Kyukei (castration penalty) (宮刑)

Kyukei (Castration penalty) is a kind of penalty to castrate criminals. The evidence shows that this type of penalty existed throughout the globe, while the examples in China are the most well-known.

Castration in China

In China, it was also called "Fukei." This penalty was mostly conducted against male criminals, but it was also applied to female criminals in some cases such as confinement and forced labour instead; however, it also appears to be true that even female criminals were sterilized in some cases. Most of the male criminals imposed this penalty later joined the Court as eunuchs. In Japanese slang word, the act of cutting off the penis or genital of a man is called "Rasetsu," although this act does not necessarily mean the same with the cases of penalty in China.

In ancient China, the castration penalty was considered as the second most severe penalty next to the death sentence. When applied to male criminals, there were the cases of extirpating both penis and testicles, or the case of extirpating testicles only. In cases of conducting castration as a penalty against criminals, the former case was more likely applied. Studies suggest various possibilities regarding the use of this penalty against female criminals; some suggest that this penalty was not applied to women; some say this penalty was replaced by the penalty of confinement for life for women; and some mention the possibility that the vagina was stitched up, or the ovaries or womb were extracted. Since this was the penalty conducted against criminals, they were not treated well after the excision of the genitals, and a rough treatment method was taken by burying them under heated soil to their neck, which was seen among those castration penalty cases conducted before the Han Dynasty period. Inevitably, the death rate of those criminals received this penalty type could have been high.

However, the Courts gave important posts to those punished criminals as eunuchs to work in the Court, and the number of people who cut off the genitals by themselves increased in later periods in order to become eunuchs. Due to its popularity, the Sui Dynasty abolished this type of penalty. Along with the increase in the number of self-extirpated eunuchs, the method of the complete removal of the genital parts was invented and refined, decreasing the death rate to less than 1% by the end of the Qing Dynasty. Once abolished, the penalty of castration was reinstated in the Ming Dynasty and utilized against male criminals among a wide variety of social classes, from high officials in the government to the labourers who produced salt.

A study mentions that the removal of genital parts to eliminate the virility meant the discontinuation of his family name, which was understood as a total expulsion from his family and severe punishment under Confucianism, which values the service for the dead as its most important, moral act.

There are two possible reasons for the alternative name of the castration penalty: "腐刑" (literally, "rot down penalty") that the wound of the castrated criminal gave off a bad smell, or there was a method to remove genital parts by tying them to decay themselves by stopping the blood flow.

Outside of the Court, this custom was also conducted in areas such as the Korean Peninsula.

Castration penalty in Japan

There is an instance of castration penalty described in Japanese code book, "Kenmu Shikimoku" ("the Rules and Regulations of Kenmu").

The method of how the penalty was conducted is described in "Go Taiheiki" that the genital parts (penis or scrotum) of a man were removed, while the vagina was stitched up in case of applying this penalty against female criminals.

The actual incidents were also recorded in "Kotei Kisho, volume 7" ("Excerpt From the Imperial Age") that the pupils of Honen priest, Gyouku and Jyunsai, received the penalty of "Rasetsu" for violating precepts by committing adultery in 1207.

Furthermore, there is also a record regarding this type of penalty conducted against prisoners of war.

When a powerful feudal lord of the western Honshu region, Yoshitaka OISHI, was overthrown by the treason of his vassal, Harukata SUE, on September 1, 1551 at the Nagato Tainei-ji Temple, the son of Yoshitaka, Kanjyumaru succeeded in escaping to the mountains by dressing as a woman, although he was captured the following year by the SUE clan's vassal, and was killed on the spot; his penis was cut off and brought to Harutaka as the proof of Kanjumaru's death. At the actual spot of Kanjumaru's capture near Tawarayama Hot Spring in Yamaguchi Prefecture, there is a temple called Mara-kannon Temple built by the villagers who felt sympathy for Kanjumaru.

Castration penalty in the United States today

In some states within the United States of America today, castration is provided as an alternative to imprisonment and is conducted as a penalty for sex offenders at their request.

The method of castration is normally a chemical operation by which the testicles atrophied using a chemical injection, while extraction of testicles in surgical operation was also conducted in Texas, in 1997 and 2007.

Famous people who received castration penalty

Shibasen (the writer of "Shi-ki" [the history record of the ancient China])

Teiwa (he received the castration penalty as a prisoner of war)

[Original Japanese]