Waist chop

A prisoner is executed on a wooden bench with a large blade.

Waist chop or waist cutting (simplified Chinese: 腰斩; traditional Chinese: 腰斬; pinyin: Yāo zhǎn), also known as cutting in two at the waist,[1] was a form of execution used in ancient China.[2] As its name implies, it involved the condemned being sliced in two at the waist by an executioner.


Waist chopping first appeared during the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 BC – 256 BC). There were three forms of execution used in the Zhou dynasty: chēliè (車裂; quartering the prisoner alive), zhǎn (斬; waist chop), and shā (殺; beheading).[3] Sometimes the chopping was not limited to one slice.

Gao Qi, a Ming dynasty poet, was sentenced by the Hongwu Emperor to be sliced into eight parts for his politically satirical writing.[4]

An episode not attested in the official histories recounts that in 1734, Yu Hongtu (俞鴻圖), the Education Administrator of Henan, was sentenced to a waist chop. After being cut in two at the waist, he remained alive long enough to write the Chinese character cǎn (慘; "miserable, awful") seven times with his own blood before dying. After hearing this, the Yongzheng Emperor abolished this form of execution.[5]

In the modern Chinese language, "waist chop" has evolved to become a metaphor for the cancellation of an ongoing project, especially cancellation of television programs.

See also


  1. ^ Ulrich Lau; Thies Staack (19 May 2016). Legal Practice in the Formative Stages of the Chinese Empire: An Annotated Translation of the Exemplary Qin Criminal Cases from the Yuelu Academy Collection. Brill Publishers. pp. 358–. ISBN 978-90-04-31565-5.
  2. ^ American Association for Chinese Studies (1998). American Journal of Chinese Studies. American Association for Chinese Studies.
  3. ^ "揭秘古代酷刑:"腰斩"的历史从产生到消失". Ifeng.com. 2008-07-09. Archived from the original on 2014-04-24.
  4. ^ 祝允明《野记》:“魏守(观)欲复府治,兼疏溶城中河。御史张度劾公,有‘典灭王之基,开败国之河’之语。盖以旧治先为伪周所处,而卧龙街西淤川,即旧所谓锦帆泾故也。上大怒,置公极典。高太史启,以作《新府上梁文》与王彝皆与其难。高被截为八段云。”
  5. ^ 林濤《正說清朝三百年》


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