The Eighteen Layers of Chinese Hell

Some Chinese legends say that hell, or diyu, is an unground maze with 18 levels and various chambers in which one must pay for the sins of their life. Wouldn't that make a great video game? They are quite frightening- there's the chamber of tongue ripping (shown), the chamber of steamer, the mountain of knives, the cauldron of boiling oil, and more. See each level illustrated at China Underground. Link -Thanks, CinaOggi!

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These kinds of stories always have more in them than meets the eye. Note that as Virgil is crowning and mitering Dante over himself, he is drawing attention to the fact that Dante's will is free of ignorance, and to act against that will would be error. This gives meaning to the vacuous notion of "Free-Will". Dante's will is not completely free, he is simply free of delusion, free to act truthfully. Which is the best we can be.

To say, liars will have their tongues ripped out is an allegorical way of saying that if you become a liar, nobody will trust you or listen to you. Your speaking will be ignored and it will be as-if your tongue had been ripped out.
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Dante's Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradisio) is an anagogical allegory. In the book I have, illustrated by Gustave Dore with some beautiful pictures, the literal, anagogical and allegorical are referred to in a quote by Dante Alighieri on the back part of the jacket. I can't seem to locate it online.

Anagogical refers to a procession from a state of ignorance to a state of clarity and understanding. It refers to this "spiritual" procession. Which is really just a change in personal psychology bringing the mind closer to reality.

"Look at the sun that shines upon your brow; look at the grasses, flowers, and the shrubs born here, spontaneously, of the earth. Among them, you can rest or walk until the coming of the glad and lovely eyes--those eyes that, weeping, sent me to your side. Await no further word or sign from me: your will is free, erect, and whole--to act against that will would be to err: therefore I crown and miter you over yourself."

--Canto XXVII, Purgatorio
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The concept of the eighteen hells started in the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD). Which happens to be 500 years before Dante wrote his Inferno around the 14th-century.
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