The Modern Version of "Human Blood Steam Bun"

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  The Modern Version of "Human Blood Steam Bun"  By Yang Xiuwei (杨秀伟).  April 28, 2007.

[in translation]

Eighty-eight years ago, Lu Xun wrote a story about "human blood steamed bun" in his novel <.  In the story, the superstitious Hua Laoshuan wanted to cure the tuberculosis of his child Xiaoshuan and so he fed him a steam bun that had been dipped with the blood of the revolutionary Xia Yu.  Eighty-eight years later, a similar scene actually took place.  A couple who came from Yilong (Sichuan province) to work in Nanhai (Foshan city, Guangdong province) wanted to cure the ailing nephew and they dismembered the dead infant of a neighboring couple in order to make a soup for the patient.  Recently, this case was heard in the Nanhai (Foshan) court and the three defendants were found guilty and sentenced to 6 months each in prison.

The first people to uncover the case were the security guards at the Shishan Forestry Department.  "At the time, we were scared witless."  On the afternoon of December 12, 2006, the security guard Jiang was interrogated by public security bureau officers and he said that when he saw the intestines of the infant on the ground, he thought that they came from a chicken until he saw the head of the infant which had been cut off.

According to Jiang, on the evening of December 11, 2006, Jiang and his colleagues Zhang and Lin were on duty at the Nanhai Shishan Forestry Department.  Lin was patrolling the grounds when he spotted two men and one woman on a motorcycle entering the camellia garden.  Jiang was worried that these people came here to steal electric wiring and so went with Zhang to check the camellia garden.  They used their flashlight to locate the motorcycle with one man and one woman.  They asked what the two were up to.  The two said that they came to relieve themselves and the other person was still at the bottom of the slope.  However, the other person did not appear for a long while.  While the two security guards were not watching, the man and the woman left quickly in their motorcycle.  Jiang sensed that something was wrong and went with Zhang to inspect the spot where the suspicious-looking man and woman had been standing.

"I shined my flashlight and I saw a red baby blanket and a gauze cushion.  There was a black plastic bag on the side and there were some intestine-looking objects inside.  At the time, I and Zhang were extremely scared."  Jiang then called the police.  When the police came, they turned over the red baby blanket and discovered the severed head of an infant.


With the clues provided by the security guards, the police quickly solved the case.  On December 13, 2006, the police seized the suspects Ah Zhen, Ah Yan and Chen.  On January 15, 2007, the Nanhai procurator approved the formal arrests of Ah Zhen, Ah Yan and Chen.  On April 12, 2007, the three were charged with the crime of abusing a corpse.

According to the prosecutor, Ah Zhen and Ah Yan are sisters.  Their husbands are respectively Chen and Qin.  All of them are workers in Shishan town, Nanhai district, Foshan city and they resided in Tangtou Youzha village.  At around 8pm on December 11, 2006, the couple Qin and Meng who lived across Ah Zhen gave the corpse of their recently deceased male infant to Chen and Ah Zhen for burial.  Later Chen and Ah Zhen buried the child in an empty lot somewhere.  At around 10pm, Ah Zhen remembered that infant meat can heal many diseases and so she took the dead infant back to give to brother-in-law Qin in order to slice some baby flesh to make soup for Qin's ailing son.  Afterwards, Ah Zhen, Chen and Qin took the corpse to the forest by the camellia garden of the Haijing Forest Garden, Shishan town, Nanhai district.  Chen used the kitchen knife to cut off the infant's head while Ah Zhen used her hands to remove the intestines.  When the security patrol came, the three discarded the infant's head, the kitchen knife and other things at the scene and fled with the body.  When Qin got home, he gave the body to his wife to make soup.  At around 10am the next day, Ah Yan sliced some flesh from the corpse and made soup.

On April 24, 2007, the case was heard at the Nanhai district court and a sentence was rendered.  The court believed that the prosecutor's charges were correct and the defendants Chen, Ah Zhen and Ah Yan destroyed a corpse in a manner that constituted abuse.  The three defendants voluntarily admitted guilt and they also sought and obtained forgiveness from the family of the infant.  Accordingly, the three persons were each sentenced to six months in prison (which lasts from December 13, 2006 (when they were initially detained) through June 12, 2007).


According to the mother of the infant, she became pregnant in May 2006.  At around 8am, December 11, she felt birth pangs and delivered the baby even before the hospital ambulance arrived.  She and the baby were then taken by ambulance to the gynecology department of a certain Shishan hospital for treatment.  The doctor said that it would cost 10,000 yuan to save the life of the baby, and even that is not 100% certain.  The couple really did not have that much money.

At around 1pm that day, the husband asked to leave the hospital because they could not pay the 10,000 yuan deposit.  The two brought the baby back to the Tangtou Youzha village rented house.  At around 2:30pm, the baby fell asleep.  Five minutes later, the baby began to cry.  During that afternoon, the baby cried many times.  At past 5pm, the baby became unresponsive.  The husband insisted that the baby was asleep but still alive.  Later Ah Zhen came over and determined that the baby had died.  So the couple begged Ah Zhen to bury the baby.  They never imagined that Ah Zhen would use the baby to make soup.

Was the child confirmed to be dead when he was buried?  Meng said that the baby was unresponsive and icy cold between 5pm and 7pm and so she believed that the baby had died.


Yesterday afternoon, the reporter interviewed the three defendants at the Nanhai district court.  All three expressed regret about their action, but they still conveyed the idea that dead infant meat have curative powers.  But the three had contradictory ideas as to why dead infant meat could be medically effective.

The reporter interviewed Chen first.  He was depressed and he said that he should not have listened to what "the wizards" and "witches" said and followed the suggestions of others.  When the reporter followed up with asking who the "wizard" was, Chen changed his tune and said that his wife had heard somewhere that baby meat was good for treating ailments.

Ah Zhen said that she heard about it eighteen years ago.  At the time, she was only twenty years old and unmarried.  On a trip to the market, she heard an old lady say that eating infant meat can cure many ailments.  On the evening of December 11, 2006, she suddenly remembered what she heard that eighteen years ago and so she encouraged her husband to get some baby meat for her ailing nephew.  The husband did not agree, but Ah Zhen began crying that the nephew is practically like their own children and so it must be done.  So the husband had no choice but to agree.

When the reporter expressed doubts about this story, Ah Zhen insisted that it was only her own stupidity and her sudden recall of the old story.  She blamed herself for being stupid and uneducated.

Ah Yan said that no matter how the idea came about, the sister was ultimately trying to heal the son.  She said that the boy had been ill for more than half a year.  He had gone through three hospitals without effect.  The hospital determined that he had a brain tumor.  The doctor also said that he had epilepsy.  Ah Yan did not understand why the son did not respond to treatment.  She thought that the son might be faking a headache in order to avoid going to school.  But the son insisted.  So Ah Yan could only watch as the son's head continued to increase in size and his face turned yellowish.  So she asked people back home.  When the reporter asked just who was called, Ah Yan turned silent.

The reporter asked Ah Yan whether she believed that baby meat can really cure her son's ailment.  Ah Yan said that she did not know, but she obviously held out some hope.  She had some regrets about her action.  She said that when she got the infant meat, she was scared.  When she sliced the meat to make soup, her hands were trembling.  She was thinking that she was a mother herself and her action was therefore a betrayal of the parents of the dead baby.  Ah Yan said that she gave the soup to her son in two servings.


Yesterday afternoon, the reporter interviewed the presiding judge Liu Jingjing, who thought that it was thought-provoking that a modern-day version of "human blood steam bun" should appear in the twenty-first century where science and technology are supposed to be well-developed.

In Liu Jingjing's view, the defendants were decent people who were ignorant.  These were all former peasants who left home to work.  Their educational level is low, they lack medical knowledge and they do not understand the law such that they did not realize that they might be breaking any laws.  Liu Jingjing said that although this case began as an attempt by the three defendants to cure a child's ailment, they should have considered whether their actions may cause mental anguish for other people and whether this is contrary to basic moral rules.  The lesson that they should learn is about believing in science and respecting the law and the legal rights of others.

Concerning the judicial issues of this case, Liu Jingjing said that a dead person does not have any rights since the qualifications no longer exist.  But it is not the case that the law offers no protection for corpses; rather, the relatives of the deceased person have rights, mainly to do with their spiritual rights with respect to the corpse, including the right to preserve the reputation that might be damaged if the corpse were abused and as well as the right to maintain the integrity of the corpse and so on.  The defendants in this case violated social order as well as the feelings and dignity of the relatives, they acted contrary to common custom and they violated the right of the relatives to remain in peace.

Liu Jingjing believes that the social roots of this case is feudal superstition.  Presently, feudal superstition still has room to operate in rural areas.  This is because the spiritual lives of rural peasants are relatively poor and continue to be disrupted by residual feudalism.  The old people continue to propagate the feudal ideas so that young people may believe them or at least harbor doubts.  When an illness cannot be cured by regular channels, they will imitate certain superstitious ideas that have been etched onto their minds.

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