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The Netherworld’s
By: Anonymous Story Submission

Although humanity believes that ghosts are supernaturally stronger than humans, and can often wreck havoc in the mundane world, bringing disasters to humanity, it too thinks that ghosts have their restrictions. Ghosts would also take preventive attitudes against things that they fear.

Ghosts fear Sunlight
In Chinese folklore, there are the realms of the Yin and the Yang. It is believed that Man lives in the realm of the Yang, whilst ghosts live in the realm of the Yin. When Man dies, he turns into a ghost, and is said to ‘return to the Yin’; Ghosts can reincarnate as Man (or other animals), and is said to ‘return to the Yang’. Between Man and Ghost, interaction can exist, such as in Man’s dreams, or when a human’s soul leaves the body, it may travel to ‘Hell’, and take a walk in the Netherworld. Ghosts may also turn up sneakily in the realm of the Yang at night or in dark places to wreck havoc and do harm. However, generally speaking, Man and Ghost are not supposed to interact. In that aspect, there is one large boundary and obstacle – the Sun. Man works in daylight, toiling under sunlight, and the Sun is one of the worst things that ghosts fear. In broad daylight, there would be no hiding place available for all ghosts. Therefore before the Sun appears, ghosts would long have fled into oblivion.

Ghosts fear Fire
Light is produced when fire burns. This type of light is very similar to that produced by the sun, only less intense. But it is a potentially powerful threat to ghosts. Legend has it that when Man walks the streets at night and meets ghosts, he only has to light a fire, and that would scare the ghosts away. When there is no spark, just use the hand to rub the hair. It is said that sparks evoked from the hair also has the power to chase away ghosts and avoid evil. From this we can see that ghosts are very much frightened of fire. The common folk also use fire to punish demons, because it is said that large fires can burn a demon to death.

Ghosts fear Loud Noise

When wood or bamboo is burnt, there would be ‘piack piack’ sounds. It is said that these types of noise are feared by ghosts too. Common folk use firecrackers, and pyrotechnics of the like to chase away ghosts, and it is according to such beliefs.

Ghosts fear Red
It is commonly believed that ghosts do not dare to touch red-coloured stuffs. Common folk usually use red cloth, red cinammon, the blood of animals and its like to chase away ghosts.

Ghosts fear Lamps
Light is emitted from lamps, and its use is similar to that of the Sun. Also, the lamps of the past were lit by fire, and therefore they are feared by ghosts.

Ghosts fear Bronzes

The Elunchun tribe believes that ghosts have the ability to dodge bullets, but if the guns are fitted with bronze bullets, ghosts would not be able to dodge. Ancient Chinese weddings provide that before a new bride enters her bridal sedan, she must wear an old bronze mirror across her chest, also called the ‘Mirror to Reveal (and Reflect) Devils’. It is said that with such a mirror, most devils and ghosts would not dare to offend her.

Ghosts fear Cockerel’s Cry

It is commonly believed that ghosts are afraid of chickens and the cockerel’s cry. It is said that when ghosts hear the cockerel’s cry, they would diminish in length, disappear, and lose its guts and become alarmed. Such beliefs are probably largely due to the fact that cockerels’ cries indicate the coming of dawn. Ghosts fear sunlight, and since the cockerels’ cries indicate the coming of dawn, and when sunlight appears, ghosts would perish. Therefore it is said that chickens are what ghosts fear.

Ghosts fear the shape of the Tiger
Common folk often paint pictures of tigers at their doors, or apply Tiger-shaped makeup on their children (such as wearing Tiger-head shoes and Tiger-head caps, believing such to be able to chase away ghosts. From this we can see that the commoners’ beliefs are that ghosts are similar to humans in that they both fear tigers.

Ghosts Fear Leather Belts
In the old times, leather belts are not worn during burials. It is said that ghosts fear leather belts. And because they fear, they avoid it.

The book ‘Collection of Nothing (literally)’ disagrees with this, drawing an adage from the ‘Unofficial Discussion of Deathly Issues’: “Those who do not want to don leather belts on Old Madam’s death, must wear the leather hides of cows for that purpose. We do not wish to mix our souls with that of the dead, and therefore the cow hide would siphon us from the dead. It is not because the dead fear leather belts.

Ghosts Fear Peach Trees
Common folks are accustomed to using peach wood to make bows and arrows, sabres, rods, and also to avoid evil and chase away ghosts. According to beliefs, ghosts and all that is evil, are afraid of peach wood.

Ghosts Fear Reed Ropes

In the old times, common folk would hang reed ropes on their gates during new year’s celebrations, so as to expel evil ghosts and ominous occurrences. The book ‘Journals of the Occurrence of Jing Chu’ says: “When you tie reed ropes to your gates on New Year’s Day, all hundreds of types of ghosts would fear it.” And because they fear it, they maintain a certain proxmity from it.

Ghosts Fear Rice
Chinese common folk believe that rice have the ability to expel evil spirits and avoid evil doings. In the Ding county region of Hebei province, a pregnant woman on returning to her hometown during the first month of gestation would be required to scatter a handful of rice at every junction. Otherwise, it is believed that she will be harmed by ghosts. In Taiwan, new brides on alighting from her bridal sedan, would be required to allow her in-laws to cap her head with a special ‘Eight-Diagram Rice Sieve’ before she enters the guest hall. Its use as a tool related to rice is also tantamount to the custom of expelling evil and inviting prosperity. When a child falls, the folk are used to ‘washing’ the wounded area with salted rice, believing that it would chase away the ghosts that caused the child to fall down. Salted rice can also chase away the Earth Deity (huh? y chase him away?), causing eye sicknesses to heal. After scattering salted rice during burial, the ghost of the deceased would not then harm the pallbearers. In the region of Jiangsu, there is a custom of ‘Yelling to Scare Ghosts’, and they also make use of rice as one of the main ‘tools’ to chase away ghosts. Therefore it can be seen that ghosts fear rice.

Ghosts Fear Beans
It is commonly believed that ghosts fear bean-type plants. The folks of Yunnan love to use red beans as a staple food. Legend has it that the house of Gong-gong has seven stupid children, who died and turned into vicious ghosts, but they are naturally afraid of red beans. In the Hebei region, it is required for a new bride on her wedding day to hide on herself lots of black beans, so that she could bring to her in-laws’ house and scatter on the bodies of the guests, as well as the four corners of the house. It is believed to defend against the appearance of ominous stars (in this case, referring to jinxed people). On the 23rd of December, after paying their respects to the dead, people like to use small red cloth bags to store black beans obtained from the Prince’s Ex-superhorse’s fodder (don’t know where this comes from), and tie the bags to their waists. It is said that this would chase away ghosts and prevent disasters.

Ghosts Fear Bad People

Adage goes that: “Ghosts fear bad people, as snakes fear the rod.” Bad people are difficult to disturb. When humans turn ferocious or vicious, even the ghosts would be afraid. It is also said in folklore that if a human does not fear even the ghosts, then ghosts would be afraid of him. So when they fear him, they distance themselves from him. Some spirits (in western culture they are called elves) are even afraid of the living. In Yunan, a certain tribe has the custom of “calling on rice ghosts”. It is said that during the time of calling on the rice ghosts, pedestrians are forbidden from passing through the area, except only for the rice ghosts to pass. It is believed that if a human appears, the rice ghosts would be scared away. When the rice ghosts are scared away, they, believed to bring prosperity, would then not be able to be called into the village anymore. Therefore according to this belief, rice ghosts are afraid of meeting living people.

Ghosts Fear Urine
It is commongly believed that ghosts fear dirty things, like human’s urine, and dirty water. It is said that when you walk into the dark paths and meet the occurrence of ‘Ghost creating a Wall in front of you’, causing you to not be able to proceed, just pee on the floor and the road will be accessible. There is a custom of giving children vulgar names in the Chinese race, but it is all so that the child would not be disturbed by evil spirits, or at least less disturbed. Such names include “Urinary Pot”, “Cow Dung”, “Dog Egg”, “No Possession”, etc.

Ghosts Fear Charms and Curses

Not only the Chinese, but several other civilisations are believed to fear charms and curses. The charms and curses drawn and chanted by people with magic and sorcery, such as witches and sorcerers, alchemists, Taoists and Buddhists, are believed to be capable of subduing and expelling evil spirits. Besides drawing and chanting custom made charms and curses under special circumstances, most folks would stick the pictures of “Door Guards” on their doors, and write on their room doors “Jiang Tai-Gong resides here”, and “The rocks of Mount Tai are here to blockade”, etc. These have similar uses and purposes. It is said that by having such things that entail the meanings of charms and curses, ghosts and demons would not dare to enter the home without thinking twice.

It is said that there are many things that ghosts fear, such as literature, history, religious scriptures, fortune telling books, fishing nets, sabres and spears, bows and arrows, tea leaves, dog blood, blackened donkey hoofs, etc. All these, as things that ghosts fear, can be used to cause fear to the ghosts and demons, who would retreat. However, all of these things belong to the category of passive measures. Other than that, on the category of active measures, there are many things that ghosts fear, such as:

Ghosts Fear Exchanges of Greetings

The Elunchun tribe belives that in the Netherworld, when ghosts meet a deceased person whom they know, they are not supposed to ask about the other ghost. If they do, they would turn into a piece of bone.

Ghosts Fear Bargaining

The Elunchun tribe believes that there are markets in the Netherworld. The ghosts markets are canopied with green tentages, and the buyers within are al ghosts. The merchandise are both good and cheap, but there would be no bargaining. Once there are bargainings, the merchandise would not be solid, and its quality would change.

Ghosts Fear Suspicion
It is said that a ghost that died on drowning would have to find a ‘ghost that dies on behalf (in western context, ‘scapegoat’)’, in order for it to return to the realm of the Yang.

However, if a person who is drowning has been rescued, and his rescuers say: ‘Just nice,’ the ghost that died on drowning would become suspicious, thinking that the soul person who has dropped into the water has not been captured into his bamboo cylinder. Then the ghost would hurriedly open up the bamboo cylinder to see, and at this moment the soul that has been stored inside would escape, and the drowned person would become alive. The ghost however, would never have a second chance at reincarnating.

Ghosts Fear Wrongful Reincarnation
It is commonly believed that ghosts inhibiting the Netherworld just have to keep to the rules and do their part well, to be able to qualify for reincarnation when the time comes. However, ghosts must not walk into the wrong door when they reincarnate. Otherwise, they cannot reincarnate as human, but as an animal. It is believed that ghosts on reincarnation are given 2 doors. One of the doors lead to a noisy and lively place, where there are drums and gongs. However this is the door that ghosts must not enter, because this door is meant for reincarnation as animals. The other door is thus for reincarnating as humans. That door is very cold and quiet, very dark, and ghosts would be unwilling to enter. It is always the case that they are beaten and kicked into that door. It is said that if a newborn child’s backside has a baluku, it is evidence of the ghost being beaten on the backside when he was forced through that door.

Ghosts Fear Committing Crimes In Their Mortal Lives
Some ghosts have to be punished with brutal tortures in the Netherworld, and it is believed to be because they have committed crimes in their time in the realm of the Yang. Folklore belives that humans who commit crimes before death (in the realm of the Yang), would receive their retribution after they die. Therefore ghosts fear themselves having committed crimes in their mortal lives. It is believed that if you do more good deeds in your mortal life, you will be very quickly reincarnated after death (return to the realm of the Yang), and also have good luck. When you commit many crimes in your mortal life, you will reincarnate as a cow, horse, dog or some other animal of the like. If you are adulterous in life, you will be sentenced to hug a pillar of fire after death. If you waste food and vegetables, you will be sentenced to gorge on all the rotten food that you have wasted. If you eat the meat of cows, goats and pigs, you will be eaten by the souls of these animals. If you lie, you will be sentenced to have your tongue cut out. If you do not burn josticks and worship the gods, you will be made to walk in the dark in your afterlife. If you have many wives or husbands, you will be cut apart, each part of your body allotted to your wives/husbands. If you abuse your parents, you will be subjected to brutal tortures in your afterlife. If you stare at your parents, you will be sentenced to hanging by your eyes. If you do not listen to your parents, you will be sentenced to hanging by your ears. If you beat your parents, you will be nailed by the hands. Chinese and several other civilisations too believe that if you commit crimes in your mortal life, you will be banished in your afterlife to the 18th level of Hell. These 18 level of Hell and their tortures are listed as follows:

(1) Hell of Tongue-Cutting: Cut the tongues of people who are quarrelsome, imposing and harmful.
(2) Hell of Scissors: Cut the fingers of people who encourage peoples’ wives to remarry.
(3) Hell of Iron Trees: Hanging people who cause conflict in family and disharmony between father and son, and between brothers, on the Iron Trees.
(4) Hell of Evil Mirrors: Reflect in the Mirror the truth of people’s lies.
(5) Hell of Steaming Cage: Dump into the steaming cage gossipers as well as bad-mouthers, to steam.
(6) Hell of Bronze Pillars: Tie arsonists naked to a bronze pillar and set the pillar alight from within.
(7) Hell of Mountain of Swords: Make murderers climb up the Mountain of Swords naked.
(8) Hell of Mountain of Ice: Make people who harm their husbands, encourage people to commit adultery, abort foetuses, encourage people to gamble, do not take care of their parents, and people who do not keep promises, climb up the Mountain of Ice naked.
(9) Hell of Pot of Burning Oil: Throw thieves, corruptists, kidnappers, accusers, gangsters, usurpers, and robbers, into the Pot of Burning Oil to fry.
(10) Hell of Cow Pit: Throw people who hurt people and kill their pets, into the Cow Pit to be charged to death.
(11) Hell of Stone Crushing: Throw people who strangle and suffocate people’s children, into the pit and be crushed to death by stone.
(12) Hell of Granary: Put people who spoil grain and speak filth when eating, into the granary to be stuffed with grain till they die.
(13) Hell of Blood Pool: Throw people who have miscarriage, puke blood, faint at the sight of blood, are disrespectful, are unfilial, are crooked, into the blood pool to suffer.
(14) Hell of Unnatural Death: Imprison people who die by biting their tongue, cut their wrists or commit suicide.
(15) Hell of Dismemberment: Dismember tomb-raiders.
(16) Hell of Mountain of Fire: Chase people who have committed crimes against their religious beliefs, fatten their pockets at the expense of their benefactors, and arsonists, into the Mountain of Fire.
(17) Hell of Stone Mill: Put people who waste grain, thieve and monks who eat meat, into the stone mill to be ground into meat paste.
(18) Hell of Sabres and Saws: Subject people who kidnap other’s women, and carry out unfair business, to be cut and sawed to death.

From this we can see that ghosts’ fears are actually the same as humans’ fears. As long as human do not commit crimes, ghosts would not be punished. Therefore at the root of the problem, ghosts’ taboos are still humans’ taboos. It is just that it is refracted, and skewed to reflect itself in the more supernatural way.

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