Cover: Death by a Thousand Cuts, from Harvard University PressCover: Death by a Thousand Cuts in HARDCOVER

Death by a Thousand Cuts

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Product Details


$42.00 • £33.95 • €38.00

ISBN 9780674027732

Publication Date: 03/15/2008


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

38 halftones


  • List of Illustrations*
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. The Execution of Wang Weiqin
  • 2. The Laws of Punishment in Late Imperial China
  • 3. The Origins of Lingchi and Problems of Its Legitimacy
  • 4. Lingchi in the Ming Dynasty
  • 5. Tormenting the Dead
  • 6. Chinese Torture in the Western Mind
  • 7. Misreading Lingchi
  • 8. Georges Bataille’s Interpretation
  • 9. Lingering On
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • * Illustrations:
    • 1. The first phase of the execution of Wang Weiqin, Beijing, 1904
    • 2. William Hogarth, The Reward of Cruelty (1751)
    • 3. The Capital Punishment of the Cord, an early European adaptation of a Chinese watercolor showing strangulation
    • 4. A postcard dated 1900 representing the carving up of Chinese territory—by implication, a just retribution for a country that dismembered its criminals
    • 5. A court minion administering a beating with a long flogging stick
    • 6. A prisoner in a heavy cangue
    • 7. A prisoner under interrogation, showing wooden manacles, restraining board, and ankle press
    • 8. Selected implements of torture in the Ming dynasty
    • 9. Two executioners about to perform a decapitation
    • 10. A lingchi execution as depicted in late Ming fiction
    • 11. China: “Death by the Thousand Cuts,” as reproduced in Henry Norman, The Peoples and Politics of the Far East (1895)
    • 12. The court of the Chu River King
    • 13. The court of the Emperor King of Song
    • 14. The court of Son-of-Heaven Yama
    • 15. Portrayal of the beating of a mandarin
    • 16. Portrayal of a tortured woman trussed up naked
    • 17. William Alexander, Punishment of the Tcha
    • 18. Finger Torture
    • 19. Strangling and Disembowelling
    • 20. Legs Nailed to a Board, Cutting the Body in Two, and Disjointing
    • 21. Judicial Torture
    • 22. Head of a Malefactor, exposed at Nankin
    • 23. Supplice chinois, Chinese watercolor
    • 24. Executioner and onlookers at the lingchi execution of Wang Weiqin, Beijing, 1904
    • 25. A woodblock illustration inscribed with the word “Lingchi”; Xu Wenda, Da Qing lüli tushuo (Annotated illustrations of the Qing Code and substatutes)
    • 26. A woodblock illustration of lingchi, with an inscription listing the crimes for which this is the legal punishment; Zuiming tushuo (Annotated illustrations of the terminology for crimes)
    • 27. The lingchi of Fuzhuli, executed April 10, 1905
    • 28. The lingchi of “pseudo-Fuzhuli”
    • 29. A prisoner displaying the characteristic unshaven head
    • 30. Illustration of the head of a lingchi victim
    • 31. Detail of the head of Saint Sebastian

Awards & Accolades

  • 2009 Wallace K. Ferguson Prize, Canadian Historical Association
  • Honorable Mention, 2008 Association of American Publishers PROSE Award, World History & Biography/Autobiography Category
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