This sort of punishment, being deemed in the highest degree ignominious , is only inflicted for crimes, which are regarded by the Chinese
government, as the most prejudicial to society ; such as conspiracy,assassination , committing any offence against the person of the Emperor, or attempting the life of any of the imperial family ; revolting, insurrection , striking a parent, or any other unnatural sort of crime. The malefactor, who is condemned to be beheaded, is made to kneel upon the ground, the board of infamy is taken from his back, and the executioner, by a single blow of a two - handed sword, strikes off his head with great dexterity. These headsmen , and indeed, the generality of inferior officers of justice in China, are selected from the soldiery, according to the custom of primitive barbarians ; neither is this employment considered more ignominious, than the post of principal officer of executive justice in other countries . Decapitation is held, by the Chinese, as the most disgraceful kind of death ; because the head, which is the principal part of a man , is separated from the body, and that body is not consigned to the grave as entire as he received it from his parents ..
If a great mandarin be convicted of any atrocious offence, he is executed in this manner like the meanest person . After the head is severed , it is frequently suspended from a tree, by the side of a public road ; the body is thrown into a ditch , the law having deemed it unworthy the respect of regular funereal rites .
When a sentence is submitted to the Emperor for his approbation, if the crime be of the first degree of atrocity , he orders the malefactor to be executed without delay ; when it is only of an ordinary nature, he
directs, that the criminal shall be imprisoned until the autumn, and then executed ; a particular day of that season being allotted for such ceremonies.
The Emperor of China seldom orders a subject to be executed , until he has consulted with his first law officers, whether he can avoid it, with out infringing on the constitution of his realm . He fasts for a certain
period, previous to signing an order for an execution ; and his imperial
majesty esteems those years of his reign the most illustrious and most
fortunate , in which he has had the least occasion to let fall upon his
subjects the rigorous sword of justice.