Boiling, Ling Chi (slow slicing), Chariot-tearing, Castration, the list goes on… Ancient Chinese were pretty creative at torturing prisoners. Here are some Chinese punishment methods that are considered the cruelest in China.
1. Flaying (剥皮)
Flaying is the cruelest punishment method among all. The executioner will remove the skin from the body of a living prisoner. The victim will be flayed alive in public and then the skin is nailed to the wall as a warning, so others would can learn from the lesson and never ever dare to defy the law.
2. Waist Chopping (腰 斩)
Waist Chopping, as its name implies, means cutting a person’s body into half by chopping the waist. Because a person’s major organs are on the upper half of the body, the prisoner will not die immediately after execution and will still be alive for some time before death.
3. Ling Chi (凌 迟)
Ling Chi is Chinese name for execution by slow cutting. In the execution, the executioner will slowly cut the criminal’s flesh into hundreds or even thousands of pieces. The victim often has to endure the pain for several hours before death. Moreover, the executioner must be very skillful, if the victim die immediately, or the slicing method is incorrect, the executioner may also be punished. This brutal punishment was used in China until 1905.
4. Chariot-tearing (车裂 )
Chariot-tearing, commonly known as “5 horses tearing the body,” is one of the cruelest punishments in ancient China. Just tie the criminal’s head, two hands and two legs to five ropes connected to five horses or chariots and drive the horses in 5 different directions, and thereby tearing a person’s body into 6 parts.The victim can feel the great pain during this tearing. Shang Yang (390-338 BC), a well-known reformer of Qin Kingdom in the Warring States Period was executed by this brutal punishment.
5. Five Cutting (俱五刑)
Five Cutting means cutting off the head, feet, hands, ears and gouging out eyes. After Emperor Gaozu’s death, Empress Dowager Lü Zhi had the emperor’s Concubine Qi`s hands and feet chopped off, ears, nose and tongue sliced off, eyes gouged out and threw her into a piglet. She called Qi a “Human Swine”. Several days after, Emperor Hui, the son of Lü Zhi, saw the “Human Swine”, he was shocked by his mother’s cruelty and the temperament changed greatly, he then indulged in heavy drinking died one year later.
6. Hanging by the Bowstring ( 缢 首)
In other countries, the hanging is a widely used penalty. While in ancient China executioners use the bowstring to carry out death penalty. the bow is put around prisoner`s neck with the bowstring facing forward, the executioner then begins to rotate the bow from the back until the criminal strangled.
7. Boiling (烹煮)
The executioner put the prisoner in a big pot filled with water or oil and then heat the water up with fire below. As the water temperature rises, the prisoner will be boiled to death. Boiling to death has been used in many different dynasties of ancient China.
8. Castration (宫 刑)
What does castration mean? It is a kind of cruel penalty to remove men’s genitalia (penis and testicles). In ancient China, castration was a traditional way to punish war prisoners or traitors, even high-ranking officials might face this brutal punishment.
9. Riding “Wooden Horse”
This is a cruel old punishment specifically designed to punish the woman who colludes with adulterer to murder her husband. According to the ancient Chinese book “Twenty-Four Histories”: First, erect a wooden pillar on a piece of wood, then hang up the female prisoner on the top end of the pillar, forcing the wooden pillar into her vagina, then release her and let the body fall until the wooden pillar “pierces out from her nose and mouth, and often the victim has to bear the pain for several days before death.”
10. The Nine Familial Exterminations (株连九族)
The Nine Familial Exterminations was the most serious punishment in Ancient China. It means if one person commits a capital offense, his/her family members and relatives must face the same penalty. This penalty was typically associated with offenses such as treason, the punishment was applied to an individual’s all relatives, which were categorized into nine groups.