Slow slicing  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

Slow slicing (transliterated Ling Chi or Leng T'che), also translated as the slow process, the lingering death, or death by a thousand cuts, was a form of execution used in China from roughly AD 900 until its abolition in 1905. In this form of execution, the condemned person was killed by using a knife to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time. The term língchí derives from a classical description of ascending a mountain slowly. Lingchi was reserved for crimes viewed as especially severe, such as treason and killing one's parents. The process involved tying the person to be executed to a wooden frame, usually in a public place. The flesh was then cut from the body in multiple slices in a process that was not specified in detail in Chinese law and therefore most likely varied. In later times, opium was sometimes administered either as an act of mercy or as a way of preventing fainting. The punishment worked on three levels: as a form of public humiliation, as a slow and lingering death, and as a punishment after death.

According to the Confucian principle of filial piety or xiào to alter one's body or to cut the body is a form of unfilial practice. Lingchi therefore contravenes the demands of xiao. In addition, to be cut to pieces meant that the body of the victim would not be 'whole' in a spiritual life after death.

This method of execution became a fixture in the image of China among some Westerners.It appears in various accounts of Chinese cruelty, such as Harold Lamb's 1930s biography of Genghis Khan.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Slow slicing" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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