Many Chinese believe heaven/paradise is out of reach of ordinary mortals. However, hell is a harsh reality and the souls of the dead must go.
Buddhists brought this concept of hell to China from India, and over time, this belief grew wings and picked up baggage as it spread. Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese folk religions believe that the souls of the dead must experience several tests before reaching the gates of hell, where demons demand money to enter, which might explain why many Chinese burn paper money at funerals to make sure beloved family members have some for the journey.
There are eighteen levels on this journey—each one a test. For criminals, the souls are heavy and the trip long and painful. Chinese almanacs graphically illustrated the punishments. Good souls were light and made the journey quickly.
Today, these beliefs are probably more alive in rural China than urban areas where Mao’s Cultural Revolution had more of an impact driving out old beliefs. Most Taiwanese and many in Hong Kong still hold to these beliefs.
If given a choice, which hell would you select—Chinese, Islamic or Christian?
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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