A memorial hall dedicated to Korean patriot An Jung-geun was officially opened last month in Harbin, the northeastern Chinese city where, in 1909, he assassinated Japanese prime minister Hirobumi Ito. Tokyo has protested the memorial, labelling An a "terrorist" - a bit rich, given that Japanese leaders and parliamentarians have regularly visited the Yasukuni Shrine and paid their respects to persons considered war criminals by the rest of the world. An was executed by the Japanese colonisers for killing Ito, and the Japanese military machine eventually overran much of Asia, leaving a legacy that poisons the region to this day.

In 1542, an assassination attempt was made on the Ming dynasty Jiajing Emperor as he slept. The attempt was a curious one because the assassins - two consorts of the emperor and 16 palace maids - never made their motive clear. The women tried to strangle the emperor with a rope but in the melee it got entangled and would not tighten. Someone informed the empress, who rushed into the bedchamber and was punched by one of the servant women. Eventually the maids were overpowered and the emperor revived.

It's a scene out of a comedy film - but it wasn't so funny for the female would-be assassins. At their public execution, strips of flesh were cut from their bodies until they died.