Ancient China Decapitation

Aug 2014
4,466
Australia
#21
Beheading is the "least" severe death penalty as far as the Ming Dynasty is concerned.
Absolutely. All over the world, beheading was considered the most humane and painless way of executing someone - right up to and including the French Revolution. It is still done in Saudi Arabia. I'm not sure why we have an abhorrence of it because it is hardly a cruel way to kill someone. It seems preferable to hanging or electrocution.
 
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#22
In this case we're talking about mercy by Confucian standards. The Chinese belief was that mutilating the body also destroyed the soul, so dying with your body intact was preferable, even if the death was a painful one (which strangulation certainly was). Criminals who were beheaded or sliced were the worst of the worst, and having their souls destroyed along with their bodies was part of the punishment. They would be doomed to wander the earth as ghosts rather than moving on to the next incarnation.
 

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Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,414
Florania
#23
In this case we're talking about mercy by Confucian standards. The Chinese belief was that mutilating the body also destroyed the soul, so dying with your body intact was preferable, even if the death was a painful one (which strangulation certainly was). Criminals who were beheaded or sliced were the worst of the worst, and having their souls destroyed along with their bodies was part of the punishment. They would be doomed to wander the earth as ghosts rather than moving on to the next incarnation.
Then, in practice, China had all types of horrific death penalties, and both Ming and Qing were known for some of the following:
1) Lingchi is the best known by far; it means death by slicing.
2) Combing and grooming: It means to take off some soft tissues slowly by using an iron (or steel) brush until the person die.
3) Waist chop
4) Separation by horses: The head and the limbs were tied to horses and the person was separated by opposite forces.
5) Separation into 8 parts: After death (preferably), the limbs and head were cut off, and the torso was divided into three parts.
6) Hanging
7) Boiling
8) Uses of lethal poisons
9) Separation of spinal cord
10) Skinning (with or without stuffing)
11) Drawn of the bowel (similar to hanged, drawn, and quartered.)
These are just a few examples.
 
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Aug 2014
4,466
Australia
#25
Yeah, you could definitely say that out of the most horrific punishments beheading was the least cruel, but it would still fall in the category of a very bad punishment.
Why? It is the quickest and most painless method available. In many Asian cultures it was considered a mark of respect or mercy to kill someone in such a manner. We need to look past our irrational horror of this and consider it from a detached perspective.
 
May 2017
98
Hong Kong
#26
The Chinese in a long tradition want their whole body intact in burial not a beheaded corpse nor an arm/leg chopped off.
In this case of a beheaded corpse it is disastrous for the victim's soul in heaven.
 
Mar 2015
853
Europe
#27
Yeah there were a lot of variables over time and not everyone followed the letter of the law. Sometimes innocent people were executed because of rushed sloppy justice. You also had plenty of corrupt officials who abused their power and executed people as they pleased.
They usually couldn't get away with it.
An accused person normally got a minimum of three reviews, by different officials. (Nominally four!)
Then again, since the caseload of the system was heavy, you could easily have all three reviews being rushed and sloppy, one being sloppy and the next two being sloppy because they relied on the first having got it right. And if a corrupt official did get caught at being wrong, he might likely get away and explain it as having been merely sloppy and overloaded.

For example, the average caseload... if China had something like, 2000 people actually executed each year, 5000 people sentenced to death each year but most of them eventually pardoned or died in prison awaiting a decision, 10 000 people on death row at any year awaiting execution or pardon... the Emperor might be handed a big sheet of names once a year during "Autumn Assizes", "We recommend Your Majesty to execute these people, pardon those...", then the Emperor did have a technical opportunity to make exceptions: "No, pardon this one, execude that one...". But how many cases could the Emperor practically have time to review personally, besides the other affairs of state? Perhaps a few with influential friends or public interest who got Emperor's attention bypassing Board of Punishments. Otherwise, the Emperor needed to trust on his officials having got their recommendations right, and draw a long line across names to signify "To be executed, just as recommended by Board...).
 
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