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Death by a Thousand Cuts [Hardcover]

Timothy Brook , Jerome Bourgon , Gregory Blue
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2008
In a public square in Beijing in 1904, multiple murderer Wang Weiqin was executed before a crowd of onlookers. He was among the last to suffer the extreme punishment known as lingchi. Called by Western observers "death by a thousand cuts" or "death by slicing," this penalty was reserved for the very worst crimes in imperial China.A unique interdisciplinary history, "Death by a Thousand Cuts" is the first book to explore the history, iconography, and legal contexts of Chinese tortures and executions from the tenth century until lingchi's abolition in 1905. The authors then turn their attention to an in-depth investigation of "oriental" tortures in the Western imagination. While early modern Europeans often depicted Chinese institutions as rational, nineteenth- and twentieth-century readers consumed pictures of lingchi executions as titillating curiosities and evidence of moral inferiority. By examining these works in light of European conventions associated with despotic government, Christian martyrdom, and ecstatic suffering, the authors unpack the stereotype of innate Chinese cruelty and explore the mixture of fascination and revulsion that has long characterized the West's encounter with "other" civilizations.Compelling and thought-provoking, "Death by a Thousand Cuts" questions the logic by which states justify tormenting individuals and the varied ways by which human beings have exploited the symbolism of bodily degradation for political aims.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (4 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674027736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674027732
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,111,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"The authors present a nuanced picture of state-imposed execution and, without at any
time condoning, succeed in their goal of contextualising lingchi in relation to Western
forms of punishment [...] This challenging and important work will appeal not solely
to Sinologists, but to legal historians and students of visual representation."
-- - Julian Ward, Times Higher Education, 08/05/08

"This elegant and innovatively transnational book is intent on restoring lingchi to the legal, moral and political context in which it made some kind of sense".
-- Times Literary Supplement, 27 February 2009

Review

"This elegant and innovatively transnational book is intent on restoring lingchi to the legal, moral and political context in which it made some kind of sense".

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OBSCURELY-WORDED AND EXPRESSED 27 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I ADMIRE THE CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF RESEARCH USING DIFFICULT-TO- ACCESS CHINESE ARCHIVES BUT THE FACT REMAINS THAT THIS BOOK IS DIFFCULT TO READ. IT IS OBSCURELY-WORDED AND EXPRESSED WHICH ACTS AS A BARRIER TO EASY UNDERSTANDING OF WHY THIS PUNISHMENT CONTINUED TO BE USED INTO THE 20TH CENTURY.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, disturbing, and enlightening 9 Jan 2009
By glamaFez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is one of the finest examples of scholarship that I've seen.

I can't add much beyond an enthusiastic recommendation to those interested in the history of captial punishment, torture, and their intersection.

The book thoroughly de-sensationalizes the subject matter. The reader will experience horror at descriptions of lingchi and other punishments, and an enhanced awareness of captial punishment within and outside the world's legal systems.

Lingchi was intended to destroy the victm's afterlife, in addition to causing temporary torment and discouraging captial crimes. No holds are barred in presenting past augmentations of this and other punishments for the purpose of sheer cruelty. An emphasis on lingchi as a legal phenomenon is the main focus of the book, but I was left with both a tragic sense of what can happen outside law and a better feeling about progress within law during the past century.
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