In the Chongqing region in China, at the lean for the Tibetan Plateau and along the Yangtze river. Far from the sea, at the heart of the country, the city for the dead is built: Fengdu Ghost City 丰都鬼城, is a sort of Chinese type of Necropolis. As well as an amusement park for curious tourist wanting a trip to commercialized hell.
The people of that place follow a lot of different religion. To Chinese folk religion, Confucianism Taoism and Buddhism, the place is steeped in religious practices and perhaps this is why the way to the afterlife is so important.
The Gates of Hell
On the north bank of the Yangtze river, shrouded in smog and clouds, the Ming Mountain peaks out on clear days. At the Ming Mountain, shrines, monasteries and temples have been built in honor of the underworld over centuries. Fengdu Ghost City is the Gate of the Hell in traditional Chinese literature and culture. It is mention in the great folk tales of Chinese tradition such as in Journey to the West, a big part of Chinese literature and cultural heritage.
It goes back for nearly 2000 years according to the legend. It got it name in the Eastern Han Dynasty period, when two men came to the Ming Mountain to practice Taoism. The two men, Yin and Wang ran away because they were bored of the political life.and, according to legend, they became immortal. Word spread of this and their two names combined means King of hell or King of the Underworld. And this was the beginning of the focus of the underworld, and the building of Fengdu Ghost City started.
The three Test to an Afterlife
Walking in the city there are all reference to the afterlife. The statues all depicts ghosts and devils, representing what happens to people not leading good lives, and how Chinese people saw, and at times, still picture the afterlife. It also showases what is considered a good moral.
Women being thrown in boiling cauldrons, children being spanked and people being poked, stabbed, tortured and judged for their crimes is some of the attractions you can observe when visiting. In many ways, just as fun as Disney World, bring the whole family.
Pictures of punishments are big in this city, and the way the Gods tortures the wicked. They hang side by side of paintings of scary demons and bureaucrats passing judgement. They fill the walls, the roofs and the gardens. Side by side with these ancient traditions and buildings is a rather tacky theme park with a haunted house with people in masks.
Because it didn’t start out as an amusement park. It started out as a cultural exploration of what hell is and what the afterlife will look like. In many ways, it still is.
In Chinese traditions Diyu is some sort of purgatory that punishes and renews spirits to prepare them for reincarnation. A similar thing is Naraka, a Buddhist concept of hell similar to Diyu. All dead must pass three tests before crossing over to the next life. First they must cross the “Bridge of Helplessness”. It is a stone bridge testing good and evil people. There are demons blocking the passage, letting only the worthy pass. Those who fail are pushed to the water below.
Then the dead must continue to the Ghost-Torturing Pass were they meet Yama, King of Hell. He is the one passing judgement.
Third test is at Tianzi Palace where the dead stands on a special stone on one foot for three minutes. Only virtuous people will manage this while evil people will fail and go to hell.
Tourists in Hell
In recent years it has become a big tourist attraction with boats carrying tourists up the river and taken to the mountain where they can walk among the statues relating to Diyu and Naraka that symbolizes the underworld or Hell in Chinese mythology and Buddhism. It attracts many tourist, curious foreigners as well as Chinese visitors wanting to learn about ghost culture and the afterlife.
After the building of Three Gorges Dam is built the city will be an Island of itself, but parts of the city will be submerged in the water. They have also made some recent addition to the city. in 1985 they built the Last Glance Home Tower, and according to legend, this is where the dead can have one last look back at their home and families before crossing over. Maybe one day, the city itself will be something more of a legend than an actual place.
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