Chinese Whispers: Baby Eaters

By Steve George, October 14, 2013

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The myth: Back in Xinhua’s crosshairs thanks to the rumor crackdown is the persistent claim that some wealthy Chinese cannibalize unborn fetuses.

The most recent allegations were repeated in various Korean media over the summer, and claimed that some wealthy Chinese are paying thousands of dollars to buy aborted fetuses, thus “enjoying baby herbal soup to increase overall health and stamina and the power of sexual performance.”

The reality: This ‘blood libel’ is as old as anti-Semitism – and just as pernicious: in 1870, a similar false rumor was spread about the foreign nuns in a French cathedral in one of the Tianjin concession zones, sparking a fiery massacre that left at least 16 nuns dead.

The ‘baby eating’ rumor has flourished in China due, in part, to a reputation, especially among the Cantonese, for eating ‘everything.’ The country’s one-child policy and high abortion rates is also commonly used to back up the rumors, which are usually based on anonymous sources and images found on the Internet.

The latter are mostly the work of conceptual artist Zhu Yu, whose gruesome 2000 work, entitled ‘Eating People,’ was rejected by the Shanghai 2000 Bienniale as “too controversial.” The artist claims he cooked (and ate) aborted fetuses from a medical school “for art’s sake.”

Verdict: The Chinese are no more inclined to eat babies than anyone else – including Christians, Jews, ‘Gypsies,’ aborigines etc. Indeed, there’s no proof that such a habit has ever been practiced, ever, anywhere on Earth. Unfortunately, widespread ignorance about China abroad, coupled with the country’s reputation for both secrecy and weirdness, keep this gruesome myth alive. FALSE.

// Eager to prove or disprove a myth? Contact bjeditor@urbanatomy.com to let us know

 

 

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