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published: 1/20/05
updated: 12/16/13

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The Afterlife in Chinese Religion

Is there an afterlife in Chinese Religion?

The Chinese conception of the afterlife is based on a combination of Chinese folk religions, Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism.

At the moment of death, Chinese believe one's spirit is taken by messengers to the god of walls and moats, Ch'eng Huang, who conducts a kind of preliminary hearing. Those found virtuous may go directly to one of the Buddhist paradises, to the dwelling place of the Taoist immortals, or the tenth court of hell for immediate rebirth.

After 49 days, sinners descend to hell, located at the base of the mythical Mount Meru. There they undergo a fixed period of punishment in one or more levels of hell. The duration of this punishment may be reduced by the intercession of the merciful Ti-ts'ang.

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When the punishment is complete, the souls in hell drink an elixir of oblivion in preparation for their next reincarnation.

They then climb on the wheel of transmigration, which takes them to their next reincarnation, or, in an alternative account, they are thrown off the bridge of pain into a river that sweeps them off to their next life.

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Afterlife in Chinese Religion

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