Exposed head of an executed looter, Hankow

Exposed head of an executed looter, Hankow


University of Bristol – Historical Photographs of China reference number: WS01-111.  The caption in the album refers to both WS01-111 and WS01-112.  On page 65 of 'Letters from Hankow – The Chinese Revolution of 1911 – The Eye Witness Account of Laura Beckingsale' (Pomegranate Books, 2011), there is a diary account dated 6th November 1911, by Laura Beckingsale, that relates to this photograph.  Laura and Dr Earnest Cromwell Peake (1874-1950) saw the exposed head of the man "with his loot of 6 umbrellas and a few rolls of cloth hung up beside it. ... You cannot conceive the gruesome horror of it.”  Dr E. C. Peake also recounts this, on page 174-5 of his memoir, 'Peake in China' (The British Library, 2014): "... a decapitated head suspended by its pigtail from a charred telegraph pole. Along with the head were several cheap umbrellas and some skeins of wool. it was evident that this unfortunate had been caught red-handed with his loot, and that drastic retribution had overtaken him on the spot".  Dr Peake was the father of artist and author Mervyn Peake, who was born in Kuling (Lushan).

Caption in album or on mount

Heads of Chinese who were beheaded by the Imperialists for looting. The Heads and loot were hung up to telegraph poles in the City, as a warning to others.




November 1911




Black and white photograph

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