11/30/2006

Past Cuisine: Cannibalism in Taiwan




I came across this passage while reading Owen Rutter's account of his 1922 visit to Taiwan in Through Formosa: "The Chinese atrocities [in Taiwan], however, far exceeded any committed by the [aborigines]. The latter took heads, it is true, but the Chinese ate and even traded in their victims flesh. After killing an [aborigine], the head was commonly severed from the body and exhibited to those who were not on hand to witness the prior display of slaughter and mutilation. The body was then either divided among its captors and eaten, or sold to wealthy Chinese and even to high officials, who disposed of it in a like manner. The kidney, liver, heart, and soles of the feet were considered the most desirable portions, and were ordinarily cut up into small pieces, boiled and eaten somewhat in the form of soup. The flesh and bones were boiled, and the former made into a sort of jelly. The Chinese profess to believe, in accordance with an old superstition, that the eating of savage flesh will give them strength and courage…. During the outbreak of 1891 [aboriginal] flesh was brought in – in baskets – the same as pork, and sold like pork in the open markets of Tokoham 桃園 before the eyes of all, foreigners included; some of the flesh was even sent to Amoy 廈門 to be placed on sale there (Rutter 224-5)."
A lot of items are whitewashed from Chinese history. Still I have met a Taiwanese who can confirm this account. My friend Gloria, a sixty-year-old Hakka from near Ta Hsin (大興) atop Nanshih Chiao Mountain (南勢角山), Miaoli (see above picture), told me that her great-great uncle killed aborigines for this purpose. Her family would then boil the aboriginal flesh to make pills which were useful in bribing Ching Dynasty officials. One day, the uncle went out into the mountains never to return. His body minus a head was found a month later in a field. All of his flesh was still in tact, only decomposed a bit.

7 comments:

Kris said...

No accounts of Aboriginal flesh-eating? I've seen Chinese accounts of it.

Shufang said...

We were taught in the school in Taiwan that aboriginal were cannibals but our textbook didn't say that Chinese were. This is interesting but also to point out that the textbooks in Taiwan have told us too many things that weren't true. The textbooks always want to make us look good and not to admit anything is negative about Chinese people. Now that is changing, but only to make us think that Taiwanese people were victims before and are great now.

Patrick Cowsill said...

W.A. Pickering writes about Aborigines eating the brains of their victims in "Pioneering in Formosa" like this:

"After making many inquiries, I was forced to the conclusion that the Formosan savages were cannibals to a certain extent, in that they mixed the brains of their enemies, and drank the disgusting mixture."

I haven't come across any accounts of Aborigines eating flesh however. The victims were found, minus a head, with everything else in tact.

Rolf-Peter said...

The same story is in James W. Davidson, The Island of Formosa, Past and Present, 1903. Rutter must have copied that. Maybe Davidson already has it from somebody else.

George MacKay has also something similar: "Under such circumstances, or if a savage is killed inland, the heart is eaten, flesh taken off in strips, and bones boiled to a jelly and preserved as a specific for malarial fever." (From Far Formosa)

Well, bon apetit!

Patrick Cowsill said...

The Davidson book is an excellent resource for Taiwan. Anyone truly interested in the country's history should have a copy on their bookshelf. Actually, you give me the idea to cite it more on this blog.

BTW, the story of Gloria's uncle is an original. You won't find it anywhere but on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Yes....this was also acted in the united Kingdom ^_^ where the poor Irish would sell their babies to the rich English only to be served as a plate on the dinner table. The English would roast the entire body as they do with pigs(use you imagination, how pigs are roasted).
Those are the only "recorded" acts of cannibalism found. So, don't judge.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Those are the only "recorded" acts of cannibalism found. So, don't judge."

I'm not judging. Please point to a single line in this post that judges.

I am simply writing it down so that the account will be there. If I don't write what happened to Gloria's family, it won't be there.