Two judges from Hell, by Francis Chin, 2014 Tg Balai temple
Come hell or high water

I shot these two scholar judges from Hell while visiting a temple in Tanjong Balai in the Karimum Islands in 2014.

The figures may look scary but these are nice guys, really. In life, they were two faithful friends in old China, travelling together to the capital to take the imperial exams. They stopped at a river town, and separated to buy supplies but arranged to meet again in the evening under a well-known bridge.

When Shorty returned at the rendezvous, his friend was not there yet. It started to rain and soon the drizzle turned into a storm. The river water-level began to rise, but Shorty stayed put under the bridge to wait for his friend. Soon the water was over Shorty's head (he wasn't very tall to begin with) and he drowned.

Finally his tardy friend came back and saw a crowd at the bridge fishing out his dead companion. Filled with remorse, the tall chap hanged himself.

When their souls came before Yama in the Underworld, the king of death was so filled with admiration for their friendship and loyalty to each other, he immediately hired them as members of his college of judges. (All scholars received preferential treatment at Yama's court in those days although the rules may have changed now due to the influx of incompetent, overpaid, underworked scholars flooding the civil service in Singapore.)

Today, parents who wanted their kids to do well in exams would supplicate these two deities.

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