Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Chinese Underworld

In a small Buddhist temple in Hu County, near Xi’An City in Shaanxi Province is found a graphic depiction of the Chinese concept of the underworld. Bearing similarities to the Egyptian Court of Osiris, it graphically pictures the fate of the wicked before they are reincarnated into another life.

The main figure of this mural is the god of death, and the ruler of hell, Yan Luo. With his black face and evil look, he stands in priestly robes waiting for the soul of the deceased to be brought before him for judgement. Yan Luo has two assistants, “Ox-Head” and “Horse-Face”, who meet the soul as soon as it enters the underworld. They escort the wicked soul to Yan Luo for judgment. The scene is very similar to the Egyptian portrayal of Osiris and his cohorts, Anubis and Thoth.

In the Chinese classic “Journey to the West,” “Ox-Head” and “Horse-Face” are sent to capture the Monkey King, Su Wu Kong. The Monkey King overpowers the two demons, and scares them away, allowing the Monkey King to journey into the court of Yan Luo. There, the Monkey King erases his name and those of his people from the records, granting him and his monkeys immortality.

According to tradition, Yan Luo was originally assigned to the First Court of Hell. He proved too sympathetic and lenient, and as a result too many souls were crossing the Golden Bridge to Heaven. As a result, Yan Luo was reassigned by the Jade Emperor to the Fifth Court of Hell, named the Hell of Wailing, Gouging and Boiling (the number of levels of Hades various, and can number up to eighteen in some legends). Over time Yan Luo developed a relish for meting out punishment.

How a person dies is said to impact how he is brought into Hades, and how long he will remain there. If the person dies a natural death, his soul immediately is brought to the guards of hell, where he is chained and marched into Hades. After seven days, however, the soul is allowed to return to the mortal world to visit his family and loved ones. In the mean time, the soul’s family has prepared food offerings of fruit, meat, and rice, and burns “Hell” money, all in an attempt to distract the guards in order to allow the soul more time to be with his family.

If a person dies accidentally, the soul is confused and will wander for several days. After seven days, he will learn that he has died, and return to his family. At this point, having waited at the soul’s residence, the guards of hell will escort the deceased into the next plane of existence to be judged.

If a person dies a brutal or unjust death, or if he commits suicide, his soul is consigned to spend eternity in a state of rage and anger. No guards will come for such a soul, and it is required to relive its last moments again and again throughout eternity. The place where the death occurred is considered haunted by the living. To cleanse such a location, often a Buddhist or Taoist monk will be called in to perform an exorcism, but it is considered a risky undertaking, since the soul is often angry and viscious.

Upon death, most souls arrive by escort into the halls of Hades. There they will meet the thousands of other souls who have also recently died, as well as witness the punishment being carried out on the souls of those condemned as wicked. The soul will be brought before the Mirror of Retribution, and in its clear and polished face the life of the deceased will be replayed. No transgression will be hidden. If the person lived a righteous and caring life, they will be allowed to progress to Paradise to dwell in happiness. The vast majority, however, are found guilty of selfishness, greed, and other transgressions, and will be assigned another level of Hades for judgment and punishment.

After suffering the punishment for his sins, the soul is ultimately brought to Xue Luan Wang, the being in charge of Reincarnating the soul back to the mortal sphere. The soul will move up or down the spiritual ladder, depending on their actions in mortality. The wicked may return as an animal or insect, while the obedient will return as a human. The soul will be given a drink of broth by Mong Po, which will cause all recollections and memories to be wiped away from the soul’s mind, and Mong Po will then escort the soul to the Wheel of Reincarnation to be reborn into mortality.

Yan Luo is the supreme ruler of the Chinese underworld (and of the Fifth Court of Hades), and the depictions on the wall show the end of those who act against the Buddhist strictures of kindness and morality.


Anonymous said...

Oh! I absolutely love this! Great job!

Anonymous said...

Once again, Brian is in the news as a "researcher" in China. In this story, he maintains that MOST parents don't want to know the truth about how their children came to be available for adoption.
I find this absolutely without merit and rather ludicrous.

Here's the quote:

"Brian Stuy, 46, a Utah resident who operates a firm called, which traces the origins of Chinese children placed for adoption, gives the Toerings a lot of credit.

"'They are not common," he said of the Toerings, who enlisted his help to find out what he could about Stacie.

"'Most families would simply say, 'I don't want to know any more about this.'"

Link to article is:


Anonymous said...

Geez Jenna, have you nothing better to do with your time than critique Brian's work? :) If you don't like what he does, then why continue reading his blogs? Of course he's in the news as a China researcher--can you name ANOTHER individual with Brian's experience? Who else would the Post reporter be able to call upon?

Regardless of your feelings, you have distorted Brian's statement. He is not responding to whether or not most parents would want to know the truth about how their children came to be available for adoption. If you re-read the article from your link, he is referring to the Toerings' personal situation--that most families wouldn't want to know any more about their child being abducted and sold to an orphanage. I think Brian is right on--many China-adopt families I know don't even celebrate their child's culture through FCC events, let alone delve into the child's history and try to preserve it for her. So many of them have been through infertility or previous failed adoptions, and when they finally hold their child, they don't want anything to take that child away--so they wouldn't dare look into a past that possibly involved an abduction, fearing the consequences might be separation--and even though the adoptions are final in China, there hasn't been a precedent-setting case demonstrating what would happen if indeed one of these children were abducted, adopted, then linked with birthparents again. Brian has many satisfied clients, families, who ARE interested in preserving their children's past. But I think there are far more families who just want to get their child and come home--an unfortunate climate in which to raise an internationally adopted child.

BTW, the question I raise after reading the article is how on earth did the Post reporter track down the Toerings in the first place?

And PS to Brian--fascinating reading about the underworld. I'm sure I will have bad dreams tonight, YIKES!

Anonymous said...

Jenna, Honey,

You need to seriously get a life. There are professional psychologists out there who are very competent in helping people with your difficulties. Medications have come a long way, also, so you may want to ask you family physician for a little pill to help with your anger management and irrational time spent lurking on sites you don't like. I adore Brian's work and find it offensive to constantly have to read your obnoxious comments.

Name witheld for this particular post

Anonymous said...

Oh no, she's back. Can "I'm with Jenna" be far behind?

Anonymous said...

It is stunning to me that Brian Stuy's most ardent followers and supporters consistently resort to ad hominem attacks if one deigns to disagree with the man. A researcher? Well, he continues to misstate things in interviews which leaves him open to criticism.

As far as FCC involvement, some families choose to actually attend authentic CHINESE events, not some Caucasian derived variation.


Anonymous said...

Oh, every blogger needs their own personal troll.

It's like a symbol that you've arrived.

Ignore her, and she'll go away. She loves to stir up conflict.

Anonymous said...

interesting read


Anonymous said...

First- Brian, thanks for the blog and the latest tidbit of info.

Second- jenna, wow! Everyone is entitled to an oppinion. It is human nature to want to burry heads in the sand and not want to know something that might be devistating. I'm truthfully not sure if I would be brave enough to go further to find out any information if I speculated that our daughter was bought illegally. Although what he says in that report is his oppinion, and I do not see how he suggests anything other than his "oppinion" in that article. After reading it though, I agree with him that I do not think that many parents would want to know. I think he was praising the parents for their bravery more than chastizing others.
By the way, just wanted to give you an FYI, Jenna. Not all children came to be available through purchasing them. That was a handfull of children, out of the THOUSANDS of children currently in orphanages that will NEVER be adopted...are you insinuating that they were also abducted to spend their entire lives in orphanages?
Oh, and before you speak for me about wanting to or not wanting to know how my child came to be available for adoption, I want to tell you that I am offended in assuming you know anything about my daughter. I KNOW the truth about my daughter. She was 2 yrs old at adoption, and had been in the orphanage since she was less than 3 days old.
Do YOU know that the children that were purchased, were purchased FROM the birth parents?
It's great to know, Jenna (and I admire you for it), that YOU have a child adopted from China, and have been in the Toering's situation, and have decided to tell your child these things....Oh haven't? Well, at least, of course, you have a right to your oppinion, no matter how ignorant it might be.


Anonymous said...

Interesting reading! Is a Buddhist more likely to give their child a chance at life because they worry about repercussions in the afterlife? I wonder if it plays a part in their decision. Thanks for the insight.


Anonymous said...


There are so many things in your comments that do not hang together. First, it's 'opinion,' not "oppinion."

You said: "Although what he says in that report is his oppinion, and I do not see how he suggests anything other than his 'oppinion' in that article."

Actually, Susan, Brian didn't qualify it by saying it's just HIS opinion. Rather, he, again, put himself in a vulnerable position by marketing himself as a 'researcher,' and it was in that capacity that he was quoted for the article. If they had wanted just "joe blow's" opinion, they would have asked you or me. So, Brian, where is the evidence to back up your research for your statement?

Then, Susan, you make an outlandish statement when you said: "That was a handfull of children, out of the THOUSANDS of children currently in orphanages that will NEVER be adopted...are you insinuating that they were also abducted to spend their entire lives in orphanages?"

Huh, Susan??? I don't believe any of my statements purported anything in terms of numbers of children abducted, and this statement of yours is so far off the mark, that I wonder about the kool-aid you're drinking. I didn't say anything about children being abducted to grow up in orphanages.

Then you go on to say, "Oh, and before you speak for me about wanting to or not wanting to know how my child came to be available for adoption, I want to tell you that I am offended in assuming you know anything about my daughter."

Uh, Susan, dear, I didn't say squat about you or your daughter, so your offense is misplaced if you're directing it to me.

And the rest of your statements become even more ridiculous,
in that they have no relationship whatsoever to anything that I said.

But hey, that's okay, you're another Brian supporter. What else have I come to expect from Brian's minions, but either ad hominem attacks or unfounded, "ignorant" (to use your word) accusations such as yours.

Be proud, Susan, be proud.


Research-China.Org said...

Dear Jenna:

I can only assume that you get up each morning and Google my name to see where I am being quoted on any given day.

I assisted Goodman in writing his Washington Post article by contacting scores of families that have adopted from the orphanages involved in the baby trafficking. With the exception of the Toerings, no other American family wanted to pursue the story as it related to their child. Let me state it again so that you can clearly understand what I stated to the newspaper and what I am stating to you: Of the 30 or so families that I asked to cooperate with Goodman on his article, only one American family agreed to let him investigate their child's history for the article. If that is not uncommon, I don't know what is.

The truth is, Jenna, few families would have allowed an investigative reporter such as Goodman to dig into their child's history, potentially discovering that their child had been stolen from her birth parents. I would wager that you wouldn't have. It was incredibly brave of the Toerings to allow it.

And like it or not, few (if any) other people have researched in China as much as I have. I know of no other person who has sat down and discussed abandonment, culture, etc. with 60 orphanage directors, travelled to 16 of the 29 Provinces of China, etc. If I don't have experience to discuss these things, no one does.

So, I recommend that you start your own blog. Do some research (or at least come up with some quote, fact, or anything of substance) and write an article disputing what I write. I welcome the review of my conclusions and ideas. But if you don't have anything to add to the discussion, then stay off my blog.

Anonymous said...

Ouch, that'll leave a mark.

Anonymous said...

Holy Smokes! I admit I've been a LOOONG time reader of Brian's..but I've never had the time to check out all of the comments after each post. Imagine my surprise when I e mailed Brian to ask for a finding ad and he e mailed me back wondering if I was the same Jenna who posts critique on his blog? I'm not, so I was intrigued and decided to check it out. Ack! This woman is sullying my good name! I'm going to have to use an initial or something. I am a big supporter of Brian's. I think the service he provides is invaluable. If you've seen my many, many, many posts on APC, please know that THIS Jenna is not THAT Jenna! I'm going to add my last initial on my APC posts so as not to confuse anyone. Don't get me wrong - "The other" Jenna has every right to announce her displeasure with Brian (as convoluted as it seems to be), but I don't happen to agree with her and I really don't want to be associated with her opinions. So, This is Jenna H - Mom to 3 beautiful adopted from Russia in 1999, one adopted from China in 2004 and one born to me in 1997. We are also planning to travel in June to adopt our 2 year old son from China. I wish I could get the same kind of info Brian gets on China for my son in Russia...but I haven't found a way yet.

Jenna H (don't forget the "H"!!!)

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. I've been reading all of your posts and I really don't understand why you have such a big problem with Brian using the "research" title to his blog? What else would you call what he does? I think he said it best in his post a few up from this. Who else does what he does? And for what? $25.00 for a finding ad, $25.00 for a DVD? Big Whoop. When was the last time you went to China? That $25.00 wouldn't cover the parking at the airport to travel to China to get that kind of information. The information is invaluable and would be difficult if not impossible for me to obtain on my own. The money is so well worth it. You don't need a degree to be a 'researcher' simply have to DO Research...which Brian does, quite well, I might add.
Oh, but will say that I am just another 'rabid' Brian supporter. It's a rather convienient way you have to trying to discredit the poster rather than dealing with the fact that the posters, and Brian seem to be onto something. If Brian is not a researcher, who is? And, by the way, who on earth are you, and why should we listen to you? What exactly, are your credentials? College degree? PhD? teacher? What?

Anonymous said...

Jenna H.,

I did a complete, and unnecessarily long, take down of Jenna's "Brian's not a researcher" meme here. And no, she never responded by e-mail.

Research-China.Org said...


Interesting discussion you had with Jenna on your blog. I "researched" all of her ideas, and none of them would have resulted in one's obtaining a DVD of an orphanage, finding location, etc. or getting a finding ad. Oh well. Not that any of that matters. What is important is that all of us are trying to understand as much as we can about China, politics, religion, etc., and few have time to devote the tremendous time and energy (and money) to doing it all ourselves. Books, articles, blogs, and DVDs assist us in the pursuit of that knowledge, and if there are gaps that remain we can then focus our energies filling in those gaps.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian. I really wasn't trying to steal your troll. She just showed up.