Explore the grim history of the Caishikou Execution Grounds in Beijing where countless executions took place, and some say that is haunted by the people that met their end there.

Caishikou Execution Grounds (菜市口法场), located in Beijing, held a dark and important place in the city’s history. The place was also called the Vegetable Market Execution Ground and was established during the late Ming dynasty when China entered into the Qing Dynasty and continued for centuries.

During the Qing dynasty, execution procedures changed significantly. Executions took on a more formal character, with punishments being imposed according to the severity of the offense and the status of the victim and many well known victims from Chinese history were executed right there. 

Corpses of the beheaded convicts were often placed outside of Caishikou as an example to discourage others from committing similar crimes, and later, it was even turned into a macabre tourist attraction with the spectacle of death as well as selling postcards with photos of the dead bodies well into the 1900s. 

Because of its dark history and the blood that was shed on the spot, many claim that this is one of the more haunted places in the city and there have been many reports about people seeing the ghost of the executed convicts in the old vegetable market. 

The History of Caishikou Execution Grounds

Caishikou Execution Grounds were an important part of the Chinese legal system for centurie and served as a centralized execution site and symbolized the ultimate power of justice in the hands of the dynasty. Executions were conducted publicly with little mercy, punishing those found guilty of capital crimes such as treason, theft, counterfeiting, murder, and other offenses, and if it was a famous convict, large crowds would gather to watch. 

The Caishikou Execution Grounds is also known for the many famous people that died here. The House of Zhu that ruled in the Ming Dynasty was purged and executed here when the Manchu led dynasty came into power for example. There were also many people that were a part of the Boxer Rebellion who met their end here. 

The Exact Location of the Caishikou Execution Grounds

The exact location of the execution grounds in modern day urban Beijing has been a matter for debate for some time as it was definitely not the only place in Beijing they held executions. While most people agree that it is located in what is now the Chaoyang District of Beijing, there is disagreement about exactly which area it was located in and its size. 

It was located at the crossroad of Xuanwumen Outer Street and Luomashi Street, but today when looking at photos, it is most likely across from the Heniantang Pharmacy.

The Executions

When a convict was scheduled for an execution it was at 11:30 AM and the convict was escorted in a cart to the Caishikou Execution Grounds from the jail. Before reaching the final stop, the cart stopped at a wine shop called Broken Bowl Tea House on the east side of Xuanwu Gate that was called The Gate of Death. 

This was the last stop before the final stop and  the convict would be offered a last bowl of rice wine. After it was drunk the bowl of rice wine would be smashed and the convict sent to their deaths. It was also the place where the executioners retired after a day’s work to have a drink after. 

If they were sentenced to death by beheading they were lined up east to west in the autumn before winter solstice when most executions took place. But if you had done a particular horrible crime, you could also be sentenced to Linchi, or slow death where they slice you up, piece by piece. 

Death by a Thousand Cuts 

One of the more gruesome methods of execution during the Qing dynasty was death by a thousand cuts or Lingchi (凌遲) as it was known in China. This method typically involved a series of deep cuts being inflicted on the criminal’s body and then left to bleed until the person died from extreme blood loss. 

This form of torture was considered especially cruel and often took over an hour for the prisoner to expire, making it one of the most agonizing executions employed at Caishikou until the method was outlawed by the government of the Qing dynasty in 1905.

It was not only because of the torture aspect of the death it was considered particular cruel, but also what it did for the afterlife. The body was important to have whole in Chinese tradition and eunuchs even kept their severed parts in glass jars to have them buried with them so that it wouldn’t affect their afterlife or next life. 

Lingchi was an execution method only given to crimes that were especially bad, like treason. Several well known Chinese figures in history died by this way, like General Yuan Chonghuan, one of the people executed at the place on September the 22nd, 1630. It is said he has his own ghost story where he is haunting his tomb, but the execution ground itself is said to be haunted as well.

The Ghost of the Six Gentlemen of the Hundred Days Reform

The Six Gentlemen of the Hundred Days Reform (戊戌六君子) or the Six Gentlemen of Wuxu was young officials who put forward a preposition to the Guanxu Emperor of reform in the empire after it was met with pushback from the conservatives at court. 

They were arrested by the Empress Dowager Cixi and executed in 1898 by beheading without having gotten a trial by the Ministry of Justice. 

These executed men are said to be haunting the place as well as Chinese history and the what if of what would have happened to the course of the country if the reforms had been successful. 

Today the place is known for being one of the spots tainted with blood and is a well known cold spot for ghost sightseeing. 

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