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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Will be thrust into the great Gehenna

Infernal Majesty, Yen Lo,[370]

said,--"Our proper place is in the First Court; but, pitying those who die by foul means, and should be sent back to earth to have their wrongs redressed, we have moved our judgment-seat to the great hell at the bottom of the Ocean, away to the north-east below the Wu-chiao rock, and have subdivided this hell into sixteen wards for the torment of souls. All those shades who come before us have already suffered long tortures in the previous four Courts, whence, if they are hardened sinners, they are passed on after seven days to this Court, where if again found to be utterly hardened, corruption will overtake them by the fifth or seventh day. All shades cry out either that they have left some vow unfulfilled, or that they wish to build a temple or a bridge, make a road, clean out a river or well, publish some book teaching people to be virtuous, that they have not released their due number of lives, that they have filial duties or funeral obsequies to perform, some act of kindness to repay, &c., &c. For these reasons they pray to be allowed to return once more to the light of day, and are always ready to make oath that henceforth they will lead most exemplary lives. We, hearing this, reply,--In days gone by ye openly worked evil, but now that your boat has reached the midstream, ye bethink yourselves of caulking the leak. For although P'u-sa in his great mercy decreed that there should be a modification of torture, and that good works might be set off against evil, the
same being submitted to God and ratified by Divine Decree, to be further published in the realms below and in the Infernal City--yet we Judges of the Ten Courts have not yet received one single virtuous man amongst us, who, coming in the flesh, might carry this _Divine Panorama_ back with him to the light of day. Truly those who suffer in hell and on earth cannot complain, and virtuous men are rare! But now ye have come to my Court, having beheld your own wickedness in the mirror of sin. No more--bull-headed, horse-faced devils, away with them to the Terrace[371] that they may once more gaze upon their lost homes!"

This Terrace is curved in front like a bow; it looks east, west, and south. It is eighty-one _li_ from one extreme to the other. The back part is like the string of the bow; it is enclosed by a wall of sharp swords. It is 490 feet high; its sides are knife-blades; and the whole is in sixty-three storeys. No good shade comes to this Terrace; neither do those whose balance of good and evil is exact. Wicked souls alone behold their homes close by and can see and hear what is going on. They hear old and young talking together; they see their last wishes disregarded and their instructions disobeyed. Everything seems to have undergone a change. The property they scraped together with so much trouble is dissipated and gone. The husband thinks of taking another wife; the widow meditates second nuptials.[372] Strangers are in possession of the old estate; there is nothing to divide amongst the children. Debts long since paid are brought again for settlement, and the survivors are called upon to acknowledge claims upon the departed. Debts owed are lost for want of evidence, with endless recriminations, abuse, and general confusion, all of which falls upon the three families[373] of the deceased. They in their anger speak ill of him that is gone. He sees his children become corrupt, and his friends fall away. Some, perhaps, for the sake of bygone times, may stroke the coffin and let fall a tear, departing quickly with a cold smile. Worse than that, the wife sees her husband tortured in the yamen; the husband sees his wife victim to some horrible disease, lands gone, houses destroyed by flood or fire, and everything in unutterable confusion--the reward of former sins.[374] All souls, after the misery of the Terrace, will be thrust into the great Gehenna, and, when the amount of wickedness of each has been ascertained, they will be passed through the sixteen wards for the punishment of evil hearts. In the Gehenna they will be buried under wooden pillars, bound with copper snakes, crushed by iron dogs, tied tightly hand and foot, be ripped open and have their hearts torn out, minced up and given to snakes, their entrails being thrown to dogs. Then, when their time is up, the pain will cease and their bodies become whole once more, preparatory to being passed through the sixteen wards.

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