Bamboo torture

Torture method

Bamboo torture is a form of torture and execution where a bamboo shoot grows through the body of a victim, reported to have been used in East and South Asia, but without reliable evidence.

Recorded usage

Bamboo sprout. Some species can grow as fast as 4:cm per hour.

A "Madras civilian", in his travel description from 1820s India, referred to this use of bamboo as a well known punishment in Ceylon. The use of live trees impaling persons as they grow was recorded in the 19th century, when the Siamese used the sprout of the nipah palm in the manner of bamboo torture on the Malays during the 1821 Siamese invasion of Kedah, among other punishments.

After World War II, stories circulated of Japanese soldiers inflicting "bamboo torture" upon Allied prisoners of war, where the victim was tied securely in place above a young bamboo shoot. Over several days, the sharp, fast-growing shoot would first puncture, then completely penetrate the victim's body, eventually emerging through the other side. The Chinese poet and author Woon-Ping Chin mentions the "bamboo torture" as one of the tortures the locals believed the Japanese performed on prisoners in her memoir Hakka Soul.

The cast of the TV program MythBusters investigated bamboo torture in a 2008 episode and found that a bamboo shoot can penetrate through several inches of ballistic gelatin in three days. For research purposes, ballistic gelatin is considered comparable to human flesh, and the experiment thus supported the viability of this form of torture, though not its historicity.


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