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Chinese criminals in cangues
Private collection of Nigel Maister
A cangue is a device that was used for public humiliation and corporal punishment in China and some other parts of East Asia and Southeast Asia, until the early years of the twentieth century. It was somewhat similar to the stocks used for punishment in the West, except that the board of the cangue was not fixed to a base, and had to be carried around by the prisoner.
Although there are many different forms, a typical cangue would consist of a large, heavy flat board with a hole in the center large enough for a person's neck. The board consisted of two pieces. These pieces were closed around a prisoner's neck, and then fastened shut along the edges by locks or hinges. The opening in the center was large enough for the prisoner to breathe and eat, but not large enough for a head to slip through. The prisoner was confined in the cangue for a period of time as a punishment. The size and especially weight were varied as a measure of severity of the punishment. Often the cangue was large enough that the prisoner required assistance to eat or drink, because his hands could not reach his own mouth.
The word "cangue" is French, from the Portuguese "canga," which means yoke - that carrying tool has also been used to the same effect, with the hands tied to each arm of the yoke.