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After World War II stories circulated of Japanese soldiers inflicting "bamboo torture" upon 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 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, not its historicity. In her memoir "Hakka Soul", the Chinese poet and author Woon-Ping Chin mentions the "bamboo torture" as one of those tortures the locals believed the Japanese performed on prisoners.
This tale of using live trees impaling persons as they grow is, however, not confined to the context of WWII and the Japanese as torturers, but was recorded in the 19th century, when Malays alleged the Siamese used (among other punishments) the sprout of the nipah palm in the manner of bamboo torture during the 1821 Siamese invasion of Kedah. A "Madras civilian", in his travel description from 1820s India, said this use of bamboo was a well known punishment in Ceylon.