The Great Emperor of Fengdu
Origin of the Great Emperor of Fengdu
The Great Emperor of Fengdu ( 酆都大帝 Fengdu Dadi ) is the divinity controlling hell and the dead. Feng refers to the Spirit state located at Guidi in the North, where the mountains are 2600 miles high and 30,000 miles in circumference. There are palaces for divinities and spirits respectively in both upper and lower sections of Fengdu. The six palaces of the upper section are used for the King of Spirits of northern Feng to deal with the guilty. All people come under the king's control after their death. During the Southern and Northern dynasties, the King of northern Feng was known as the Northern Imperial Sovereign, or Northern Emperor, in short. In the Chart of the Ranks of the Perfect Souls ( 真靈位業圖 Zhenling Weiye Tu ), a Daoist scripture written by Tao Hongjing, a famous Daoist scholar during the Qi and Liang dynasties, the Great Emperor of the Northern Fengdu Netherworld ( 酆都北陰大帝 Fengdu Beiyin Dadi ) ranked in the middle of the lowest class, the seventh class.
Mt. Luofeng and Fengdu County in Sichuan
Mt. Luofeng, which was located in northern Guidi, was considered to be the residence of spirits. Since the Song dynasty, Mt. Luofeng was considered to be located in Fengdu county, Sichuan, where various buildings related to hell were constructed at different times. That in turn led to emergence of the Demon Capital ( 鬼都 Guidu ) which became famous nationwide. Originally, at Fengdu, there was a Mt. Pingdu which was one of 72 Daoist sacred sites. It was said that Wang Fangping, who lived in the Western Han dynasty, and Ying Changsheng, who lived in the Eastern Han dynasty, cultivated Dao here. They both finally became Immortals, ascending to heaven in daytime. After that, people mistakenly put their surnames together and produced the wrong title Yingwang, which means 'King of Hell' in the Chinese language. As a result, the sacred Daoist site in Fengdu county became known as the headquarters of hell and the residence for the dead.
The Ruler of Hell
The Great Emperor of Fengdu ranked in the highest class of spirits in hell. In charge of all affairs of hell, he was known as the king of spirits. After people died, they went to hell. Their souls would be judged by the King of Spirits. Normally, he discriminated between the souls according to evils done before they died. In the temples dedicated to the Great Emperor of Fengdu, there used to be 75 offices which controlled affairs such as capturing and chasing spirits. If the living family members atoned for the soul's sins through ritual offerings, the Great Emperor of Fengdu might decide to pardon the sinners and send them to endure hardships. After that, the sinners went to heaven.
It is not certain what day the Great Emperor of Fengdu's birthday is. Normally, only after their family members died, did Daoist believers worship the Great Emperor of Fengdu to expiate the sins committed by the dead. Since the Qing dynasty, many people practised Yellow Register Rites ( 黃籙道場 Huanglu Daochang ) for themselves when they were still alive. Currently, some people also set up Life Prolonging Rituals when alive. They worship the Great Emperor of Fengdu, praying for healthy and long lives.