Lingchi, also known as ‘death by a thousand cuts’, is a gruesome form of physical torture and execution utilised in China from AD900 until its ban as recently as 1905.
The torture was carried out by tying the victim to a stake or wooden frame before cutting them numerous times using non-deadly slashes, gashes, stabs and cuts.
It was important not to make the victim bleed out otherwise the torture might be curtailed by their premature death. The death should only come to pass after much suffering and brought about with a final and decisive coup de grace by slitting the throat or stabbing the heart.
It is reported the number of cuts varied widely with accounts from the Yuan Dynasty numbering them as one hundred to stories from the Ming Dynasty numbering the cuts at over three thousand.
Even the length of suffering varied from story to story. Some claim the torture lasted an extended and drawn-out period of time while some claimed it lasted as ‘little’ as fifteen to twenty minutes. I might say as little as fifteen to twenty minutes but what an agonising time that must have seemed to the victim, comparable only to entering the gates of hell itself.
While there is little physical documentary evidence of how Lingchi was carried out it is believed by many it included a degree of dismemberment including the hacking off of limbs, fingers, toes, ears, tongues, noses, and of course genitals. Some of which may have been carried out post mortem as a way to further humiliate the victim.
© Colin Lawson Books