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Death by a thousand cuts
Related: Tears of Eros (1961) - torture - China
Tears of Eros (1961) features photographs of this execution method.
Death by a thousand cuts ( pinyin: líng chí) was a method of torture and execution in China, in which small bits of skin or flesh were cut from an individual over a period of days. Some victims were reportedly given doses of opium. This method of execution was officially abolished in 1907.
The phrase is often used metaphorically to describe the gradual destruction of something, such as an institution or program, by repeated minor attacks. The term is also used in business management to describe a product or idea that is damaged or destroyed by too many minor changes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_by_a_thousand_cuts [Dec 2004]
Photographs of at least one instance of this execution exist (warning: these photographs are extremely graphic):  (http://www.hannotations.com/hannibal/images/fou.jpg), (http://www.secrel.com.br/jpoesia/ag9bataille.htm). The photographs were reportedly taken by one Louis Carpeaux, who, along with a George Dumas, is supposed to have witnessed and photographed the execution on April 10, 1905. The photographs were published in Dumas' 1923 work, Treatise of Psychology.  (http://www.xmission.com/pub/lists/zorn-list/archive/v02.n123)
The execution proclamation is reported to state "'The Mongolian Princes demand that the aforesaid Fou-Tchou-Le, guilty of the murder of Prince Ao-Han-Ouan, be burned alive, but the Emperor finds this torture too cruel and condemns Fou-Tchou-Li to slow death by Leng-Tch-e (cutting into pieces). Respect this!"  (http://www.va.com.au/parallel/x1/journal/lmw/coup.html)
Other uses or citations of the 1905 photographs include:
Adrien Borel, Georges Bataille's analyst, introduced Bataille to the photographs. Bataille became fascinated by the photographs, reportedly gazing at them daily. He included the photos in his The Tears of Eros. (1961; translated to English and published by City Lights in 1989)  (http://www.jcrt.org/archives/04.3/york.pdf)
Mentioned in Hannibal
The 1905 incident inspired a brief reference in Thomas Harris's novel Hannibal (2000): "...police photographs of his (Lecter's) outrages were bootlegged to collectors of hideous arcana. They were second in popularity only to the execution of Fou-Tchou-Li."  (http://hannibal.hannotations.com/hannibal1.html)
Susan Sontag and the 1905 Fou-Tchou-Le Photographs
Susan Sontag mentions the 1905 case in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003). One reviewer wrote that though Sontag includes no photographs in her book—a volume about photography—"she does tantalisingly describe a photograph that obsessed the perverse philosopher Georges Bataille, in which a Chinese criminal, while being chopped up and slowly flayed by executioners, rolls his eyes heavenwards in transcendent bliss."  (http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/politicsphilosophyandsociety/0%2C6121%2C1011239%2C00.html)
Saxophonist and composer John Zorn used at least one of the 1905 photos with his 1992 Naked City album, Leng Tch'e. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_by_a_thousand_cuts [Dec 2004]
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