Human-Flesh Wontons 人肉餛飩

In the gengyin year of the Shaoding era (1230), the grain in the areas belonging to Ruizhou in Jiangxi ripened empty, and there was hunger and famine among the populace. Troublemakers in the affected region slaughtered cattle for market, but recklessly sold human flesh mixed and stuffed into it. The starved populace gathered ‘like spokes at a hub’, and it sold out with great speed; of what was left behind the beef was the majority. Therefore the people all looked to find the truth; they were arrested and taken to the government office, where they confessed one by one. When the officials thought about [73] the hubbub and chaos they made, they secretly decided they didn’t dare to impose the mandatory death penalty. On the basis of their confession, and as a person’s body does not contain much meat – there is only a little more than one-and-a-half strings of coins in weight that can be sliced off the buttocks and legs. Taking so many bodies, how can this be borne?

In the Jiading era (1208-24), the gengzi year,[1] Lin’an suffered a great drought, and the harvest failed. By the Liushui Bridge outside the city walls there were similarly deceitful types who killed people and picked off their flesh to make wonton, baozi dumplings and the like. In the spring of the xinchou year (either 1181 or 1241), this became especially serious; among the meat was skin tattooed with a recognisable pattern, although nobody dared to say so. All who bought meat had first to ask, “Is this polished-rice-pork? Or is it rice-husk-pork?” ‘Polished-rice-pork’ was human flesh; ‘rice-husk-pork’ was true pork. This matter later became the beginning of the Liu (i.e., Song) decline.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 127):

人肉餛飩

紹定庚寅,江西瑞州管下禾稼秀而不實,民間飢荒。屬地頑民屠牛為市,浪賣人肉雜而為餡,飢民輻輳,發賣盛行,而牛肉多有存者。以故人皆物色得實,緝捕到官,一一招伏。官司慮 [73] 此聲旁達,暗行予決,不敢明正典刑。據其供吐,人之一身苦無多肉,僅有臀腿亂削之餘有淨肉一緡半重。所得寧幾,何忍哉!

嘉定庚子,臨安大旱,歲飢。城外溜水橋亦騙死人剔其肉為餛飩包子之屬。辛丑春尤甚,其中間有花繡之皮,稍可辨認,人無敢言。凡買肉者必先問:「買米猪?買糠猪?」米猪則人肉也,糠猪則真猪也,後因劉自事始敗。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

[1] This is an impossible date: the 37th cyclical year should be either 1240 or 1180; neither fit the regnal era specified.

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