[Ads-l] cangue/tcha - 1797

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 2 18:46:08 UTC 2016

On 31 October, David Porter wrote an article titled "Zhao Quan Adds a Salary: Losing Banner Status in Qing Dynasty Guangzhou” (http://bit.ly/2e2LVSr <http://bit.ly/2e2LVSr>) that mentions the “cangue” without definition, though the context is clear:

His adopted father Hequan, in accordance with the law on acquiring military provisions (that is, his adopted son’s salary) under false pretenses, was sentenced to spend 60 days in the cangue and then receive 100 strokes of the whip, a sentence that was only so light because, as a bannerman, the normal sentence of 100 blows of the rod and exile to Xinjiang was automatically commuted.

Not in the online Oxford Dictionaries, “cangue” is defined in Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cangue <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cangue>): A heavy wooden collar or yoke borne on the shoulders and enclosing the neck and arms, formerly used in China to punish petty criminals. Wikipedia also has an article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cangue <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cangue>). 

The Wiki articles trace the etymology to Portuguese, meaning yoke. I cannot find an etymology beyond that, though perhaps it’s related to jugo (yoke) < PIE *yugóm (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/jugo <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/jugo>). The Chinese, according to Wikipedia, is 木枷 (Mandarin: jiāsuǒ). Baike (http://baike.baidu.com/view/1302750.htm <http://baike.baidu.com/view/1302750.htm>) says that the use of the cangue as punishment started in the Jìn dynasty. 

The earliest citation I find in Google Books is 1797: "An Authentic account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Empeor of China…” (really too long of a title to quote in full even in e-mail) by George Staunton (http://bit.ly/2e2Q0Ga <http://bit.ly/2e2Q0Ga>):

XXVIII. Punishment of the Tcha. This, usually called by Europeans the Cangue, is a common punishment in China for petty offences. It consists of an enormous tablet of wood, with a hole in the middle to receive the neck, and two smaller ones for the hands, of the offender, who is sometimes sentenced to wear it for weeks or months together. 

However, as the book makes clear, the publication is taken from the papers of the Earl of Macartney, who was probably the First Earl Macartney (http://bit.ly/2fdqNWU <http://bit.ly/2fdqNWU>) who led an embassy to Beijing in 1792. So his papers are probably not much earlier than the cited 1797, though he was stationed in India in the 1780s and it is possible that he wrote about the canga then.

It seems possible that “tcha” (found in the 1797 citation and the Wikipedia article) is simply the Romanization of 枷 (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/枷), which is jiā in Modern Mandarin.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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