Witch trials in medieval and early modern Europe / America are well documented, well known. I am curious if similar existed outside of Christian countries, especially in China and Japan. Both China and Japan have rich mythology about supernatural beings, who often discuss themselves as human and commit smaller or bigger harm to people. One would assume that similar fear among the common folks from these beings existed, and also neither the Chinese nor Japanese were shy if someone had to be tortured to death. So in principle, one would expect that incidents similar to witch trials might have occurred there, too. I am looking for incidents that:

  • formal trial or some other ways formalized (supervised by some laws, authorities), not just lynching or spontaneous violence of a mob;
  • not a one-time occasion, but at some extend typical to the region;
  • has a mythical or religious motivation (at least officially), and the victim is accused to be a supernatural being or possessing supernatural powers, but it doesn't need to be a witch;
  • it doesn't need to be gender-specific (ie not only women).

As per request about prior research:

  • "Asian_witchcraft" of Wikipedia (same as linked in the comment) mentions that folklore indeed has witches both in China and in Japan. No info about law-enforcement or trials or other "non-which-like" candidates.

  • "Which hunt" of Wikipedia almost exclusively focuses on European / American cases, without a word about China or Japan. Briefly mentions some very recent (post2000) cases around the world. This lack of information is kind of strange, considering that the second sentence of the article is "The belief in magic and divination, and attempts to use magic to influence personal well-being (to increase life, win love, etc.) are human cultural universals." and even explicitly states: "Reports on indigenous practices in the Americas, Asia and Africa collected during the early modern age of exploration have been taken to suggest that not just the belief in witchcraft but also the periodic outbreak of witch-hunts are a human cultural universal" with a reference to "Behringer, Wolfgang (2004). Witches and Witch-Hunts: A global history."

  • "List of people executed for witchcraft" of Wikipedia (strangely ambitious title, to be frank) almost exclusively European / colonial. The only possible candidate on the list is Zhang Liang (Tang dynasty), who was technically trialed for witchcraft. Based on related wiki article Zhang Liang was a general/chancellor to the imperial throne and his trial is primarily politically motivated. While the wiki article mentioned that witchcraft was a major taboo in ancient China, it doesn't mention any similar other cases.

  • Google search brought up some online articles about which crafts accusations in present China, mostly from gender/patriarchy angle (eg. https://theconversation.com/why-are-women-accused-of-witchcraft-study-in-rural-china-gives-clue-89730; https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2128393/witches-are-banding-together-after-rural-chinese-communities).

In summary, I haven't found any information about regular, formal, or semi-formal prosecution of witches in this region, though similar characters of folklore exist.

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    found on wp: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Liang_(Tang_dynasty) (note that in this case, two people were killed, and black magic may not have been the only reason for the persecution) – Jan Aug 19 '20 at 8:25
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    Not sure if this counts as "trials", but it seems to have involved lots of official investigations: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chinese_Sorcery_Scare_of_1768 – Jan Aug 19 '20 at 8:41
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    Ronald Hutton’s The Witch has a lot about witchcraft beliefs and witch trials that you might find useful. Not Japan or China specifically, though. – Mary Aug 20 '20 at 2:36
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    @Greg: According to that logic, the mass hunting of wolves suspected to be werewolves should also be included. – Lucian Aug 21 '20 at 19:41
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    Have you gone through this book: Telling Stories: Witchcraft And Scapegoating in Chinese History By B. J. ter Haar ? It's available in Google books. – user45361 Aug 22 '20 at 15:25

"Witchcraft" had very different connotations in Europe than in China or Japan.

In (medieval) Europe, being a witch was connected to worshipping Satan. As such, it was a religious "sin," not merely a secular crime. That's why it was so widely and severely prosecuted.

Asian cultures don't have a concept of "Satan," so there was no conflation of "witches" with "devil worshippers." But "witchcraft" did have its usual connotation of "supernatural powers," so even "superhuman" ability could qualify as witchcraft. Even so, this seemed to be considered an isolated phenomenon (e.g. the Chinese king was jealous of the ability of his general). That explains the absence of "witch hunts" as opposed to one-off "witch trials."

  • That seems...hard to believe. 1) There are evil (or at least mischievous) deities/demons in any culture, including Chinese, hence they might have (real or imaginary) followers 2)Even if "witchcraft" is not treated inherently evil, believing that someone has supernatural ability to destroy crops and bring sickness could carry a risk of bringing such person to a trial. – Yasskier Aug 20 '20 at 22:08
  • @Yasskier: I didn't say that there weren't witch "trials" in China (there were). I said, that there were no witch "hunts" in China, of the kind sanctioned by the "church," in Europe. – Tom Au Aug 20 '20 at 22:41
  • @Yasskier The combined concept of satan, witch hunts, and the church are bizarre and foreign in other cultures. Witches existed in China, but were more likely trialled and hanged because they failed to demonstrate anything useful in their snake oil that they sold to the local governor. – dROOOze Aug 21 '20 at 1:14
  • I think your statements would be better if backed up with references. Also, my questions are not about specifical witches, but any person with supernatural powers or supernatural creatures discussed as human. As already linked already demonstrated, fear from supernatural exist in that region, too (just as anywhere else). – Greg Aug 21 '20 at 1:44
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    @TomAu The question focuses on trials (as a movement of authorities, religious or other, based on formal legal actions), not on the hunting element (whatever it means). Also, the majority of European which hunts were not "sanctioned by the church", but were done by local authorities. – Greg Aug 21 '20 at 1:46

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