Cannibalism in Imperial China

#1
There is the question of cannibalism in China: Cannibalism in China - Wikipedia
The belief is, that it was seen as normal till contact with the west. This is combined with claims, that Chinese mothers killed and ate their newborn daughters to get their strength. Then again I know of stories, like that one garrison during the An Lushan rebellion resorting to it to survive, that seems to have been seen by contemporaries and future generations of Chinese, as an abomination.

The Wiki article claims, that it was seen as normal, which I find hard to believe.
 
#2
I have read mentions of human meat being referred to as "two-legged mutton." Supposedly during the Sung era northerners who had developed a taste for human flesh after many wars and famines moved south and opened "human mutton" restaurants as a novelty in places like Hangzhou. Who knows if this is the truth or maybe just a joke invented by a chronicler to mock the southern Chinese reputation for eating anything. Cannibalism wasn't quite as big a taboo back then, so it's possible. There were also legends about Chinese pirates who would eat the organs of their enemies to gain their power. This is standard black magic stuff that has always existed in some hidden corners. In any case cannibalism was never the norm or a mainstream thing. Just something that was done only in extreme situations.
 
Sep 2018
9
Germany
#5
Thanks for the answer.

I find it hard to believe, because all other civilizations I know see cannibalism as an abomination.
Also I would think, that if it was indeed something normal in China, it would have entered western stereotypes about the country.
After all Westerners did come to associate cannibalism with Africans and south american natives, but not with Chinese.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,022
Republika Srpska
#6
Eh, there is evidence that cannibalism existed in imperial China and we have records that mention cannibalism dating back to the Warring States era. We find records from the Song era as well. Jiang Shaoyu accused Liu Kai of being a cannibal. However, it is not true that the Westerners didn't associate cannibalism with China. They most certainly did, especially during the great Chinese famine of 1876-79. The North China Herald reported cannibalism and so did London Times. For example, this is what Timothy Richard wrote about cannibalism in China:

"The eating of human flesh is a regular thing, and if the people were really dead before, there is little said about it, but if killed, then litigations arise."

However, Richard provides no proof for his claim that cannibalism was a regular thing and since he was a missionary, it is not far fetched to believe that he was deliberately portraying China as a desperate country in need of salvation. However, it's not impossible (in fact it is likely) that during famine, the Chinese were forced to eat their dead.
 
Sep 2018
9
Germany
#7
I think I didnt formulate my question correctly.

The question isnt, if there was famine cannibalism in China, since famine cannibalis really exists anywhere, there were famines.

Wikipedia states: "According to Key Ray Chong, whilst the Chinese are not especially different from other cultures when it comes to the practice of "survival cannibalism", they are utterly unique in their use of so-called "learned cannibalism". Learned cannibalism, as termed by Key Ray Chong, is quite the opposite of its survival-orientated counterpart, and is widely considered to be "an expression of love and hatred, and a peculiar extension of Confucian doctrine "

So the claim made in the Wiki, is that Chinese just saw nothing wrong in cannibalism, rather eating humans was part of their culture, similar to certain African and Polynesian tribes.

"Jiang Shaoyu accused Liu Kai of being a cannibal." Well if that was something to accuse an opponet off, it must have been seen as an amoral thing? Or maybe only certain forms of cannibalism were seen as amoral?
 
Jan 2017
2,022
Republika Srpska
#8
  • Maki

    Maki

"Jiang Shaoyu accused Liu Kai of being a cannibal." Well if that was something to accuse an opponet off, it must have been seen as an amoral thing? Or maybe only certain forms of cannibalism were seen as amoral?
Jiang Shaoyu and Liu Kai were not contemporaries, a century and a half separates them. And there are strong indications that Jiang Shaoyu wasn't the first to connect Liu Kai to cannibalism. The question is: why was Liu Kai portrayed as a cannibal? It is possible that Liu Kai was deliberately portrayed as a cannibal in order to intimidate the enemies of Song (something like "if you fight the Song, you will be eaten") and the Song troops themselves ("if you don't fight valiantly, your commander will eat you").
 
Apr 2013
6,024
China
#9
I find it hard to believe, because all other civilizations I know see cannibalism as an abomination.
Also I would think, that if it was indeed something normal in China, it would have entered western stereotypes about the country.
After all Westerners did come to associate cannibalism with Africans and south american natives, but not with Chinese.
it is seen to be normal that you can find the records of cannibalism.
not cannibalism is normal.

acknowledge the fact people might eat human flesh during war times or nature caused famine, is what a honest history record concerns.
in most times, people who committed cannibalism also see it an abomination. no contradictory.
 

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