The Full Wiki

Nine exterminations: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Nine exterminations (Chinese: 株连九族, 株連九族, Pinyin: zhū lián jiǔ zú, literally "continuous elimination of nine tribes"; also known as 族誅 zú zhū "family execution" and 灭族, 滅族 miè zú "family extermination") or execution of nine relations was the most serious punishment for a capital offense in Ancient China. Typically associated with offenses such as treason, it involved the execution of all relatives of an individual, which are categorized into nine groups. The occurrence of this punishment is somewhat rare, with relatively few sentences recorded throughout history. There were also variants of the punishment found in ancient Koreamarker and Vietnammarker (the most prominent example being the family of Nguyễn Trãi).

Historical records

The punishment by nine exterminations is usually associated with tyrannical rulers which have reigned throughout Chinese history, who were prone to use inhumane methods of asserting control (compare with lingchi, or "death by ten thousand cuts"). The first written account of the concept is in the Classic of History, a historical account of the Shang (1600 BC – 1046 BC) and Zhou (1045 BC – 256 BC) Dynasties, where it is recorded that prior to a military battle, officers would threaten their subordinates that they would exterminate their families if they refused to obey orders.

From the Spring and Autumn period (770BC – 403BC), there are records of exterminations of "three tribes" (Chinese: 三族, see section below). A notable case where under the State of Qin, lawmaker Shang Yang had his entire family killed by order of King Huiwen of Qin,, while he himself was sentenced to death in 338 BC by being fastened to four chariots and pulled apart, an ironic occurrence as it was Shang Yang who formulated such a punishment into Qin law in the first place, being commonly recorded as a lawmaker who used excessive punishments.

During the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC), punishments became even more rigorous under the first emperor of the unified China state, Qin Shi Huang (259 BC – 210 BC). In order to uphold his rule, strict laws were enforced, where deception, libel and the study of books (see Burning of books and burying of scholars) became punishable by familial extermination. This increase in tyranny only helped to speed up the overthrow of the Qin Dynasty. The Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), although it inherited the concept of family execution, was more moderate in inflicting such severe punishments. In many cases, the Han Emperor would retract the sentence, and so family executions were much rarer than under the Qin Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), the family punishment was not abolished, but it was only applied to those who plotted against the rule of the Emperor. By this time, the penalty had become more regulated and different; from the Tang Code, the sentence involved the death of parents, children over the age of sixteen, and other close kindred, and was only applied to the offenses of treason and rebellion.

From the Mingmarker (1368 – 1644) and Qingmarker (1644 – 1912) Dynasties onward, the extent to which those within the family were exterminated was increased. Under the Hongwu Emperor (r. 1368 – 98), those committing rebellion and treason were punished by having their parents, grandparents, brethren (by birth, as well as "sworn brothers"), children, grandchildren, those cohabitating (living with) with the criminal regardless of surname, uncles and the children of brethren put to death, as well as death themselves by lingchi. The number of sentences during the Ming were higher than that of the Tang, due to the policy of "no emotions beneath the sword" (Chinese: 刀下留情), while females were given the choice to become slaves rather than to be killed. A rare case was Fang Xiaoru (1357 — 1402), whose students and friends were also executed as the 10th family by the Yongle Emperor (r. 1402 — 1424), the only case where the "ten exterminations" were carried out. The punishment by family extermination during the Qing Dynastymarker was a direct imitation of the regulation under the Ming.

The abolishment of the punishment by nine exterminations under the Qing occurred in 1905, where the punishment was officially repealed by the Qing government. The punishment by nine exterminations was never adopted by the Republic of Chinamarker nor the People's Republic of Chinamarker.


The punishment involved the execution of close and extended family members. These included:
  • The criminal's living parents
  • The criminal's living grandparents
  • Any children the criminal may have, over a certain age (which is usually variable depending on the time period)
  • Any grandchildren the criminal may have, over a certain age (which is usually variable depending on the time period)
  • Siblings and siblings-in-law (the siblings of the criminal and that of his or her spouse, in the case where he or she is married)
  • Uncles of the criminal, as well as their spouses
  • The criminal himself
Confucian principles also play a major role in the outline of the punishment; regarding the killing of children, such an act is disapproved by Confucian ethics, under the Mencius "offspring is not a sinner" (Classical Chinese: 罪人不孥) principle, and so children under a certain age are often exempt from death.

A rare case regarding familial extermination was that of Fang Xiaoru, whose students and friends were also executed as the 10th "group" by the Yongle Emperor, thus being the only recorded case of the eradication of "ten groups" of relations of a criminal.

There are different interpretations regarding the concept of group punishment in ancient times. Typically seen as an inhumane method of upholding rule, where innocent family members are killed for the crime of a relative, the punishment also acts as a deterrent against offenses such as treason, rather than as a punishment itself. As family members have the obligation to maintain the wellbeing of their family, such a punishment would prevent individuals from committing acts of treason. The punishment is also related to the ancient cultural tradition that the action of one shames the whole family, according to the works of Confucius and his disciples, so that in the case of an act of treason, by tradition the family bears the burden of punishment.

The "nine tribes"

In Ancient times, there were nine different relations (or guanxi) in which an individual had with other people, which were referred to as the "family" or "tribe" (Chinese: 族) during that period. These relations, under Confucian principles, were bonded by filial piety, which meant that because members of a family remained strictly loyal to one another, they were responsible for crimes committed by any member. It also provided the argument that the entire family would be responsible in supporting each other in the case of a rebellion against a ruler.

See also


  1. 族诛 - 中国百科网 Definition of "族诛" at the China Encyclopedia
  2. BIOGRAPHY Nguyen Trai (1380 - 1442) "A close adviser of two successive kings, he was finally suspected to have plotted for regicide. His family was harmed by traitors to the court. He and entire family were executed."
  3. 什么是“族诛” "What is 'Mie Zu'?" from the Primary School learning resources network (小学语文资源网)
  4. "Ancient Chinese law and judiciary", from the Research Institute of Chinese Culture (中國文化研究院)
  5. pg 80 of Classical China, ed. William H. McNeill and Jean W. Sedlar, Oxford University Press, 1970. LCCN: 68-8409
  6. 商鞅 为强秦奠基,为自己掘墓 "Shang Yang - The mighty lawmaker of Qin, digs his own grave" from Chinadaily "Shang Yang learned to read from a young age, and later created a series of reforms, his laws in excess of severity... However, the powerful state of Qin does not comply with the interests of all, bear the brunt of the old aristocracy. In the cancellation of privileges, they become the sworn enemy of Shang Yang."
  7. 商鞅究竟“做错”了什么 为何会被残忍分尸 "Shang Yang's mistakes and the reasons behind his merciless laws" - Phoenix TV report
  8. 张辉:秦制千年到红朝 "Qin system a millennium of red mornings" - China Report Weekly
  9. “株连九族”的历史演进 - 新华网 "The history and evolution of '株连九族' (Nine exterminations)" - Xinhua
  10. 晁智囊千慮一失被族誅(西漢)(圖) "Thousand worries of the extermination of a family (Western Han)" from the Chinese Civilisation network of the Chinese economic net (華夏文明——中國經濟網)
  11. 湖北第二师范学院:“株连九族” "History of Familial Extermination" from Hubei Normal College II (湖北第二师范学院)
  12. 中国死刑观察--明初酷刑 "Examination of China's death penalty - torture from the Ming" - Chinamonitor
  13. 倪正茂, 比较法学探析, 中国法制出版社, 2006 (Google Books)
  14. 《明大诰》(档案界) "Letters of Ming" from "The Archive Domain" (档案界 档案界门户网站)
  15. 汉字趣编(之十四)(刑) "Notable compilation 14 - Punishment" from Secondary school resources (中学语文教学资源网)
  16. Tianting Zheng, 清史 鄭天挺編著 (Google Books)
  17. 古代刑罰:"株連九族"酷刑的歷史演進 "Ancient punishments: The history of the torture of 'Nine Exterminations'"
  18. ZDIC definition of "族"

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address