Slow slicing was a form of torture used in China from roughly AD 900 until it was banned in 1905. In this form of execution, the condemned person was killed by using a knife to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time. The term língchí derives from a classical description of ascending a mountain slowly. Lingchi was reserved for crimes viewed as especially severe, such as treason and killing one's parents. The process involved tying the person to be executed to a wooden frame, usually in a public place. The flesh was then cut from the body in multiple slices in a process that was not specified in detail in Chinese law and therefore most likely varied. In later times, opium was sometimes administered either as an act of mercy or as a way of preventing fainting. The punishment worked on three levels: as a form of public humiliation, as a slow and lingering death, and as a punishment after death.
According to the principle of filial piety or xiao to alter one's body or to cut the body is a form of punishment for unfilial practice. Lingchi therefore contravenes the demands of xiao. In addition, to be cut to pieces meant that the body of the victim would not be "whole" in a spiritual life after death. This method of execution became a fixture in the image of China among some Westerners.