals
Seventh Way Poor, lonely and the destitue

When the reincarnation is decided, the sinner is usually shown with his future reincarnation (for example, the kind of animal), on his back.  The sinner is then brought to a 'Pavilion of Forgetfulness' or 'Hell of Oblivion' where an old lady hands him a cup of magic tea that when drunk, make him forget his past life.  He is then directed across one of the six bridges leading to 18,000 roads, each of which leads to some part of the world and to his particular form of reincarnation.

Some children and I exit the 10 Courts of Hell together through the dragon's tail. They run to another tableau on filial piety - this one dealing with an orphan who nearly freezes to death trying to catch a fish for his unloving step-mother. I go in search of my own Pavilion of Forgetfulness.
 


1-3. Each court is presided over by a yama, or emperor, who determines the punishment or reward for those brought before him
4. Those who died by mistakes or suicide are put in the second court;
Here also, the Kidnappers, incompetent physicians and matchmakers are soaked in ice and stricken with extreme thirst and hunger.


1 & 2. One hapless soul, impaled on a toasting fork, is dipped into a volcano, and another is forced to bathe in a pond of filthy blood,
but the corrections seem piddling when compared with the courts three to nine.
3 & 4. King Songdi presides over the third court, judging prison escapees and those who disrespect their elders (all have their hearts cut out),
drug addicts and tomb raiders (grilled on a red-hot copper pillar).


1 - 3. In the fourth court, tax dodgers, fraudsters and rent evaders are pounded by a mallet,
while those who lack filial piety or are disobedient to their siblings are ground into a gruel of flesh and gristle.
4. Prostitutes were thrown into a sea of blood filled with other drowned people.
We did not find what punishment to be given to men using them


1 & 2. Each court is more horrific than the one b4: by the sixth court, cheats, cursers and abductors dangle limply from a tree of knives
3 & 4. Anyone who has ever left brussel sprouts on a dinner plate (waster of food) has been sawn in two,
 sometimes vertically, sometimes horizontally.


Courts eight and nine, dealing with the most wretched of the sinners, dismember, disembowel and behead,
all with lashings of blood and gizzards.


1. t the 10th court, it contains the Pavilion of Forgetfulness and the Wheel of Reincarnation, or Samsara.
Yama decides whether the punished sinners (or what's left of them) will be reborn as a human or an animal into a life of ease or suffering.
2. The images of their destined new born life will be shown on their back.
3. Magic tea consumed in the Pavilion of Forgetfulness helps people forget their past life and they leave for a new life through the Samsara.
4. Our thermal sensor recorded some places that have very cold spots.
Looking up the giant air-conds and the poor ventilation, we know why...
 


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