A cursory bibliography

As this bibliography makes evident, I am only beginning my study of Chinese hell, and as yet there are very few resources in Chinese and Japanese here.  In fact, this list merely reflects the resources in my own possession.  I am actually a Han Dynasty historian, and this amateur endeavor into the realm of 19th and 20th century notions of Chinese hell is merely a hobby of mine and not an intensely scholarly venture.


History of death and hell in China

(I include here traditions feeding into China, although at this time I am not including Zoroastrian and Manichean texts.)

Bokenkamp, Stephen R. Ancestors and anxiety: Daoism and the birth of rebirth in China . Berkeley , CA : University of California Press, 2007: 158-92.

Brook, Timothy, Jerome Bourgon, Gregory Blue. Death by a thousand cuts . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

Death and Eastern thought: Understanding death in Eastern religions and philosophies. Edited by Frederick H. Holck. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1974.

Death ritual in late imperial and modern China. Edited by James L. Watson and Evelyn S. Rawski. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988.

Eberhard, Wolfram. Guilt and sin in traditional China. Taipei: Rainbow Bridge Book Co, 1973.

Kominami Ichiro, “From Sutra on Yülanpen to Mulian-pianwen, the relationship between the recture of Buddhist canon and the storytelling,” Tōhō gakuhō 75 (March 2003): 81-122.

Matsunaga, Daigan and Alicia. The Buddhist concept of hell. New York: Philosophical library, 1972.

Merh, Kusum P. Yama: The glorious lord of the other world. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 2006.

Nickerson, Peter Samuel. Taoism, death, and bureaucracy in early medieval China. PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1996.

Teiser, Stephen F. Reinventing the wheel: Paintings of rebirth in medieval Buddhist temples. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006.

Teiser, Stephen F. The ghost festival in medieval China. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Teiser, Stephen F. The scripture on the Ten Kings and the making of purgatory in medieval Chinese Buddhism. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.

Werner, E.T.C. Myths and legends of China. (Chinese reprint.) Unknown binding, 1977.



Narratives informing Chinese hell scrolls

The Mulian story

(Not included here are the numerous surviving Mulian opera texts, many published by Minsu quyi congshu 民俗曲藝叢書.  I hope to translate relevant hell descriptions for future versions of this website.)

Guo Qitao, Exorcism and money: The symbolic world of the Five-furty spirits in late imperial China. Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian studies, 2003.

Guo Qitao, Huizhou Mulian operas: Conveying Confucian ethics with “demons and gods.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1994.

Guo Qitao, Ritual opera and mercantile lineage: The Confucian transformation of popular culture in late imperial Huizhou. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Judd, Ellen R. “Ritual opera and the bonds of authority: Transformation and transcendence.” In Harmony and counterpoint: Ritual music in Chinese context. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996: 226-46.

Ling Yiyun 凌翼雲. Mulian xi yu Fo jiao 目連戲與佛教. Guangdong gaodeng jiaoyu, 1998.

Ritual opera; operatic ritual: “Mu-lien rescues his mother” in Chinese popular culture. Edited by David Johnson. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1989.

"Transformation text on Mahamaudgalyayana [a.k.a. Mulian or Mulien] rescuing his mother from the underworld, one scroll, with preface."  Translated by Victor H. Mair. In  The Columbia anthology of traditional Chinese literature.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1994: 1093-1127.


The Taizong story

Ballads and stories from Tun-huang. Translated by Arthur Waley. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1960: 164-88.

Journey through the underworld: 10 courts of hell. Translated by Feng Ge. Singapore: Asiapac, 2001.

The journey to the west, vol. 1. Translated by Anthony C. Yu. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980: 214-55.


The Qin Gui story

Mote, F.W. Imperial China: 900-1800. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999: 299-307.


The Dizang story

Bays, Jan Chozen. Jizo bodhisattva: Guardian of children, travelers and other voyagers. Boston: Shambhala, 2003.

Hsüan Hua. Sutra of the past vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva: The collected lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsüan Hua. New York: Buddhist text translation society, 1974.

Zhiru, The making of a savior bodhisattva: Dizang in medieval China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2007.


The Guanyin story  

Dudbridge, Glen. The legend of Miao-shan . London: Ithaca Press, 1978.

Studholme, Alexander. The origins of Om Manipadme Hum: A study of the Karandavyuha sutra . Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002.

Yu Chun-fang. Kuan-yin: The Chinese transformation of Avalokitesivara . New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.



Modern visions of Chinese hell

Primary texts

Jiang Yizi 江逸子. Yinguo tujian: Diyu bianxiang tu shiwen 因果圖鑒﹕地獄變相圖釋文. Taipei: Unknown binding, 2005.

Voyages to hell. Translated by Nguyen Khang and Bui H. Huu. Bangkok: VoVi, 1978.


On Dazu

Chongqing Dazu shike yishu bowuguan 重慶大足石刻藝術博物館. Dazu shike diaosu quanji 大足石刻雕塑全集 in three volumes. Chongqing: Chongqing chubanshe, 1999.

Dazu rock carvings of China. Chongqing: Wan Li Book Co, 1991.

Howard, Angela Falco. Summit of treasures: Buddhist cave art of Dazu, China. Trumbull, CT: Weatherhill, 2001.

Zhang Zong 張總. Dazu shike diyu大足石刻地獄. In Dazu shike guoji xueshu yantao huilun wenji 大足石刻國際學書研討會論文集. Beijing: Wenwu, 2005: 235-51.


On Fengdu

Chongqing Fengdu Mingshan Tourism Co. “The city of ghosts Fengdu” (DVD).



Chinese hell scrolls

Album for Taoist deities and divine immortals. Beijing: Huaxia, 1995: 134-39.

Ancient Taoist art from Shanxi Province. Hong Kong: University Museum and Art Gallery, University of Hong Kong, 2003: 108-17.

Berliner, Nancy. “Depictions of hell in Chinese painting and shadow puppets,” Orientations (April 1986), 42-9.

Donnelly, Neal. A journey through Chinese hell: Hell scrolls of Taiwan. Taipei: Artists Publishing Co, 1990.

Ledderose, Lothar. Ten thousand things: Module and mass production in Chinese art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000: 162-85.

Ten kings of Hades: The Vidor Collection. Taipei: National Museum of History, 1984.



Non-Chinese accounts of hell

Bernstein, Alan E. The formation of hell: Death and retribution in the ancient and early Christian worlds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Brandon, S.G.F. The judgment of the dead: The idea of life after death in the major religions. New York: Scribner's, 1967.

Dante Alighieri. The divine comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno. Translated by Allen Mandelbaum. New York : Bantam Books, 1982.

The Doré illustrations for Dante’s Divine comedy: 136 plates by Gustave Doré. New York: Dover, 1976.

Fear of death: Translation of Dozakh ka khatka.  Translated by Rham Ali-Al-Hashmi. Delhi: Dini Book Depot, 1972.

Gallonio, Antonio. Tortures and torments of the Christian martyrs: Engraving from the 1591 edition. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House, 2004.

Himmelfarb, Martha. Tours of hell: An apocalyptic form in Jewish and Christian literature. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.

History of Flagellation among different nations. New York: Medical Publishing Co., 1920.

How different religions view death and afterlife. Edited by Christopher Jay Johnson and Marsha G. McGee. Philadelphia, PA: The Charles Press, 1998.

Messadie, Gerald. A history of the devil. New York : Kodansha International, 1996.

Milton, John. Paradise lost. Annotated by Roy Flannagan. New York: Prentice Hall, 1993.

Mullin, Glenn H. Living in the face of death: The Tibetan tradition. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1998.

Scott, Miriam van. Encyclopedia of hell. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 1998.

Smith, Jane Idleman and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad. The Islamic understanding of death and resurrection. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

The Tibetan book of the dead. Translated by Robert A.F. Thurman. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1998.

Turner, Alice K. The history of hell. Orlando: Harcourt, 1993.

Wheeler, Michael. Heaven, hell and the Victorians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.



For an extremely useful website surveying primary sources about hell across the world, see www.hell-on-line.org.

For an overview of notions about hell relative to late-imperial Chinese religion in general, see afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/prb/underworld.htm.

For a substantial modern Taiwanese account of touring hell, see www.voyagestohell.com.

For my syllabus to "Death and remembrance in Chinese history," see people.reed.edu/~brashiek/syllabi/Rel310.htm.

For my syllabus to "Patterns in comparative religion: 'The pleasure of dancing in hell'," see people.reed.edu/~brashiek/syllabi/Rel399.htm.