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Appendix II. Punishments by Altering the Clothing

In HS 6: 4b, Emperor Wu reveals his acceptance of the belief that anciently, in the times of Yao and Shun, punishments were only symbolic, merely requiring criminals to wear certain articles of clothing. This myth was ancient in his day; the actual practise in early historic times seems to have been to mutilate a criminal in such a way as to indicate his crime by the type of mutilation. This myth took different forms, which are here presented.

Hsün-tzu (ca. 320-235 B.C.) ch. XVIII (cf. Dubs' trans., p. 193; also quoted in HS 23: 21a) writes, "The ordinary sophists of the age say, `In the well-governed ancient times, there were no mutilating punishments, but instead [symbolic] punishments [were used], portraying [the crime in the criminal's clothing. Instead of] tatooing [the criminal's face], there was wearing a [black] turban; [instead of amputating the nose, there was wearing] a grass cord about the neck [worn in mourning, cf. Li-chi, XVIII, ii, 6; Couvreur, II, 134]; [instead of] castration, [there was wearing] a grey apron [or cutting off the apron]; [instead of] amputating the feet, [there was wearing] hemp sandals; [instead of] execution, [there was wearing] ochre red garments without any borders---in the ancient well-governed times [punishments] were like the foregoing.' This was not so." (In the above passage, for 黥, read 幪; before 搔, insert 劓; for 搔, read 草; for 嬰, read 纓; for 共, read 宮; for 畢, read 韠; for 菲, read 剕; and for 對, read ###.)

In a note to Hsün-tzu 12:5a, Yang Liang (fl. 818) quotes the Shen-tzu (lost; Shen Tao was a contemporary of Hsün-tzu, living in the first part of the third cent. B.C.) as saying, "In his punishments, the possessor of Yü, [Shun], used designs on the feet to take the place of tatooing; he used a grass cord to take the place of amputating the nose; he used hemp sandals instead of amputating the feet; and he used a grey apron instead of castration. These were the punishments [used by] the possessor of Yü."

In a note to HS 6: 4b, Wang Hsien-ch'ien remarks that this saying arose from a passage in the Book of History II, i, 11 (Legge, I, p. 38), which says that Shun 象以典刑. ibid. II, iv, i, 8 (Legge, I, 86) says that Kao-yao 方放象刑惟明. From either of these passages the belief in punishments portraying the crime could have arisen, but neither passage bears that meaning when strictly interpreted. Legge translates the first, "He gave delineations of the statutory punishments," and the second, "Kao-yao is . . . employing the represented punishments with entire intelligence," quoting in proof of his interpretation for the latter passage, the interpretative quotation of this passage in the SC (Mh I, 159). Hsün-tzu seems accordingly to have been correct in denying the exactness of Shen Tao's interpretation of the Book of History. The present Bamboo Books date a revival of the symbolic punishments in the reigns of Kings Ch'eng and K'ang; cf. n. 5.1.

In spite of Hsün-tzu's denial, this belief nevertheless continued to flourish and grow. Emperor Wen mentions it (cf. HS 23: 13a). The Shang-shu Ta-ch'uan (compiled in the ii cent. B.C. from material previously reworked; lost; fragments recovered from quotations) 1 B: 8 reads, "T'ang [Yao] and Yü [Shun] [had symbolic] punishments portraying [the crime in the criminal's clothing], and then the people did not presume to commit [crime]. The multitude of the people utilized [these] punishments and the people progressed, [assisting] each other to advance. The punishments of T'ang [Yao] and Yü [Shun] were: for a serious punishment, ochre red clothes without any border; for medium punishment, many-colored shoes; for a light punishment, a black turban, while [the criminal was made to] dwell in his department and hamlet, and the people shamed him."

The Hsiao-ching Wei Yüan-sheng Ch'i (prob. end of i cent. B.C.; lost; recovered from quotations) B: 7a, b, reads, "The three Sovereigns [Fu-hsi, Shen-nung, the Yellow Lord] had no writing; the five Lords [(Shao-hao, Chuan-hsü, K'u, Yao, Shun) used punishments] portraying the likenesses [of mutilating punishments]; the three Kings [(Yü, T'ang, Wen and Wu) used] mutilating punishments. Of those [who were punished by] portraying the likenesses [of mutilating punishments, those who had committed] great crimes [had to wear] black painting on red ochre clothes and many-colored sandals; [those who had committed] medium crimes [had to wear] red ochre clothes and many-colored sandals; [those who had committed] light crimes [had to wear] many-colored sandals."

Ying Shao, in a note to HS 6: 4b, writes, "These two Lords, [Yao and Shun], portrayed [crimes on the criminals'] clothing and headwear, changing their ornaments and clothing, and then the people did not dare to commit [crime]."

The Po-hu T'ung (i or iii cent.) in the Pao-ching T'ang Ts'ung-shu ed., (this passage is omitted in most other editions, but is also quoted by Yen Shih-ku in a note to HS 6: 4b), 4 A: 6b, says, "For those who [were punished by] the Five Lords by portraying the likenesses [of their punishments], their clothing showed likenesses to the five [mutilating] punishments. Those who had committed [crimes deserving punishment by] tatooing [were compelled to ]cover [their heads] with turbans; those who had committed [crimes deserving] the amputation of the nose [had to] use red ochre to apply to their clothes. Those who had committed [crimes deserving] amputation of the knee-cap [had to] use ink to cover their knee-caps, which in a symbolic [way] portrayed [the mutilating punishment]. Those who had committed [crimes deserving] castration [had to] wear variegated straw sandals. Those who had committed [crimes deserving] capital punishment [had to wear] ordinary clothes without a collar."

Emperor Wu's edict was thus merely repeating and giving imperial sanction to a belief accepted by many scholars in his time. Emperor Yüan also accepted this belief; cf. 9: 8a. Pan Ku agrees with Hsün-tzu; cf. HS 23: 21a-23b for his discussion of this matter.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia