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Death by a Thousand Cuts (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 4. März 2008

4.7 von 5 Sternen 3 Kundenrezensionen

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In 1904, a French photographer documented the Chinese practice of "lingchi," a form of execution that involved slicing off limbs and pieces of flesh. Europeans recoiled from what appeared to be a gruesome, lingering death, citing it as evidence of a uniquely Oriental ruthlessness. This fascinating study argues, however, that "lingchi" was not entirely about physical suffering--the victim was typically sedated with opium, and killed early in the process--but about a "loss of somatic integrity," the posthumous shame of having been reduced to body parts. Crimes that merited "lingchi" ranged from killing a paternal grandparent to, in at least one case, cheating on taxes. Throughout, the authors do their best to downplay the exoticism of their subject, pointing to such Western practices as drawing (disembowelling) and quartering (dismembering): "It is hard to see much distinction in degrees of cruelty."

This is a learned and educational book. -- Jonathan Mirsky "Literary Review" (11/01/2008)

[This book is] a rude awakening to jolt us from the overused numbness and put us face to face with the origin of the phrase, the torture of lingchi. Because history has been sanitized by countless retellings of television drama and simplified texts, the practice of torture is often misunderstood, even by those of us who thought we knew such things. In this notable book, the authors delve into historical archives to produce documents, photos and analyses that are more nuanced than a Hong Kong movie of torture fest, such as the legendary Chinese Torture Chamber Story. Approached by a Western perspective, the authors debunk the traditional Western notion that ruthless executions were rooted in the Chinese culture. Yet, the details they use are not for the faint of heart.--Raymond Zhou"China Daily" (07/09/2008)

The authors present a nuanced picture of state-imposed execution and, without at any time condoning, succeed in their goal of contextualizing lingchi in relation to Western forms of punishment, noting the availability of the death penalty for a variety of relatively trivial offences in 18th-century England, as well as the appalling conditions that prevailed on prison ships that sailed from England to Australia...At a time when the debate about what constitutes acceptable forms of physical punishment, as well as the thorny question of a divergence between Western and Asian concepts of human rights, is so prevalent, 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 Supplement" (05/08/2008)

I highly recommend "Death by a Thousand Cuts" as a book that offers a broad introduction to a history and a culture by concentrating on a single subject.--Steve Noyes"Vancouver Sun" (04/26/2008)

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--this is a history of violence that refuses to take the place of pain and violence in human life as timeless...With judicious analysis, imaginative reconstructions from difficult and sparse sources, and a compelling sense of injustice driving it all, the book is gripping.--Priya Satia"Times Literary Supplement" (02/27/2009)

This is a learned and educational book.--Jonathan Mirsky"Literary Review" (11/01/2008)

Foucault's work explicitly informs "Death by a Thousand Cuts" but the purpose of this new book is different from that of the French philosopher. This fascinating and necessarily appalling study describes how photographs of the executed man were circulated by French soldiers and other westerners in the imperial capital and the images added to others of "oriental despotism." Be warned: this is a close reading of "lingchi" and its significance, which means it contains plenty of toe-curling descriptions of slicing flesh and gougings. Not for the faint-hearted, it offers an engaging insight into the way China's highest legal punishment came to feed into western notions of imperial China as a cruel society.--Clifford Coonan"South China Post" (08/17/2008)

An ambitious, important book that will stimulate wide reflection. The authors explore the most infamous of Chinese tortures, tracing the ways in which the concept of 'death by a thousand cuts' took on a life of its own in European discourse about China, as well as in China's discourse about itself. Not the least of the book's virtues is the way it dismantles hasty judgments and received ideas about Chinese culture, ideas that leak from past to present, from the judicial realm to other areas of human activity. Its interdisciplinary reach and the brio with which it is carried out are remarkable.--Haun Saussy, author of "Great Walls of Discourse and Other Adventures in Cultural China"

This original and ambitious work reaches out to a wide audience. It aims to explain the general position of 'torture' in the Chinese legal system and the specific roles of the extreme punishment known as lingchi, 'death by slicing, ' in Chinese political practice. The authors draw on an impressive range of materials as well as an unusual variety of visual images to situate the practice of lingchi in Chinese history, world history, and Western imaginations. The book is revelatory on Georges Bataille's uncertain role in his famous work presenting Chinese death by slicing amidst European practices. The reconstruction of the history of the lingchi practice itself is nuanced and judicious.--R. Bin Wong, author of "China Transformed: Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience"


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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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Die Behauptungen früherer Kolonialimperien, die "Wilden müssten zivilisiert werden", sollten noch jedem aus dem Geschichtsunterricht bekannt sein. Dass die "Wilden" zivilisierter waren als ihre späteren Herren, sieht man zum Beispiel hier beim Vergleich der Todesstrafe für Kapitalverbrechen im kaiserlichen China und dem Vereinigten Königreich: Im U.K. wurden die Verurteilten bei vollem Bewusstsein beinahe gehängt, dann kastriert, die Gedärme aus dem Leib geschnitten und vor ihren Augen verbrannt, bevor sie gevierteilt wurden. In China wurden die mit Opium sedierten, nach den ersten Schnitten durch einen Stich ins Herz getöteten Verurteilten zu Sushi verarbeitet: In kleine Stücke geschnitten. Dies nicht etwas, um ihnen spitze Schreie der äußersten Qual zu entlocken, sondern ihre Seelen zu verdammen: Nach dem Jenseitsglauben des kaiserlichen Chinas sucht die Seele der Verstorbenen ihren Körper. Ist dieser in viele Teile zerteilt, ist sie für alle Ewigkeit verdammt.
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I read this book because I came across "lingchi" execution photos many years ago. The French writer Georges Bataille had published them in his book "Tears Of Eros".
I forgot the pictures, but remained ever appalled by how Bataille could see "ecstasy" in the face of the victim. I couldn't wait to read "Death by a Thousand Cuts" now, because I wanted to find out what was really behind those pictures. It was unexpected and a pleasant surprise that the authors dedicated a whole chapter to Bataille's interpretation.
The first part of the book is about justice/criminal history, and I was relieved to learn that "lingchi" never was a regular or frequent way of execution, and that when it was inflicted upon someone, it was not out of sadism but for superstitious reasons.
And I found the second part of the book particularly fascinating (Chinese Torture in the Western Mind (Octave Mirbeau e.g.) -, Misreading Lingchi, etc.).
Besides all that, I found it very well written, so I read the whole book through in two evenings. I am no English native speaker, but my impression is that the authors manage to talk about this horrible topic in a tactful and humane way.
It's not an easy read of course. The photos will make you feel ill, even if you have seen them before, and also do many of the quoted texts. It is a book that certainly needs time to settle.
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Von schlimmerdurst TOP 500 REZENSENT am 19. Dezember 2011
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Das Verhältnis zwischen China und Europa war immer schwankend. Zunächst geprägt von Unkenntnis, die sich in Mystifizierung äußerte, dann von Halbwissen, das im politisch aufgeheizten Weltklima des 19.Jh. zu Abgrenzungs- und Kolonialisierungszwecken mißbraucht wurde, und schließlich heute von fast ausschließlich wirtschaftlichen Betrachtungen, ist China trotzdem noch ein Geheimnis für viele Europäer. Ein Thema, das immer schon für Spannungen sorgte, war die unterschiedliche Bestrafungskultur, oder zumindest die unterschiedliche Wahrnehmung derselben. Um dieses Thema dreht sich dieser Band, der als Aufhänger für die Diskussion ein spektakuläres Beispiel heranzieht: Den Tod durch Zerschneidung des Körpers in Einzelteile, chinesisch "lingchi".

Die Geschichte dieser Todesstrafe wird von ihrem wohl mongolischem Ursprung durch die Ming- und Qing-Dynastien erzählt, doch in diesem Buch geht es um mehr als nur diese Strafe an sich: Die Hintergründe, warum gerade das lingchi als schlimmer erachtet wurde als das Köpfen oder Erwürgen, die gegenseitige Beeinflussung der diesseitigen Justiz mit religiösen Nachweltbeschreibungen wie dem Yuli chaozhuan, sowie die Rezeption der chinesischen Bestrafungskultur im Westen, die sich durch einen extremen voyeuristischen Fetischismus auszeichnet, werden ausführlich beleuchtet - das Buch gibt daher eine detaillierte Einführung in die Geschichte der Rechtsexekutive des kaiserlichen China.

Leider hält der Schreibstil des Autorentrios manchmal nicht mit dem äußerst interessanten Inhalt mit.
Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 von 5 Sternen 1 Rezension
17 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Profound, disturbing, and enlightening 9. Januar 2009
Von glamaFez - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
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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