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June 26, 2024

30 Historical Photos of Prisoners in the Cangue in China From Between the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

A cangue, in Chinese referred to as a jia or tcha is a device that was used for public humiliation and corporal punishment in East Asia and some other parts of Southeast Asia until the early years of the twentieth century. It was also occasionally used for or during torture. Because it restricted a person’s movements, it was common for people wearing cangues to starve to death as they were unable to feed themselves.

A form of pillory used in China for minor offenses, the cangue is described here by the writer F. Alverez Semedo in his History of China:
“It is a great thick board, four or five palme square, with a hole cut in the middle of it about the bigness of a man’s neck. This they fasten about their necks, and to it are hung two scrolls of paper of a hand’s breadth, wherein are written his fault, and the cause of his punishment; they serve also to show that the board has not been opened; and so with these great boards about their necks, these poor wretches are brought out every day and exposed to shame in the public streets, for fifteen, twenty or thirty days, according as they are adjudged by their sentence, whose greatest rigour is that during all that time these boards are not taken off their necks, neither night or day.”
The word “cangue” is French, from the Portuguese “canga,” which means yoke, the carrying tool has also been used to the same effect, with the hands tied to each arm of the yoke. Frequently translated as pillory, it was similar to that European punishment except that the movement of the prisoner’s hands was not as rigorously restricted and that the board of the cangue was not fixed to a base and had to be carried around by the prisoner.

At times, the cangue was used as a general means of restraining prisoners along with manacles and leg chains; this was true particularly of those with grave sentences or low social standing.


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