Our cruise ship docked close to Fengdu where the famous “Ghost City” is found. This is where the Chinese believe the souls of the dead go. It is situated about 170 kilometers downstream from Chongqing on the north bank of the Yangtze River.
Walking up those steps from the boat to the road I thought I might actually pass out from the heat. Already the sweat was dripping down my back and this was only the start of our day. I was quite relieved that we took a little bus up the rest of the hill to the entrance of the Ghost City.
We had a great guide who took us through the whole Ghost City and had us partake in all the little customs along the way. We were all soaked in sweat after climbing up the 700 steps that lead to the City entrance. I thought I would pass out before we even reached the first temple. Here my mom decided that the heat was just too much for her and that she didn’t think she would be able to continue through the rest of the Ghost Town. So we left her at the first temple where she could sit and recuperate with an ice-cold ice-cream. The rest of us continued our hot adventure through the Ghost City.
The city has numerous buildings, structures, dioramas, and statues related to Diyu, the concept of the underworld and hell (or Naraka) in Chinese mythology and Buddhism. It is modelled to resemble Youdu, the capital of the dead. Having nearly two thousand years’ history, the Ghost City combines the cultures of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism with the mystique of ghosts and is filled with a spooky sense of the past.
Its origin story begins back in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), when two officials decided to run away to the area and live out their lives, where they eventually according to the legend, became immortal. Yin and Wang, the names of the officials, were combined during a later dynasty to mean “King of the Underworld.”
This City displays lots of demonic images and torture devices and reflects the notion that good people will be treated well in the afterlife and that bad people will be punished by going to hell.
In the Chinese vision of the afterlife, the dead must undergo three major tests to enter the netherworld. These tests are taken at three locations – Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge;Ghost Torturing Pass and the Tianzi (son of heaven) Palace.
Built during the Ming Dynasty, the bridge connects the nether world with the real world and is a testing point for good and evil. According to legend, the Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge is composed on three identical stone arches. The middle arch is used for testing people. There are different protocols for crossing the bridge depending on your gender, age and marital status. Below the bridge are square-shaped pools of water. Virtuous people will pass over the bridge without obstacle; villainous people will fall into the pools below. The other two arches are called the golden and silver bridges respectively. When preparing to leave, visitors are encouraged to pass these two bridges because according to local superstition this will bring them good fortune.
Test two : Ghost Torturing Pass:
It is the second test before entry into the netherworld. It is said that this is the place where the dead report to the Yama, the King of Hell, for judgment. In front of the structure there are eighteen sculptures depicting ferocious demons. Each of these devils is quite lifelike creating a feeling of true eeriness.
We were told that here you had to choose what you want to be born as in your next life, male or female. If you walked through the archway right foot first you will be born a woman, left foot fist you will be a man in your next life. Jump through with both feet and you will be born in Thailand!!
Test three: Tianzi Palace:
The palace is the nerve center of this scenic area and is the oldest and largest temple on Ming Mountain. The third test to evade hell takes place at a large stone in front of the gate. The ghost must stand on this round stone on one foot for three minutes. A good person will be able to do this while an evil one can not and will be sent to hell. We all got to try this and unfortunately my balancing skills are definitely lacking as I couldn’t even make 20 seconds.
One other ghostly attraction in Fengdu worth mentioning is the Last-Glance at Home Tower. This structure was built in 1985 and commemorates the site where spirits consigned to hell could take one last look at their families.
This “City” is definitely filled with marvelous structures that show the skill that ancient craftsman had. I was amazed by the unique styles of architecture and the culture of the “ghost”. Whatever your beliefs, here you are constantly reminded that the “Good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil.”
The giant face seen in the hill is called “The Ghost King,” and it holds a Guinness World Records title as the biggest sculpture carved on a rock. At 138 meters tall and about 217 meters wide, “The Ghost King” can be seen from all around the city.
If it wasn’t for the extreme heat and humidity of that day I would have spent more time walking around the extensive grounds and exploring all the different temples.