Juo-shinko (Ten Kings (Ten Judges of Hell) belief) (十王信仰)

In Juo-shinko, the faithful beg for the mercy of ten judges, who decide the realm to which the dead would go posthumously. The faithful worship the Juo (ten judges) while alive, aiming to have their wrong doings pardoned posthumously. The Juo were regarded as an awesome existence because they decided whether the dead should be sent to Jigoku (Hell, one of the posthumous realms advocated by Buddhism) and presided over the Rokudo-rinne (transmigration in the six posthumous realms advocated by Buddhism) in light of the seriousness of the karma belonging to the dead person.

In general, this belief tends to be seen as a belief in Enma (one of the Juo). This tendency originates from the low name recognition of judges except for Enma.


While Buddhism was fused with Chinese Taoism after being introduced to China, a pseudepigrapha "Enra-o-juki Shishu Gyakushu Shoshichiojo Jodo-kyo Sutra" (Sutra of Jizo and the Ten Kings) (Also known as "Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra" for short) was composed, with the result that the Juo-shinko was established at the end of the Tang period. There are also sutra among Taoism Sutra such as "Genshitenson-setsu-hoto-metsuzai-kyo Sutra" (元始天尊説鄷都滅罪経, sutra of salvation at the hell by Genshi Tenson (Primeval Lord of Heaven, the highest god in Taoism)), "Chifu-juo Batsudogi" (地府十王抜度儀, scripture about salvation by Ten kings in Chifu (Earth Palace)) and "Taijo-kyukutenson-setsu-shoken-metsuzai-kyo Sutra" (太上救苦天尊説消愆滅罪経, sutra of salvation by Taijo Kyuku tenson (most honorable gods)), which explain the Juo by the same name and in the same order as "Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra."

"Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra" remarkably differs from ordinary Buddhist scriptures translated into Chinese in the way that it has a description of 'Seitofu Daiseiji-ji Shamon Zosen Jutsu' (described by Zosen, a Shamon priest of Daiseiji-ji Temple in Chengdu) at the beginning of the book. As shown in the term, Buddhist scriptures translated into Chinese, it is obvious in the translated scriptures that the description at its beginning should be written as 'OO代翻経三蔵△△訳' (OO Sutra translated by Sanzo (venerable priest with profound knowledge of sutra) △△) as a rule, even if it is a pseudepigrapha. Only 'Juo-kyo Sutra' (sutra for Juo-shinko), however, neglects this custom. This is the peculiar character of 'Juo-kyo Sutra' and its peer. Because there is a similar description at the beginning of "Jizo juo-kyo Sutra," described later, as well, which is believed to have been composed in Japan. Therefore, it had long been misunderstood that it was composed in China. The similarity observed at the beginning of "Jizo juo-kyo Sutra," however, supposedly originates from the author's plot to give authority to his sutra through copying the writing style of "Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra." The reason why "Jizo juo-kyo Sutra" is not arranged in the style of translated sutra is presumably in its background that the original sutra was initially composed as an article for Raisan (worship the Buddha) or a rule book without adopting the style of sutra.

"Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra" preaches a blessing given through two Buddhist ceremonies, Seishichisai (生七斎) and Shichishichisai (七七斎). As Seishichisai was a ceremony in which living people pray for their posthumous peace, the term 'Yoshu' (預修) or 'Gyakushu' (逆修) was used. It is believed that the main pillar of the original 'Juo-kyo Sutra' was Seishichisai. In the ceremony of Seishichisai, Buddhist mortuary tablets of Juo were enshrined with paper and brush put in front of them to offer an opinion to Tenso (celestial gods), Chifu (gods of Earth and other realms), Myokan (officers of Hell) through the Juo. Artificial horses for sending paper were also displayed. On the other hand, Shichishichisai was a ceremony held by a bereaved family as a memorial service for praying for peace for the dead and accumulating good deeds. After combining these two ceremonies, the main pillar of the 'Juo-kyo Sutra' was gradually shifted to the Shichishichisai. However, it preached that six sevenths of good deeds brought through Eko (Buddhist memorial service, prayers for the repose of the soul) are allocated to living people, while one seventh is to the dead. These allocations are preached not only in "Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra" but also in "Kanjozuiganojojippo-jodo-kyo Sutra" (Also known as "Kanjo-kyo Sutra" (sutra of Kanjo (a ceremony to be the successor)) for short) and "Jizo bosatsu hongan-kyo Sutra" (The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows).

"Jizo Bosatsu Hossin Innen Juo-kyo Sutra" ("Jizo Juo-kyo Sutra" (a late Heian-period Japanese sutra (based on a Chinese counterpart) dealing with Jizo Bosatsu and the Ten Kings of Hell) for short) was composed in Japan, spreading throughout the nation along with Mappo-shiso (the "end of the world" belief) and Meikai-shiso (belief that there is a posthumous realm) in the Heian period. "Jizo Juo-kyo Sutra" includes many elements which suggest this sutra was composed in Japan, for example, the appearance of the Sanzu-no-kawa River (river, the dead cross) and Datsueba (witch staying Sanzu-no-kawa River to rob the dead of their clothes), the description of a bird twittering '別都頓宜寿' (Hototogisu) and Japanese-tasted sentences. The spread of Meikai-shiso supposedly originated from the accomplishment of Ojoyoshu (The Essentials of Salvation) compiled by Genshin. Each Juo was correlated with each Buddha in the Kamakura period, thereafter the number of Buddha increased gradually to create the Jusanbutsu-shinko belief (Thirteen Buddha belief) in the Edo period.

Transition of the Takai-kan (idea of "the world after death")

The quantity of information on takai (the world after death) has increased dramatically in Japan due to the introduction of the Juo-shinko. While the old takai-kan suggested that takai was the undefined world such as yominokuni (Hades) shown in Kojiki (The Records of Ancient Matters) as well as the dim world which people would go after their death, the new takai-kan defined takai in detail, influenced by Taoism and Confucianism, therefore it imposed a heavy responsibility on each person because the new takai included Jigoku (hell) where people were tormented. As the takai-kan was stressed at the time when Mappo-shiso gained popularity, the takai-kan of Buddhism was quite naturally accepted nationwide for its definite information about takai, Jigoku.

Although most takai-kan advocated in Japan came from China, there are some differences between the two. The differences include the Sanzu-no-kawa River, SAI no KAWARA (the Children's Limbo), Datsueba and Keneo (wizard staying in the Sanzu-no-kawa River to plunder the clothes of the dead).

Trials by the Juo

The number of trials for each dead person is usually decided to be seven. After the death, trials are held every seven days under the charge of seven individual judges; Shinko-o (first judge for trial held on the 7th day after the death), Shoko-o (second judge for trial on the 14th day), Sotei-o (third judge for trial on the 21st day), Gokan-o (fourth judge for trial on the 28th day), Enma-o (fifth judge for trial on the 35th day), Henjo-o (sixth judge for trial on the 42nd day), Taizan-o (seventh judge for trial on the 49th day). When a certain judge concluded that the trial has no problem, the trial would be closed without being reported to the next judge, allowing the dead person to reincarnate, so trials are not always held seven times. It is also decided how to deal with the trials in which seven judges could not find the instructions.

Three additional trials are prepared under the additional three judges; Byodo-o (eighth judge for trial held on the 100th day after the death), Toshi-o (ninth judge for trial in the first anniversary), Godotenrin-o (tenth judge for trial held in the second anniversary). Even if seven judges could not find the instructions after seven trials, they instruct the dead person to go to one of the Rokudo (six posthumous realms) after those trials, therefore additional trials are effectively the relief measures. Additional trials work as the following; even if the dead person had gone to the San-akudo (three realms where people are tormented for their malevolent acts conducted while they were alive) of Jigoku-do (Hell), Gaki-do (torment of starvation) and Chikusho-do (ordered to live as animals), they are pardoned, while when the dead person had been in Asura-do (pandemonium), Jin-do (the realm human beings live) or Ten-do (the realm celestial beings live), their virtues are added.

Buddhist memorial services were customarily held seven times every seven days, because the bereaved family could pray to the Juo for seeking commutation for the dead person at every trial, while additional memorial services held in line with the additional three trials supposedly functioned to save all dead persons.

This custom, however, has been simplified at present, and a Buddhist memorial service 49 days after a person's death is commonly the first service held after Tsuya (all-night vigil over a body), the final service and a memorial service on the sixth day after person's death.

While these are the descriptions about the Juo, there are three more additional trials in the Jusanbutsu-shinko belief.
(the sixth anniversary, the twelfth anniversary and the 32nd anniversary of a person's death)

Juo and their Honji (their real form in Buddhism)
Shinko-o: Fudo Myoo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings)
Shoko-o: Shaka Nyorai (Buddha Shakamuni)
Sotei-o: Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri Bodhisattva, Buddha associated with wisdom, doctrine and awareness)
Gokan-o: Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra, Buddha associated with Buddhist practice and meditation)
Enma-o: Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha)
Henjo-o: Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya, a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology)
Taizan-o: Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru, the Buddha of healing and medicine in Mahayana Buddhism)
Byodo-o: Kannon Bosatsu (Guanyin, the bodhisattva associated with compassion)
Toshi-o: Seishi Bosatsu (Mahasthamaprapta, the bodhisattva that represents the power of wisdom)
Godotenrin-o: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha, a principal Buddha in the Pure Land Sect)

[Original Japanese]