Cannibalism in China

The practice of cannibalism (喫人) has a peculiarly rich history in China.[1]

Cannibalism as medicineEdit

In the iconic novel "Medicine", written by the famous Chinese literator Lu Xun (1881-1936), we learn about an executioner, who secretly sold steamed bread soaked in the blood of executed prisoners (血饅頭) as a cure for "consumption".[2]

The Ming dynasty polymath, Li Shizhen, had detailed the use of human body parts for medical purposes, but condemned the use of human meat for medical treatment, calling the practice of cannibalism "stupid" and "foolish."[3]

In 2004, The Sydney Morning Herald reported a Chinese man in Beijing was arrested because it was believed he stole multiple corpses from nearby graveyards in order to make medicine for his sick wife out of a soup made by cooking the flesh of the corpses, and crushing the bones.[4]

In 2003, reports of some restaurants serving dead babies cooked into soups in Guangdong were sought to be blocked by the Provincial Public Security Bureau of Guangdong, with the police stating that these reports had been fabricated. 1990s Guangdong: Trafficked fetuses were boiled and sold as beauty treatments.[5]

As of 2012, human placentophagy is reported as "not uncommon" in China.[6]

Arthur Waldron, professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, has linked the notion of cannibalism to recent charges by Harry Wu, that the Chinese government is transplanting organs of condemned prisoners.[7][clarification needed]

Cannibalism for ideological purposesEdit

There have been some reports of cannibalism for ideological reasons during the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward. The most well documented example is in the village of Wuxuan, Guangxi Autonomous Region where in the local officials began to practise cannibalism between May and July 1968 during the Cultural Revolution, resulting in the imprisonment of 15 local officials. Although the Party and the relatives of the victims are aware of this, it has yet to be made public in China. In 1986 and 1988, Zheng Yi (郑义), a former Red Guard and the author of Scarlet Memorial, went down to Guangxi where he obtained documents detailing the cannibalism. "For the first time in our long history Chinese ate people, not because there was a famine and they were starving to death, but for political reasons. I think thousands participated in the cannibalism and at least many hundreds were eaten. The Party knows all about it," said Zheng.[8] According to Cheng, hundreds of men, women, and children deemed enemies of the Revolution were killed and eaten by the perpetrators, who even gave comments on the best way of preparing the meat – apparently by broiling, not boiling.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kuwabara, Jitsuzo (桑原隲藏) (1919). 支那人の食人肉風習 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-10-30.
  2. ^ Lu, Xun (2014). Call To Arms. Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 9787119087641.
  3. ^ Li Shizhen, Bencao Gangmu: Compendium of Materia Medica, 6 vols, tran. Luo Xiwen (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2003), 4189.
  4. ^ "Man snatches 30 bodies". The Sydney Morning Herald. April 29, 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
  5. ^ "Gansu police discover remains of cooked children". April 5, 2006. Archived from the original on April 5, 2008. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
  6. ^ "Eating placenta, an age old practice in China". June 25, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  7. ^ Arthur Waldron (July 1997). ""Eat People" - A Chinese Reckoning" (104). Commentary: 28–33. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Jonathan Mirsky (October 8, 1999). "Media Perception of the PRC" (DOC). The Sigur Center for Asian Studies. Retrieved 2007-10-30. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Zheng Y (Cheng I) (1993). Cannibal Banquet - Modern Chinese History Erased (食人宴席—抹殺された中国現代史). Kodansha. ISBN 4334005438.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit