Ten Kilos of Rice cost four human lives and two broken families

This murder case was reported by the Deputy Governor of Shen-se to the Emperor and the Criminal Judge of Tsing Dynasty in Peking Gazette published in 1873. The murder of three members of one family was actually caused by only a Tow of rice, about 10 litres.

Ho Wan-chang is a native of Kea-chow and a fellow townsman of Lew Tang-jin. Lew’s wife called Lew Wei-she, they have two sons.

Lew Tang-jin borrowed a Tow of rice from Ho Wan-chang, promised to return it soon. After a while Lew Tan-jin was carried off by the rebels, and Ho Wan-chang on several occasions asked the woman Lew Wei-she to pay him back the rice; but all to no purpose.

After this, Lew Wei-she wishing to go away on a visit to her parents, gave a box containing her head ornaments to Ho Wan-chang’s mother to keep for her until her return home. Ho Wan-chang hearing of this, on his return to the house, and knowing that Lew Wei-she was a woman of violent disposition, advised his mother to return the box at once. His mother Ho Mo-she then asked Lew Wei-she to come over to her house to receive back the box, and to see that the lock was untouched. Lew Wei-she having taken away the box, afterwards accused Ho Wan-chang of having taken some of her head ornaments out of it, and she made frequent disturbances about the affair, the neighbours always advising her, and endeavouring to put an end to the quarrel.

Later, Ho Wan-chang again went to Lew Wei-she and asked her to return the borrowed rice, but she abused him and seizing him by his queue (man’s pigtail), gave him a beating. Upon this Ho Wan-chang seized a large knife which was lying near the door, and wounded Lew Wei-she with it, in the neck; upon which she fell down and rolled about on the ground, still abusing him, and declaring that she would never cease to carry on the quarrel with him. Ho Wan-chang upon this conceived an instantaneous hatred against her, and again attacking her with the knife, cut her throat. At this time her eldest son Lew Ying-tseen seized hold of Ho Wan-chang’s clothes and began to call out for help; whereupon, Ho Wan-chang not being able to free himself immediately used the knife, and wounding Lew Yang-tseen in the neck flung him off upon the ground. The second son Lew Xeaou-tse was sitting upon the stove-bed crying, and Ho Wan-chang again using the knife struck him with it and killed him.

According to law of Great Tsing dynasty, whoever kills three guiltless persons in the same family shall be put to death by cutting into pieces; all his property shall be handed over to the relatives of the murdered persons; and his wife and family shall be banished to the distance of 2,000 le.

Ho Wan-Chang then was bound, and led to the market place, and there put to death by cutting into pieces. Since he is very poor, and does not possess any property whatever; so no property to be confiscated and his wife was not an accomplice in his crime, so that was banished to a shorter distance than that commanded by the law.

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