The Yamas of the Ten Halls

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The Yamas of the Ten Halls
Perfect Men and Immortals
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Origin of the Yamas of the Ten Halls

The Yamas were also known as the Kings of Hell ( 閰羅王 Yanluo Wang ) or Kings of Souls. Originally, Yama was a Chinese rendering of the Sanskrit word Yanmo or Yan Moluo. In Indian mythical stories, Yama, along with his sister, acted as the ruler of hell where he controlled male souls and his sister dealt with female souls. As the ruler as well as controller of hell, Yama started to become popular in China during the Southern and Northern dynasties. Originally, there was only one Yama. But owing to his increasing functions, he was transformed into five Yamas, assisted by 18 aides. During the Tang dynasty, it became popular that the Heavenly Emperor issued the designation for Yama and conferred on him the privilege of controlling soldiers at the Five Sacred Mountains, and that hell consisted of ten halls, which were ruled respectively by ten kings. They were known as the Ten Kings of Hell ( 地府十王 Difu Shiwang ). Each of the Ten Kings had his own name as well as title. Their general title was 'Yamas of the Ten Halls' ( 十殿閰王 Shidian Yanwang ).

Functions of Each Hall King

  1. In the first hall is King Qinguang whose surname is Jiang and whose birthday is the first day of the second lunar month (another version is the second day of the second month). His functions include control of a man's birth, death and life-span as well as his luck.
  2. In the second hall is King Chujiang, whose surname is Ni and whose birthday the first day of the third lunar month. He is the ruler of Hell Huoda, the Ice Hell ( 寒冰地獄 Hanbing Diyu ).
  3. In the third hall is King Songdi, whose surname is Yu and whose birthday is the eighth day of the second month. He is the ruler of the Black Rope Hell ( 黑繩大地獄 Heisheng Dadi Yu ).
  4. In the fourth hall is King Wuguan, whose surname is Lu and whose birthday is the eighteenth day of the second month. He is the ruler of Hell Heda, the Blood Pool Hell ( 血池地獄 Xuechi Diyu ).
  5. In the fifth hall is King Yanluo, whose surname is Bao and whose birthday is the eighth day of the first month. He runs the Wailing Hell ( 叫喚地獄 Jiaohuan Dadiyu ).
  6. In the sixth hall is King Diancheng, whose surname is Bi and whose birthday is the eighth day of the third month. He controls the Grand Wailing Hell, as well as the City of Innocent Deaths ( 枉死城 Wangsi Cheng ).
  7. In the seventh hall is King Taishan, whose surname is Dong and whose birthday is the twenty-seventh day of the third month. He runs the Noisy Hell ( 熱鬧地獄 Renao Diyu ), the Human Flesh Jam Hell ( 肉醬地獄 Roujiang Diyu ).
  8. In the eighth hall is King Dushi, whose surname is Huang and whose birthday is the first day of the fourth month. He runs the Grand Noisy Hell ( 大熱鬧地獄 Darenao Dadiyu ), also known as the Suffocation Hell ( 悶鍋地獄 Menguo Diyu ).
  9. In the ninth hall is King Pingden, whose surname is Lu and whose birthday is the eighth day of the fourth month. He controls the Avici Hell of the Iron Web. In the tenth hall is King Zhuanlun, whose surname is Xue and whose birthday is the seventeenth day of the fourth month. He is in charge of discriminating between ghosts according to their behavior, and deciding affairs such as grades and transmigration.

When transmigration occurs, things like pregnancy, birth, sex, life span and being rich or poor are written down and sent to King Qinguan every month, who is supposed to file this information. When a soul is reincarnated as a man, the Deity Mongpo forces him to take a magic potion, which erases the memory of his previous life.


After the Ming and Qing dynasties, the story of the Yamas of the Ten Halls became so popular that it came to replace Daoism's Great Emperor Dongyue, acting as the controller of a man's life. In folk culture, however, there were rarely temples dedicated to the Yamas of the Ten Halls except for some in Fengdu, Sichuan province. Usually, worship of the Yamas of the Ten Halls took place in the City God Temple ( 城隍廟 Chenghuang Miao ). On their birthdays, there were small-scale worshipping services. The main worship for the Yamas of the Ten Halls occured during ritual offerings for the dead. The kings of the different halls were petitioned to release the souls of the dead and send them to heaven quickly.