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Assistant to a Judge of Hell
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Тhe idea of hell came to China with Buddhism during the early first millennium AD. From the late Tang dynasty (AD 618-906) judgement scenes in Hell became more common in Chinese art. In these scenes, the newly deceased appear before the ten Judges of Hell and their assistants to have their virtues and vices assessed and to receive an appropriate punishment. The dead have to account to the Judges for their deeds in the same way as the living had to account to magistrates, their secular counterparts. The Judges' assistants would carry the rolls of documents required to support a case.

This glazed stoneware figure is a fierce-looking Judge's assistant who holds a thick record of sins. The Museum also has a more benign assistant who holds a much slimmer record of good deeds.

Assistant to a Judge of Hell


Ming dynasty, China, 16th century
AD Ht 137 cm
Given by the Friends of the British
Museum and the Art Fund



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