newsletter. The breasts were sliced off, and hunks of flesh were gouged out of the arms and thighs. Often the victim was drugged with opium; typically the executioner administered the coup de grace, a stab to the heart, soon after starting his work. Also known as “slow slicing” or “death by a thousand cuts,” Lingchi involved the removal by knife of flesh from the body in small pieces and small, non-deadly cuts to limbs and torso. The ancient Chinese torture tactic known as lingchi — which translates loosely to “slow slicing,” “lingering death,” or “death by a thousand cuts” — was used as a method of execution from the seventh century up until 1905, when it was officially outlawed. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, "Death by a Thousand Cuts: Timothy Brook, Jérôme Bourgon and Gregory Blue", "Association of American Publishers Announces 2008 PROSE Award Winners", Academic profile at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford (2009), Author's pages at Beverley Slopen Literary Agency, Collaboration: Japanese Agents and Local Elites in Wartime China, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China, Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China, Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement, The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Death_by_a_Thousand_Cuts_(book)&oldid=980577046, Articles to be expanded from January 2010, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 27 September 2020, at 08:20. From there, the executioner would then administer cuts to bare flesh, usually starting at the chest, where the breast and surrounding muscles were methodically removed until the bare ribs were almost visible. In “short drop” hanging, the standard method until the mid-19th century, the condemned typically took 10 to 20 minutes to die of strangulation. Which is pretty nervy when you think about it. DEATH OF A THOUSAND CUTS - "A slow death by the torture of many small wounds, none lethal in itself, but fatal in their cumulative effect. What is the origin of the song “There’s a place in France/Where the naked ladies dance?” Are bay leaves poisonous. The whole thing was over in maybe five minutes. Instead, the point was to make an example of the poor bastard. Their limbs were also severed and collected to be placed inside of a basket. Unlike most execution styles, which aim to kill sooner rather than later, the aim of lingchi was a long, slow punishment, intended to see how many cuts a person could withstand before dying, or simply losing consciousness. Death by a thousand cuts is a failure that happens because of many small issues that have accumulated. By this point, the victim would have likely died and was then decapitated. One final meaning of death by a thousand cuts is the literal sense that one small cut may not be harmful, but a thousand small cuts will kill a person. China has now achieved global parity in the corrective methods department. Killer Whales On Crazy, Unprecedented Murder Spree In Monterey, What Stephen Hawking Thinks Threatens Humankind The Most, 27 Raw Images Of When Punk Ruled New York, Join The All That's Interesting Weekly Dispatch. The procedure was fairly straightforward, and called for the condemned person to be tied to a wooden post, unable to move or break free from their binds. But here’s the bit that slays me, so to speak: Western sniffs thought this was inhumane. , The authors argue that this was more than a physical punishment, as the victim was sedated with opium and killed early in the process, but about denying the victim "somatic integrity" and denying them any hope of a life after death which, the authors argue, caused them to feel shame. The best of The Straight Dope, delivered to your inbox. “Death by a thousand cuts” is strictly a Western expression — the Chinese term is lingchi, the origin and literal meaning of which is obscure. If you're not familiar with Jennings's work, the synopsis is simple: SEX, VIOLENCE, history, SEX, VIOLENCE. Three dozen cuts is more like it, although I’ve seen one account claiming especially iniquitous individuals wound up in 120 pieces, which I guess might require up to 119 cuts. “Death by a thousand cuts” is strictly a Western expression — the Chinese term is lingchi, the origin and literal meaning of which is obscure. The story is told in a fascinating 2008 book, Death by a Thousand Cuts, by Timothy Brook et al. Somatic integrity: the vital capacity to be whole as an organism, which would be denied if the body were cut into pieces. Lingchi was a punishment reserved for infamous crimes such as treason or parricide. After chunks of flesh had been removed from all of the limbs, they were amputated from the living torso. Jérôme Bourgon is a researcher at the Institut d’Asie Orientale / Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Lyon. It’s said the Chinese had a special horror of death by dismemberment, since it meant you’d show up mutilated in the afterlife. Check out the practice of defenestration, then discover the ten worst execution methods ever devised. The Chinese were appalled by the British practice of brutally flogging soldiers and sailors for minor offenses. Criminals were publicly hanged in the UK until 1868, in the U.S. until 1936. Longer drops were later used, to break the neck and induce immediate unconsciousness. Gregory Blue is Associate Professor of History at the University of Victoria.. A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD. , Death by a Thousand Cuts investigates the use of slow slicing or lingchi, a form of torture and capital punishment practised in mid- and late-Imperial China from the tenth century until its abolition in 1905. As the name implies, lingchi was a drawn-out and brutal process, wherein an executioner would deliver justice to various lawbreakers by administering a series of cuts to the skin. Taylor Swift explained what inspired her latest break-up song, “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” and it isn’t about breaking up with boyfriend Joe Alwyn as people are speculating. ", Death by a Thousand Cuts was a finalist and received an honourable mention for the Professional/Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers 2008 PROSE Award, in the World History and Biography/Autobiography category. Don’t believe us? , A staff reviewer at The New Yorker describes the book as a "fascinating study". I'd forgotten about this until I heard the phrase in conversation recently. Man climbing a rope . Needless to say, I read it in about a day. Was this really a torture practiced anywhere at any time? Those caveats having been offered, yes, death by numerous cuts was an accepted method of execution in China until 1905. Years ago I made the mistake of reading a book called The Journeyer by Gary Jennings, about the life and adventures of Marco Polo. , By the time of the final imperial dynasty, the punishment could be meted out for an offence as simple as striking a teacher. The idea was to hack the condemned to pieces in public. Of course, the ancient Chinese were not alone in devising particularly painful forms of punishment. But it has plenty of company among the great, or anyway most populous, nations of the earth, including India, Indonesia, and of course the non-criminal-coddling U.S. Families who could afford to would often pay to have their condemned relatives killed right away, assuring that the first cut would be the last one, and sparing them from hours of brutal torture. What does the Chicago lyric “25 or 6 to 4” mean? He was convicted in 1905 of murdering his master, a Mongolian prince, and was the last known execution by lingchi before death by a thousand cuts was outlawed only two weeks later. Most of this is ancient history, though. The form of torture known as death by a thousand cuts was used in China until 1905, when it was abolished. Some accounts report that the punished were dead in less than 15 minutes, while other cases apparently went on for hours, forcing the accused to withstand up to 3,000 cuts. 2. Prisoners put to death in the electric chair, the U.S.’s best-known contribution to execution technology, have sometimes caught fire or required repeated jolts; admittedly these were mistakes, but even now the prescribed procedure is to apply the current, then wait a bit and see if the condemned is dead. How did some crime fiction come to be described as “hard-boiled”? Send questions to Cecil via firstname.lastname@example.org. 2. Finally, read up on the five worst ways to die. However, anyone for whom the traditional methods of punishment did not apply were, unfortunately, sentenced to meet their maker in the cruelest of ways in these public executions.
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