Causes are generally decided, and Sentence given by a single Mandarin, who, after a short Process, and Examination of both Parties, orders the Loser to be bastinado'd, either for carrying on an unjust Prosecution, or maintaining a Cause contrary to Equity. The Bastinado is a COMMON PUNISHMENT for the meaner People, but cannot be inflicted upon a Mandarin, though never so inconsiderable, till he is depriv'd of his Office.
The next Punishment to this is a Collar made of two Pieces of Wood, hollow'd in the middle, and smaller or greater, according to the Nature of the Crime; this is put on the Delinquent's Neck, and seal'd with the Seal of the Tribunal, with a Piece of Paper denoting the Duration of the Punishment, and the Quality of the Crime.
These two are all the Punishments, except the Prison, that the Chinese Laws permit the Mandarins to inflict on Criminals : They may, indeed, condemn to Exile, but their Sentence must be examined by the Supreme Courts : They cannot legally put any to Death ; but in Cases of Sedition and Revolt, the Emperor gives Authority to the Tsong tou, and sometimes to the Viceroy, to punish with immediate Death.
The three Capital Punishments are. Strangling, Beheading, and cutting in Pieces; this last is only inflicted on those who murder their Masters, Rebels, Traitors, and merciless Robbers. The Punishment for ordinary Crimes which deserve Death, is Strangling. Beheading is the second Degree, at which the Executioner is very dexterous ; not a Drop of Blood falls on the Criminals Habit, who on the Day of Execution is sure to be well dress'd, it being customary for his Friends and Relations to assist him with all Necessaries at this calamitous Time. Execution is not done on a Scaffold, but on the Ground. The Soldiers are commonly made use of for this purpose; the Employment is not accounted scandalous, but the contrary, if they aft their Part well. At Peking the Executioner accompanies the Criminal to the Place appointed, and is distinguish'd by an Apron of yellow Silk, which is the Imperial Colour ; and his Cutlast is wrap'd in Silk of the same kind, to shew that he acts by the Authority of the Emperor, that the People may pay him the greater Respect.
It must be acknowledged, that in the Chinese Books; mention is made of Punishments of other kinds, and much more cruel ; but it must be observ'd at the same time, that they have never been made use of, but by barbarous Princes, such as have been look'd upon as Tyrants by the whole Nation. Justice, say they, is necessary, but not Cruelty.
Though the Power of the Magistrate in criminal Matters is thus restrain'd by the Laws , yet, in civil Causes, it may in a manner be said to be absolute, because all Affairs which relate to private Persons only, are judged by the great provincial Officers, without any Appeal to the supreme Courts of Peking.
That which chiefly employs the inferior Mandarins, whether Tchi tcheo, Tchi hien, or Ouei cheou pei, is the gathering of Taxes, for to them this Office personally belongs. Though the Lands in every Province are measured, and the proportionable Payment, justed, according to the Richness of the Soil; yet, either through Poverty, or Avarice, they are unwilling to part with it, till they are sufficiently harass'd by the inferior Officers, If these Excisemen are reproached for their Cruelty, they will alledge in their own Justification, that if they do not carry Matters to the utmost Extremity, they must receive the Bastinado for Neglect of Duty ; and the Mandarins justify them, selves, from the indispensable Necessity they are under to act in this manner ; for if they should fail of making the Returns at the appointed Time, they must make good the Deficiencies out of their own proper Substance, for fear of being turn'd out of their Places, However, this has not hinder'd several Provinces from running greatly in Debt to the Royal Treasury, which probably they will never be able to pay. But to remedy this Inconvenience for the future, the present Emperor has ordered, that henceforward the Proprietors of the Land, and not the Occupiers, shall pay the Taxes,
Besides the great Mandarins of every Province already mention'd, there is one still more considerable, called, Tsong tou. His Jurisdiction extends over two Provinces, unless they are exceeding large, Hou quang, Chensi, &c, But then these large Provinces are divided into two Governments, and each Government: has its proper Viceroy, How far his Power extends over the Viceroy's, is determined either by Law or Custom, for his Superiority is very much limited, but the Decision of Causes always belongs to him, if there is an Appeal to him from either of the Provincial Governors.
In China there are reckoned 173 Tribunals or Jurisdictions, immediately subject to the General Officers and Governors of every Province, called Fou by the Chinese. There are 1408 inferior Tribunals, or subaltern Jurisdiction, which depend immediately on the Tchi Fou, whereof 1173 have the Title of Hien, and 335 have that of Tcbeou. These latter differ a little from each other; the greatest Part have no Jurisdiction over the Hien ; and others have a Jurisdiction over one, two, and sometimes four Hien, almost equal to that of the T,chifoii ; and there are several of them which have no Dependance on the Tchifou, but owe their Authority immediately to the Viceroy.