Soon after its release in 2001, Sandalwood Death (檀香刑)was asserted by some critics that its author Mo Yen(莫言), who received Nobel Prize in Literature 2012, would have won the big global prize solely with this work. Highly regarded a fine work of aesthetics of violence, set in the late Qing dynasty at the time of Boxer Rebellion and the invasion of the Eight-Nation Alliance, this novel details two cruelest deaths ever invented by mankind, lingering dismemberment and sandalwood death. According to Qing’s criminal code, prisoners were subject to such death pending on the seriousness of the crime committed.
The prisoner sentenced to death by lingering dismemberment meant that he would be killed “piece by piece.” If the criminal was doomed to be killed by 500 “pieces” meaning that the executioner would use all sorts of knives to cut five hundred times on the body fresh, piece by piece with each slash. The executioner should try to prolong the criminal’s life before his job was done. The executioner would be disqualified if he let the condemned die before the final cut. Such punishment was purposed to extend a prisoner’s pain as long as possible.
Sandalwood death was more horrible. The executioner would use a long thin piece of sandalwood stick to intubate into the dead man’s anus all through up the intestines and penetrate out at his collar bone; however, the insertion should be carefully done not to harm the heart. The stick must be cooked and immersed in oil properly before the execution, which was to keep the stick from being adhered by blood halfway through the intestines. Ginseng soup must also be prepared. It would be watered down the prisoner’s throat from time to time to last his life for at least five days before he took his last breath. Sandalwood death was designed to make the man pain to extremes.
Such punishments were all abolished in 1905, six years before Qing dynasty was overthrown by the revolutionary led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The reason such cruel punishments had existed hundreds of years in China was that it was firmly believed to serve great as deterrence. People would be too scared to attempt anything wrong.
In my opinion, these two punishments should be temporarily reinstated to execute the businessmen making and selling tainted cooking oil that had done great harm to consumers’ health.