Saturday, June 4, 2011


"OFF WITH HIS HEAD." An Interview With a Chinese High Executioners,

I once visited Canton with some companions, and, of course, we did the sights there. We visited pagodas and temples galore, silk factories, an artificial duck-egg hatching company's premises, jade and ivory shops, pawn shops, cat and dog butchers' shops, and the city water-clock, all of which have been "done" and described before, times innumerable. Dur ing our mc-inderings in the city our ears were assailed with the Cathay synonym of the Egyptian bakseesh cry, till the caverns of our brains resounded and echoed with it. " Cumshaw! cumshaw!" yelled by immature possessors echoed the sound wherever we went. -When the youngsters' requests were not complied Trith, they, after a little, invariably changed their cry to "Fanc[uai! fanquai!" (foreign devil, foreign devil). We marched into the magisterial yamun to the accompaniment of the cumshaw' tune. Here were shown the instruments whereby bamboo chow is given to the nadal callosities of the wicked, also ratans and short bludgeons for slappingtbe face of untruthful witnesses, thumb-screw's and racks for exacting confessions (no criminal can be executed according to the laws of China until he has confessed his crime), canquls, a species of collar which foirlargeness and imcomfortableness even outstrip the masher's, and which are rectangular planes df wood with neck and hand holes. The gloomy, small depository-room of these torture- implements we thought to be a fair representation of what a European mediaeval chamber of justice has been.

We were next taken in our sedan; chairs through an overcrowded busy part of the city to the execution ground, passing on our way the new Roman Catholic Cathedral, whose gigantic spires pierce the clouds. The execution ground we found to be a small enclosed rectangular space, about fifteen yards by fifty, entered by a gate. On the right on entering ran a row of small squalid houses, the habitation of potters whose lough, unbaked work lay all abouton the ground, drying 1 in the sun, but we were informed that it was cleared away when an execution was about to take place. Facing the potters' houses was a high wall, at whose base, and leaning against it, were some large crocks, all of which had their mouths earthed over except one. Here' our guide introduced us to three poorly-dressed Chinamen, whom we noticed gambling at a fan tan table near the gate on our 'arrival. One, a big, brutish-lookingfellow with avillainous cast in one of his eyes, was the hfead executioner, and the other two, who were smallish men were his assistants. Through our guide we told the head executioner that we wished to see the instruments of his calling, and thereon he produced a short, very heavy two-handled sword and a long knife. The following conversation was carried on between' us and this "boss" through' the medium of our guide:—

How; do you use this sword ? Where is the block?"—-"We don't use a block. What we do is to make the prisoners kneel down in two rows facing one another, and bending their head down. Then I take the sword, and chop, chop, one on each side, and the heads fall off;; so on, till they're all done, as you'd switch the tops off green weeds with your walking-stick." '

" But you don't always chop a head off with one blow ?"—" Always." . "What is the knife for?"—" For the ling che or death by many cuts. We tie the culprit who is condemned to this death to that cross there (pointing to two rough unbarked sticks roughly crossed),, and. we commence by cutting off the eyelids, ears, nose, and so on, ending by sticking the knife into the heart. The cuts vary in number from eight to a hundred and twenty, according to the seriousness of the culprit's crimes.". "What class of criminals are condemned to the ling che?" Parricides,matricides, and women who have killed and mutilated their husbands form the majority." "Do the executions interfere with your appetite and sleep ? The three executioners grinned sardonically at this question, so we asked : " How many persons have you executed in a day ?" " I have chopped twenty heads off myself in two minutes. See that darklooking place on the ground over there ? that's caused by the blood of the last batch we had." . " What is done with the bodies .-?' " The friends take the bodies away, but we keep the heads in the crocks over by the wall there, and when we have a large number which are no longer identifiable, Aye bury them. Would you like to see some of the heads ?" We declined, and one of my companions began to grow pale and complain of hot feeling well, so wo ordered the guide to lead us away. " Gentlemen, give twenty cents each, cumshaw, to the executioners," said the guide,vwhich we gladly did to escape from the staring of the " boss " butcher's swivel eye ; and so ended our interview with these High Executioners of the Great Chinese Empire. Auckland Star, Volume XVIII, Issue 148, 25 June 1887, Page 2

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