Arthur Griffiths: The History and Romance of Crime
Oriental Prisons from the Earliest Times
Oriental Prisons: Prisons and crime in India, the Andaman Islands, Burmah, China, Japan, Egypt and Turkey. It is as true of crime in the Orient as of other habits, customs and beliefs of the East, that what has descended from generation to generation and become not only a tradition but an established fact, is accepted as such by the people, who display only a passive indifference to deeds of cruelty and violence. Each country has its own peculiar classes of hereditary criminals, and the influence of tradition and long established custom has made the eradication of such crimes a difficult matter.
Religion in the East has had a most notable influence on crime. In India the Thugs or professional stranglers were most devout and their criminal acts were preceded by religious rites and ceremonies. In China the peculiar forms of animism pervading the religion of the people has greatly influenced criminal practices. Murder veiled in obscurity is frequently attributed to some one of the legion of evil spirits who are supposed to be omnipresent; and to satisfy and appease these demons innocent persons are made to suffer. So great, too, is the power of the spirit after death to cause good or ill, that many stories are related of victims of vi injustice who have hanged themselves on their persecutors' door-posts, thus converting their spirits into wrathful ghosts to avenge them. The firm belief in ghosts and their power of vengeance and reward is a great restraint in the practice of infanticide, as the souls of murdered infants may seek vengeance and bring about serious calamity.
Oriental prison history is one long record of savage punishments culminating in the death penalty, aggravated by abominable tortures. The people are of two classes, the oppressed and the oppressors, and the last named have invented many devices for legal persecution. In early China and Japan, relentless and ferocious methods were in force.