Western Depictions of Crime and Punishment in Late Imperial China
This collection of 51 images on crime and punishment in late Imperial China is gleaned from the 19th century Westerners’ China travelogues at the George Peabody Library. Chinese tortures, prisons and punishments had been constant themes of Western sinological attention for well over four centuries. Accounts of the Chinese judicial practice including the tortures and punishments utilized date back to the very beginning of the modern contacts between China and the West. In late Imperial China, the Chinese judicial system was an object of immediate and observable knowledge. Westerner travelers often watched or participated in its workings, in court or on the street, either as spectators or as prisoners. They documented such experiences with detailed descriptions and vivid illustrations.

These images depicted various forms of judicial torture and punishment in Qing Dynasty as well as torture apparatuses, including flogging, bastinado, finger squeezing, cangue, shackling, torment on the rack, and beheading, etc. In imperial Chinese law, torture ( 刑xing) was a blanket term that consisted of two forms of legally sanctioned physical violence, torture as an investigative tool used in the course of a legal proceeding , and torture as corporal punishment meted out to culprits after conviction. These torture imagery include both interrogative torture and retributive punishment. A notable pictorial depiction is Major George Henry Mason’s The Punishments of China/Les Punitions des chinois, which was a bilingual thematic volume published in 1801, featuring 22 colored plates accompanied by author’s notes and preface.

Abbink, J. and Göran Aijmer. Meanings of Violence:A Cross Cultural Perspective. New York: Berg, 2000.
Brook, Timothy, Jérôme Bourgon, and Gregory Blue. Death by a Thousand Cuts. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008.
Hegel, Robert E. and Katherine Carlitz. Writing and Law in Late Imperial China:Crime, Conflict, and Judgment. Asian Law Series. Vol. 18. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.
Nancy Park. "Imperial Chinese Justice and the Law of Torture." Late Imperial China 29, no. 2 (2008): 37-67.

Additional Resources (also includes a few listed above): The following list of resources would be useful for researchers interested in other primary and secondary materials related to this subject available at the Sheridan Libraries.

Brook, Timothy, Jérôme Bourgon, and Gregory Blue. 2008. Death by a Thousand Cuts. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Dutton, Michael Robert. 1992. Policing and Punishment in China : From Patriarchy to "the people". Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gray, John Henry, and William Gow Gregor. 1878. China: A History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People. London: Macmillan and Co.

Head, John W., and Yanping Wang. 2005. Law Codes in Dynastic China: A Synopsis of Chinese Legal History in the Thirty Centuries from Zhou to Qing. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.

Hegel, Robert E., and Katherine Carlitz. 2007. Writing and Law in late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment. Asian Law Series. Vol. 18. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

2007. Writing and Law in Late Imperial China : Crime, Conflict, and Judgment. Asian Law Series. Vol. 18. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Lu, Hong, and Terance D. Miethe. 2007. China's Death Penalty: History, Law, and Contemporary Practices. Routledge Advances in Criminology ; 2; New York: Routledge.

MacCormack, Geoffrey. 1990. Traditional Chinese Penal Law. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Matignon, J. -J. 1902. Superstition, Crime et Misére en Chine, (souvenirs de biologie sociale). 4 éd [rév et augm ed. Lyon,Paris: A. Storck.

Qu, Tongzu. 1961. Law and Society in Traditional China. Le Monde d'outre-mer, Passé et Présent. Première Série, Etudes. Vol. 4. Paris: Mouton.

Sommer, Matthew Harvey. 2000. Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China. Law, Society, and Culture in China. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Zhu, Qingqi, Derk Bodde, and Clarence Morris. 1967. Law in Imperial China: Exemplified by 190 ch'ing dynasty cases. Harvard Studies in East Asian law. Vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
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