Crime and Punishmen
Khitan law is documented in the ancient documents known as the Articles. These formidable tomes, bound in brass, bronze, silver and jade, outline every law, its application and the punishments that go with it. Almost every aspect of social conduct is covered although, for practical purposes, only those that concern the key crimes of theft, rape, arson, treason, fraud and blackmail are every applied rigorously.
Most of Khitai’s laws derive from the moral teachings of the ancestors and previous God Emperors, particularly the God Emperor Munhg-Nahn who delighted in the study of morality and how it the moral compass of the Khitan people should be calibrated.
The basic law concerns the devotion of children to parents and obedience of the government. The rest of the laws consist of orders handed down by the emperors and are often variations on a similar theme or clarifications on existing ones. It is the duty of the Ministers and the Zhuhou to teach the laws to the people through a variety of public proclamations, public notices and examples supported by lengthy reports on how a judicial decision or punishment has been determined.
If the law is broken then punishments are severe. The seriousness of a crime determines the form of punishment that is received. Beating with a bamboo stick is considered to be a mild punishment for public insults, disrespect and trivial theft. Pick-pockets are branded on the arms for their first and second offences, while a third offence brings them before the criminal courts and results in the amputation of limb. Armed robbery of any kind punishable by death.
Punishments for women are especially harsh and aimed at enforcing social compliance. Any girl who insults her parents is strangled; if she injures them with intent, then she is liable for torture and dismemberment.
A father is responsible for the conduct of his children and his slaves. If they commit any crimes that he could have prevented then he is charged. Stealing from a member of the family is considered a most heinous crime, especially if younger brothers take an inheritance that should have been shared between older brothers or uncles.
Those found informing, for any reason, on parents, grandparents, uncles or older brothers are struck 100 times with bamboo stick and exiled for three years either in the Swamps or the Kambuljan Marches. However, if the information the informer has given proves not to be true, then they are strangled.
Several crimes are punished by permanent exile, either to the Swamps, the Marches or beyond Khitai’s borders. In this kind of case all records of the individual are wiped and he is deemed to have never existed. Permanent exile tends to be the prerogative of the Zhou and Zhuhou rather than for the lower orders, although certain Qing and Han may be deemed worthy of such treatment.
Crimes such as rape, fraud, arson and criminal damage are punishable by the criminals having their cheeks branded by red-hot irons so that all will know of their misdeeds. The branding iron used is usually shaped into the Low Mandir character for the offence, so that no one is in any doubt of the crime committed.
The most shameful of all crimes is treason agains the emperor and it is punishable by decapitation – the most shameful of punishments. Anyone found guilty of treason against the God Emperor dooms not only himself but his wife, his parents and his siblings to the same fate. If a traitor has children, then they are sold directly into slavery.
Where execution is concerned, enqiwei (knights) are usually chosen to be the executioners and they are proud of thestrength needed to carry out their duties. The executioner accompanies his victim to the place of execution (generally a dank. underground chamber) where, wearing a yellow silk apron and with a sword wrapped in yellow, showing that he acts with the God Emperor’s authority, he conducts the beheading with a single blow. The best executioners pride themselves on being able to decapitate a prisoner without spilling a single drop of blood.
Other crimes deemed heinous in the eyes of the Articles:
* Family burial sites are considered sacred and cannot
be taken over by anyone else.
* It is forbidden, under pain of death, to cut trees down
until they die naturally and permission has been
granted for their felling.
* Nobody is permitted to remove any item from
any tomb – even a relative’s – on pain of limb