The idea that the consumption of human flesh could have medicinal effects has, throughout the years, even driven some to commit murder. Cannibalism came in the form of eating mellified flesh for medicinal purposes.
7. In 16th century China, mollification was a way for elderly people nearing the end of their lives to donate their body to science. The idea, originally derived from an Arabic recipe, was that they could turn their bodies into medicine that would be ingested by their descendants to alleviate ailments like broken bones. And that’s not even the worst part — for mollification to be the most effective, the process started while the person was still alive.
To begin, the donor would stop eating anything other than honey, and would occasionally even bathe in it. Soon the honey would begin to build up inside the body and, obviously, because an all-honey diet is not sustainable, the person would die. Then, after death, their body would be placed in a stone coffin filled with honey. Then, nature would be left to take its course. The coffin would be left closed for up to a century, letting the honey preserve the corpse. Because honey never spoils and has antibacterial properties, it made for an effective preservative.
After a century, the body would have become a sugary glob, and the honey would have become a sort of confection. This “mollified man” confection would then be sold at markets for the treatment of wounds and bone fractures. It would also be consumed orally, as a treatment for internal ailments.
6. As late as the 19th century, it was still not unusual for Chinese executioners to eat the heart and brains of the criminals they dispatched. As well as eating some of the flesh for health reasons, they sold what was left for a profit.
In 2006, the Public Security Bureau and local media of Lanzhou confirmed the discovery of two human arms “mixed with ginger and chili” in a Lanzhou landfill.
5. 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 of 1968 during the Cultural Revolution, resulting in the imprisonment of 15 local officials.
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. 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.
4. In dynastic histories, there is often the description of isolated cannibalism in the context of eating one’s enemy. For example, the dynastic histories describe an instance in which Wang Mang, who took over the Han Dynasty, was sliced up by soldiers, before having his tongue cut out and eaten. They do this out of animosity; they cut open the belly, and ate the heart and liver. Wang Ban joined Sui Dynasty’s expeditionary force to Chen Dynasty to exact vengeance on the former Emperor Wu. He broke into the emperor’s mausoleum, burnt his bones, added water to the ashes, and proceeded to drink them.
3. The Chinese people see eating human flesh as an act of literature.
Cannibalism is also a very common motif in Chinese literature. The famous writer Lu Xun penned a story the Diary of a Madman in which a madman gradually became convinced that the history of Chinese civilization could be summarized in two words, “eat people”, and that his friends and relatives all intended to eat him.
2. Cannibalism features in the folklore and legends of many cultures and is most often attributed to evil characters or as extreme retribution for some wrong. Examples include the witch in “Hansel and Gretel”, Lamia of Greek mythology and Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore.
1. In some societies, especially tribal societies, cannibalism is a cultural norm. Ritual cannibalism of the recently deceased can be part of the grieving process or be seen as a way of guiding the souls of the dead into the bodies of living descendants.