Guilt By Asscociation

It is Tomb Sweeping Day again - Cheng Beng - the day when Chinese families pay a visit to the tombs of their ancestors to make a prayer. Over lunch, Swee Ling told me her father advised members of her family to just burn one joss stick each instead of  the usual three. Just how much pollution we have all caused, Swee Ling lamented. I just thought Guy Fawkes Night otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night  or Firework Night would similarly be a hazard. But then of course, I don't know. Guy Fawkes Day has never been celebrated here. The17th century guy, as has been recorded in History, had tried to assassinate James I of England and after having failed, was convicted of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. That means he was to be fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to a place to be hanged, emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and chopped into four pieces. In Ancient China, treason is just as serious and a person would also be put to death. Worse still, in what the Chinese termed as the nine familial exterminations or nine kinship exterminations ( 株连九族) zhū lián jiǔ zú, the entire clan - parents, grandparents, brethren, sworn brothers, children, grandchildren and those living with the person regardless of surname, uncles and the children of brethren would be put to death by slow slicing (lingchi  凌迟) all just because of guilt by association zú zhū (族誅) . Punishment of this sort however was rare as had been recorded by History and had in fact, been abolished in 1905 during the Qing Dynasty. You'd be surprised if Modern Chinese called for this kind of punishment!


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