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A Chapter of Chinese Horrors., Issue 8044, 22 October 1889
A Chapter of Chinese Horrors.
[From the ' Pall Mall Gazette's ' Travelling Commissioner.]
I It is only fair to add that the Chinese I have a sort of rational theory of torture, | although they are far from adheriDg to it. By Chinese law no prisoner can be punished i until he has confessed his guilt. Therefore ' they first prove him guilty, and then torture him until he confesses the accuracy of their verdiot. The more you reflect on this logic the more surprising it becomes.
Reader, lie warned. I have looked upon men being cruelly tortured; I have stood in the shambles where human beings are ( slaughtered like pigs; my boots have dripped with the blood of my fellow-crea-tures ; I must exorcise memory with my pen. Therefore, gentle reader, unless your nerves are fairly strong and your taste sufficiently gory, pass this letter by. A CANTONESE COURT BOOM. ' It was in Canton, and the magistrate sat in his Yanina dispensing justice. He was a benevolent looking man of perhaps forty, with an intellectual forehead, and an enormous pair of spectacles. He glanced up at us as wo entered, visibly annoyed at the in- , tnu'ion, and hardly returning our salutation. Rut ns we were under the wing of a consul for whom Chinese officialdom has no terrors whatever, a fact of which the Cantonese authorities have had repeated experience, we made ourselves quite at home. There was little of the pomp of law in , the scene before us. The magistrate’s, own chair, draped with red cloth covered j with inscriptions in large characters, was , almost the only piece of official appa- j rates, and behind it were grouped half ; i a dozen of the big red presentation umbrellas | of which every Chinese official is so proud, j Before him was a large open space aud a ; motley crowd, in which the most conspicuous figures were the filthy blackguards in red hats, known as “ Yamen-runners,” j whose business is to clear a way before their ! master in the streets, and do anything else that he wishes down to the administration of torture. The magistrate himself sat perfectly silent, writing busily, while several persons before him gabbled all at the same time. These were presumably the plaintiff, the defendant, and the policemen. “ EATIX(I BAMBOO.” After a while the magistrate interrupted one of the speakers with a monosyllable spoken in a low tone without even raising Ilia head, but the effect was magical. The crowd fell back, and one of the little group in front of the chair wrung his hands and heaved a theatrical sigh. Before we could realise what had happened half a dozen pairs of very willing hands were helping him to prepare, and when this was accomplished to the satisfaction of everybody he kid himself face downwards on the floor. Then one of the “runners” stepped forward with tho bamboo—a strip of this toughest of plants 3ft long, 2in wide, and iin thick. Squatting by the side of the victim and holding the bamboo perfectly horizontal close to the flesh, i began to rain light blows. At first tho pcii,..!■ i-nco looked like a farce, the blows weru t u I! . Tit and the receiver of them so indifferent; but as the shower of taps continued with monotonous persistence I bethought me of the old fiendish torture of driving a man mad by letting a drop of water fall every minute on his shaved head. After a few more minutes of the machine - like rap-tap-tap, rap-tap-tap, a deep groan broke from the prisoner’s lips. I walked over to look at him, and saw that his flesh was blue under the flogging. Then it became congested with blood, and whereas at first he had lain quiet of his own accord, now a dozen men were holding him tight. The crowd gazed at him with broad grins on their faces, break • ing out from time to time into a suppressed “ Hi-yah ” as he writhed in special pain or cried out in agony. And all this time the ceaseless shower of blows continued, the man who wielded the bamboo putting not a particle more force into the last stroke than into the first. At length tho magistrate dropped another word and the torture stopped aa suddenly as it began, the prisoner was lifted to his feet end led across the Court to lean against tho wall. For obvious reasons he could not be “accommodated with a chair.” The next person to be called up was a policeman. The magistrate put a question or two to him, and listened patiently for a while to his rambling and effusive replies. Then, as before, the fatal monosyllable dropped from his lips. With the greatest promptitude the policeman prepared himself, assumed tho regulation attitude, and the flagellation began again. But I noticed that the blows sounded altogether different from before, much sharper aud shriller, like wood falling upon wood rather than wood falling upon flesh. So I drew near _to examine. Sure enough there was a vital difference The policeman had attached a small piece of wood to his leg by means ol wax, and on this the blows fell, taking no more effect upon his person than il they had been delivered on the sole of his boot. The fraud was perfectly transparent—everybody in the room, including the magistrate himself, must have known what was happening. Thus another peculiarity of Chinese justice is cvidcntlj that the punishment of an ordinary offender is one thing, while that of an erring official is quite another. I learned that tho policeman was ordered to be bambooed for not bringing in a prisoner whom the magistrate had ordered him to produce, -When the sham punishment was over he jumped briskly to his feet, adjusted his clothing, aud resumed his duties about the Court. While we had been watching the process of “eating bamboo,” far different punishments were going on in another part of the Court room, unnoticed by ua. The bamboc is not so very far removed from still existenl civilized deterrent methods, but what was now before us recalled the most brutal ages, In one corner a man had been tied hand and foot on a small bench tho length of his back, in such a manner that his body was bent a( far back as it could possibly be stretched ir the form of a circle, his back resting on the flat seat of the bench, and his arms and logs fastened to the four legs. Then tho whol< affair, man and bench, had been tilted forward till it rested upon two feet and upot the man’s two knees, almost falliug overalmost, but not quite. Tho position of tin miserable wretch was as grotesque as it was exquisitely painful; his hands and feet were blue, his eyes protruded, his mouth gasped convulsively like e dying fish, and he had evidently been ir that position so long that he was on the eve of losing consciousness. And he was appa rently forgotten. A few boys stood gazing at him open-mouthed, but nobody else paid any more attention to him than if he had been a piece of furniture. This was enougl for my companions, and they left the room. But how is the Western world to know what the Celestial Empire really is unless people are willing to see and hear of its in numerable horrors ? The utterly mistaker notion of China, which is so widespread al Home, is due in great part to this very unwillingness to look straight iu the face what a French writer has so well called the “ rotter East.” In another corner an unfortunate creature was undergoing the punishment called “kneeling on chains.” A thin strong cord had been fastened to his thumbs and greal toes and passed over a hook in an uprighl post. Then, by pulling >t sufficiently he was, of course, lifted off the ground, hit knees being the lowest part of his body. Under them a small chain, with sharp-edged links, had next been coiled in a circle as s natty sailor coils a rope on the deck, The cord bad then been slackened till the whole
weight of the man rested upon his knees and his knees rested upon the chain. The process seems simple, but the result is awful. And this man had been undergoing a prolonged course of torture. Amongst other things, his ankle-bones had been cracked by being hammered with a piece of wood shaped like a child's cricket bat. His tortures ended for the moment while we
were looking at him. Two attendants loosened the cord, and he fell in a heap. They rolled him off the chain and set him on his feet. The moment they let go he sank like a half-tilled sack. So they stretched him out on the floor, and each of them rubbed one of his kneeß vigorously for a couple of minutes. But it was no use; he was utterly incapable of even standing, and had to be dragged away. As we passed out, a woman was before the magistrate giving evidence. Her testimony, however, was either not true enough or not prompt enough in the official's opinion, for he had recourse to the " truth-compeller." This is a pleasing little instrument reserved exclusively for the fair sex, shaped exactly like the thick sole of a slipper, split on the sole part and fastened at the heel. With this the witness received a slap across the mouth, which rang out like a pistol-shot.
A Chapter of Chinese Horrors., Issue 8044, 22 October 1889
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