Translation:Call to Arms (Lu Xun)/A Madman's Diary

For other English-language translations of this work, see A Madman's Diary (Lu Xun).
Call to Arms (1918)
by Lu Xun, translated from Chinese by Wikisource
A Madman's Diary

"A Madman's Diary" (Traditional Chinese: 狂人日記; Simplified Chinese: 狂人日记; Pinyin: Kuángrén Rìjì) was written by Lu Xun . . . one of the greatest writers in 20th-century Chinese literature. This short story is considered to be one of the first and most influential modern works written in vernacular Chinese. [It] is an attempt . . . to describe the effects of feudal values upon the Chinese people. He uses an analogy of cannibalism to describe the way such outdated values eat away at the individual. The story would become a cornerstone of the New Culture Movement.

477393Call to Arms — A Madman's Diary1918Lu Xun
  昆仲昔日中學校良友分隔多年消息日前適歸故鄉迂道一人病者遠道候補出示日記可見當日病狀不妨迫害錯雜倫次荒唐字體不一一時聯絡撮錄醫家研究一字不易村人世間無關大體至於書名本人 A certain pair of brothers, whose names I shall conceal for now, were both good friends of mine back during our school days. I have been away for many years, and gradually lost touch with them. A few days ago, I suddenly learned that one of them had come down with a serious illness. I was on my way back to my hometown at the time, so I diverted my route so that I could visit them. However, I only saw one of them, who explained that the sick person was his younger brother. He expressed sympathy for my having come such a long way in order to see his brother, but then informed me that his brother had long since recovered, and had moved away in order to fill a temporary post. He thereupon proceeded to laugh aloud, and produced his brother's two-volume diary. He said that one could ascertain the nature of his brother's illness by reading it, and that there was no harm in showing it to an old friend. Upon taking it home and reading it through, I could tell that his brother had been stricken with something like a "persecution complex". His words were slightly disjointed and incoherent, and there were also a lot of preposterous statements. Furthermore, he did not include any dates. It was only by the differences in ink color and penmanship that one would know that it was not all written at the same time. Nevertheless, parts of the diary did have some amount of consistency. I have excerpted those parts here, so that medical experts may use it for research. I have not altered any of the errors in the text. However, I have altered all of the personal names. Although they are all from the same village as him, none of them are known to the outside world, and none of them are relevant to the overall subject matter. As for the title, he chose it himself, after recovering from his illness. I have not changed it. April 2, 7th year of the Republic (1918)

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Tonight, the moonlight is very good.

I have not seen it in more than thirty years; after seeing it today, my spirits are especially refreshed. Only now do I realize that for the past thirty years, I have been in a complete daze; yet, I must be extremely cautious. Otherwise, why would the Zhao family's dog have looked at me twice?

I have reason to fear.

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  仍舊前面一夥小孩子那裡議論眼色一樣臉色鐵青小孩子什麼這樣不住大聲:「告訴!」他們。   什麼路上什麼只有廿以前先生陳年流水簿子先生高興雖然認識一定風聲抱不平約定路上但是小孩子時候他們沒有出世何以今天眼睛似乎似乎納罕而且傷心


Today, there was no moonlight whatsoever. I know that can't be good. I was careful when I went out this morning. Zhao Guiweng gave me a strange look,[1] as if he was both afraid of me and also wanted to do me in. There were also another seven or eight people discussing me in hushed tones, hoping that I wouldn't see them. Everybody that I encountered along my route was like this. Among them, the most intimidating was a person who gave me an open-mouthed smile; it sent a chill from my head straight to my toes. I knew at that moment that their plans for me were already set.

I couldn't show fear, so I just continued along my original route. There was a group of children ahead of me that were also discussing me. They gave me the same look that Zhao Guiweng had given me. Their eyes were filled with rage. I tried to think what possible enmity I might have with these children that they might behave in such a way. I couldn't help but yelling out, "Tell me!" They ran off.

I tried to think what possible enmity I might have with Zhao Guiweng or with the others along my route. The only thing that came to mind was when I had stepped on Mr. Gu Jiu's account ledger twenty years ago.[2] It was quite old. Mr. Gu Jiu was not happy when I did that. Even though Zhao Guiweng doesn't know him, he certainly must have heard something. Perhaps that's why he's mad at me. Maybe he turned the others along my route against me. But what about the children? They weren't yet born when that happened. Why would they give me such strange looks now, as if they both feared me and wanted to do me in. This caused me to be truly afraid. It also took me aback and hurt my feelings. I understand. Their parents are making them act like this!

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  他們——知縣打枷紳士衙役妻子老子娘債主他們時候臉色沒有昨天這麼沒有這麼。   奇怪昨天那個女人兒子說道:「老子出氣!」眼睛遮掩不住青面獠牙便哄笑起來。   家裏裝作認識他們眼色別人一樣書房便宛然底細。   狼子佃戶大哥他們一個惡人大家便心肝煎炒可以膽子佃戶大哥便今天曉得他們眼光外面一模一樣。   起來腳跟。   他們未必。   女人青面獠牙前天佃戶明明暗號他們牙齒白厲厲就是家伙。   自己雖然惡人自從簿子難說他們似乎心思況且他們翻臉便惡人記得大哥無論怎樣好人便原諒壞人便妙手不同」。那里得到他們心思究竟怎樣況且時候。   凡事研究明白古來時常記得可是不甚清楚歷史歷史沒有年代歪歪斜斜仁義道德橫豎仔細半夜滿」!   許多佃戶許多笑吟吟眼睛


That evening, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fall asleep. No matter what it is, one must study it in order to understand.

These people -- some of whom had been forced to wear a cangue by the county governor, some of whom had been slapped by members of the gentry, some whom had had their wives ravaged by the yamen bailiff -- even when those things happened to them, none of their faces had ever shown the kind of fear and ferociousness that they had shown yesterday.

The strangest was a woman on the street yesterday. She was hitting her son. From her mouth, I heard her say, "Young man! I'd like to take a few bites out of you just to vent my anger!" Yet, her eyes were fixed on me. It gave me such a start, I couldn't help but flinch. That terrifying gaggle of bystanders burst out laughing. Chen Laowu ran over and dragged me home.

After dragging me home, everybody at home pretended like they didn't know me. They looked like complete strangers to me. I went into the study, and they locked me in, as if caging a chicken or a duck. This episode made it even harder for me to figure all this out.

A few days ago, a tenant farmer from Wolf Cub Village came to report that the crop had failed. He told my elder brother that there was a notorious thug in his village that had been beaten to death by the villagers. Some of them had dug out his heart and liver, fried them in oil, and ate them. This was meant to give them courage. I made some comment to them. The tenant farmer and my elder brother just looked me over once or twice. It was only today that I realized that their eyes had the exact same look as the people outside.

I thought of something that sent chills from my head straight to my feet.

If they're capable of eating people, there's nothing to say they won't eat me.

The woman saying, "I'd like to take a few bites out of you," the terrifying gaggle of bystanders bursting out laughing, as well as what the tenant farmer said, were all obviously secret signals. I can see the venom in their words and the daggers behind their smiles. Their menacingly white teeth are all lined up in a row. These are the kind of characters that eat people.

If I think about it, even though I'm not a bad person, ever since I stepped on the Gu family's ledger, it's hard to say where things stand. They seem like they have something in mind, but I can't guess what it is. In any case, once they turn on someone, they will call him a bad person. I still remember when my elder brother was teaching me to write essays. No matter how good the person, if I included a few critical remarks, he would circle that part in approval. If I included a few words of forgiveness for a bad person, he would say, "You have real talent. Truly unique." How could I ever guess what they were really thinking in any case, especially when they were about to eat me.

No matter what it is, one must study it in order to understand. In ancient times, people ate each other. I can vaguely recall reading this somewhere. I skimmed through a few history books. Regardless of the era, the pages were filled with words like, "virtue and morality." In any case, I couldn't fall asleep, so I spent half the night carefully reading. It was only then that I was able to read the words between the lines. The books were filled with the words, "Eat people!"

A lot of words had been written in these books. The tenant farmer had said a lot of words. Yet, he gave me that strange look with that eerie smile.

I'm also a person, but they want to eat me!

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  大哥。」答應一會。   研究他們如何擺佈知道他們一定不肯放鬆果然大哥一個老頭子慢慢滿眼只是低頭眼鏡暗暗大哥:「今天彷彿。」。」大哥:「今天先生。」可以!」其實知道老頭子劊子手無非看脈名目肥瘠功勞雖然膽子他們拳頭如何下手老頭子眼睛一會一會便眼睛:「不要。」   不要他們自然可以什麼好處怎麼」?他們鬼鬼祟祟法子遮掩不敢直捷下手不住便放聲起來十分快活自己曉得裏面有的是義勇正氣老頭子大哥勇氣正氣鎮壓。   但是勇氣他們便沾光一點勇氣老頭子便低聲大哥說道:「趕緊!」大哥點點頭原來發見意外合夥便是哥哥!   哥哥!   兄弟


This morning, I sat quietly for a while. Chen Laowu sent me some food. It was a bowl of vegetables and a bowl with steamed fish. The fish's eyes were white and hard. It's mouth was open, just like that bunch of people who eat people. I ate a few bites with my chopsticks, but it was so slimy that I couldn't tell whether it was a fish or a person. I ended up vomiting the whole kit and caboodle.

I said, "Laowu, tell my elder brother that I am going stir crazy and would like to take a walk in the courtyard." Laowu left without responding. After a while, the door opened once again.

I didn't move. I thought about what they had planned for me. I knew for certain that they were not willing to let me go. No surprise there! My elder brother brought in an old man, who slowly walked in. He had a menacing look about him. He must have been afraid that I would notice, so he kept his head lowered, stealing glances at me from the corner of his glasses. My elder brother said, "You seem better today." I said, "Yes." My elder brother said, "Today, I've invited Dr. He to come and give you a check up." I said, "Ok!" In reality, how did I not realize that this old man was to be my executioner! He was simply checking my pulse as a pretext to feel how plump I was. For this services, he will probably be given a portion of me to eat. I'm not afraid. Even though I don't eat people, I'm still more courageous than them. I extended both my fists to see what they would do. The old man sat down and closed his eyes. He felt my wrist for a while, then sat still for a while. Finally, he opened his dastardly eyes and said, "Don't make too much of this. Take it easy for a few days and you'll feel better."

Don't make too much of this! Take it easy! If I take it easy and fatten up, they will naturally have more of me to eat. But, how does that benefit me? How can that make me "feel better"? Not only do these guys want to eat people, they also want to be sneaky about it. They want to cover it up. They don't dare do anything too overtly. I find it all thoroughly laughable. I couldn't stand it anymore and started laughing out loud uncontrollably. I knew that my laughter contained a certain amount of bravery and defiance. The old man and my elder brother both lost their composure. They were paralyzed by my courage and defiance.

However, the more courage I displayed, the more they wanted to eat me in order to bask in my courage. The old man stepped outside. Before he got too far, he said to my elder brother in a low voice, "Let's hurry up and eat!" My elder brother nodded his head. So, it's you too! This major revelation, however unexpected, was actually predictable. The person who will join with the others to eat me is my elder brother!

The person eating people is my elder brother!

I am the brother of a person that eats people!

I will be eaten by people, but I'm still the brother of a person that eats people!

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  退一步假使老頭子不是劊子手真是醫生仍然他們祖師李時珍本草什麼明明可以自己至於大哥冤枉講書時候親口可以易子而食」;一回偶然議論一個不好便不但食肉寢皮」。年紀心跳半天前天狼子佃戶心肝奇怪不住點頭可見心思從前一樣既然可以易子而食」,便什麼什麼從前講道理胡塗過去現在曉得講道理時候不但而且滿意思 These past few days, I've taken a step back and thought, "Even if that old man wasn't an executioner, but really a doctor, he still is someone that eats people." In the "Materia Medica something or other,"[3] written by their patron saint Li Shizhen, it clearly states that human flesh can be fried and eaten; can he still say that he himself doesn't eat people? As for my elder brother, I haven't treated him unfairly at all. When he was teaching me, he would personally say things like: one can, "Exchange children and eat them."[4] Another time, while discussing a bad person, he said that not only should the person be killed, but that someone should, "Eat his flesh and then sleep upon his skin."[5] I was still quite young at the time and my heart skipped a beat. The other day, when the tenant farmers from Wolf Cub Village talked about eating hearts and livers, he didn't think it strange in the slightest and kept nodding his head. It is obvious that his heart is as cruel now as it was then. Since he can, "Exchange children and eat them," then he is capable of exchanging anything and capable of eating anyone. Before, his attempts to reason with me had always left me confused. Now, I know that when he was attempting to reason with me, not only were his lips dripping with the oil of human flesh, he was masking his desire to eat people.

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It's pitch black; I don't know whether it's night or day. The Zhao family's dog is barking again.

It reminds me of the ferocity of a lion, or the timidity of a rabbit, or the cunning of a fox...

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  他們!——記得什麼東西海乙那眼光樣子難看時常骨頭肚子起來害怕。「海乙那親眷本家前天可見同謀早已接洽老頭子眼看。   可憐大哥何以害怕而且合夥還是歷來還是良心明知故犯


I know their methods. They're unwilling to kill me outright. They don't dare do that, for fear of jinxing themselves. As a result, they have all conspired with each other to lay a trap, forcing me to kill myself. One can surmise most of this merely by observing the demeanor of the men and women on the street these last few days, along with the behavior of my brother. Ideally, I would take off my belt and hang myself from the rafters. That way, they would be able to satisfy their desires without being guilty of murder. This would naturally make them howl with laughter. On the other hand, if I die of worry and fear, even though it would make me somewhat thinner, they would still nod in approval.

They can only eat dead meat! -- I remember there being a book that talked about something called a "hyena," the eyes and appearance of which were both hideous. It usually eats dead meat, even to the point of chewing up and swallowing large bones. It is quite a scary thing to think about. The "hyena" is a member of the wolf family. Dogs are also members of the wolf family. Judging by the way the Zhao family's dog was looking at me the other day, it has been in cahoots with the others for quite some time. The old man can't fool me by staring at the ground.

The saddest part is my brother. He is a person. How could he not be even the slightest bit afraid of joining with the others in eating me? Has he gotten used to the idea, and therefore does not think of it as being wrong? Or, has he suppressed his conscience, knowing full well that it is wrong? I curse all people that eat people. In cursing people that eat people, I shall start with him. If I were to dissuade people from eating people, I would also start with him.

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  忽然一個年紀不過左右相貌清楚滿面笑容點頭便:「?」仍然:「荒年怎麼。」立刻曉得喜歡便勇氣百倍偏要。   「?」   「這等甚麼……笑話。……今天天氣。」   天氣月色可是:「?」   不以為然含含胡胡:「……」   「不對他們何以?!」   「沒有……」   「沒有狼子通紅斬新!」   便一般:「也許從來如此……」   「從來如此便?」   「不同道理總之便是!」


Actually, they should have long since understood this kind of reasoning...

Suddenly, somebody came. He was about twenty years of age, but I could not make out his face clearly. He had a big smile on his face, but it was a fake smile. He nodded his head toward me. I asked him, "Is it right to eat people?" Still smiling, he replied, "It's not a year of famine; why would someone eat a person?" With that, I knew that he was with the rest of them. He liked to eat people. I screwed up my courage and continued my line of questioning.

"Is it right?"

"Why do you ask such a thing? You must be fond of making jokes...The weather is nice today."

The weather is nice indeed. The moonlight is also bright. But, I want to ask you something else.

"Is it right?"

Disapproving of my line of questioning, he vaguely responded by saying, "No..."

"If it's not right, then why do they continue to eat people?"

"I don't know what you're talking about..."

"You don't? People are being eaten in Wolf Cub Village as we speak. It's also written in all the books in fresh red ink!"

His facial expression changed. He became quite pale. He stared at me and said, "That may be. But, it's always been that way..."

"Does the fact that it's always been that way make it right?"

"I'm not going to talk about these things with you. In any case, you shouldn't talk about this. It's wrong to talk about it!"

I jumped up and opened my eyes widely, but the man disappeared. I broke out into a sweat all over my body. He was much younger than my older brother, yet he was a part of their group. This was definitely something that he had learned from his parents. I'm afraid he may have already taught it to his son as well. That's why the little children are glaring at me with that look of hatred.

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  自己別人疑心眼光面面相覷……   心思放心做事走路睡覺何等舒服只是門檻一個關頭他們可是父子兄弟夫婦朋友師生仇敵相識一夥互相勸勉互相牽掣不肯一步

They themselves want to eat people, but do not want to be eaten by others. They all look upon each other with deep fear and suspicion...

If they could just rid themselves of these ideas, they could work, eat and sleep without any worries. How pleasant that would be. That is the only threshhold they must cross. Yet, fathers, sons, husbands, wives, friends, teachers, students, enemies and even strangers have banded together. They egg each other on and coerce each other, so that they cannot take that final step.

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  大清早大哥便背後格外 沉靜格外和氣

  「大哥告訴。」   「就是,」趕緊點頭。   「只有可是出來大哥大約當初野蠻一點後來因為心思不同有的一味要好便有的——蟲子一樣有的猴子一直有的要好至今還是蟲子何等慚愧蟲子慚愧猴子。   「易牙兒子桀紂還是一直從前曉得盤古開闢天地以後一直易牙兒子易牙兒子一直徐錫林徐錫林一直狼子去年犯人一個癆病饅頭。   「他們一個無法然而何必入夥什麼他們一夥裏面一步立刻人人太平雖然從來如此我們今天可以格外要好不能大哥相信前天佃戶不能。」   當初只是冷笑隨後眼光便兇狠起來他們隱情滿青色大門一夥裏面探頭探腦進來有的面貌似乎有的仍舊青面獠牙認識他們一夥可是曉得他們心思一樣以為從來如此應該知道可是仍然別人所以越發氣憤可是冷笑。   時候大哥忽然顯出高聲:   「出去瘋子什麼好看!」   時候懂得他們巧妙他們豈但不肯而且早已佈置預備一個瘋子名目將來不但太平無事佃戶大家一個惡人正是方法他們老譜!   氣憤憤進來如何偏要:   「你們可以真心曉得將來不得世上。」   「你們自己即使獵人狼子一樣!——蟲子一樣!」   一夥趕走大哥不知那里屋子裏面黑沉沉椽子發抖一會起來。   萬分沉重動彈不得意思曉得沉重便掙紮出來一身可是偏要


Early in the morning, I went to look for my older brother; he was standing just outside the entrance to the hall looking at the sky. I walked up behind him so that I was between him and the entrance. With unusual quietness and politeness, I said to him, "I have something I want to tell you."

He quickly turned and nodded, saying, "Go ahead."

"I only have a few things to say, but I don't know quite how to put it. I'm sure all primitive humans ate a little human flesh at first. Later on, some people stopped eating human flesh because their thinking changed. They wanted to be good, so they changed into human beings, real human beings. There were some that refused to stop eating human flesh. It's the same with insects, some of which later became fish, birds, monkeys -- and eventually, humans. Some of them did not want to improve, and remain insects even today. How ashamed these people who eat people must feel compared to people that do not eat people. I'm afraid they are way more ashamed than insects are compared to monkeys.

"We all know the ancient story about Yi Ya steam cooking his son for a tyrannical ruler.[6] Who knew that from the time Pangu split the heavens and the earth down to Yi Ya's son, and then from Xu Xilin to the man arrested in Wolf Cub Village, people had continued to eat people? Last year when a criminal was executed, a man afflicted with tuberculosis had even dipped his steamed bun into the blood so that he could lick it.

"They want to eat me. I know that there's nothing you can do about it as just one person. But, why do you have to join them? A person that eats others is capable of anything. If they can eat me, they can eat you as well as each other. But, if you change your ways immediately, everyone can live in peace. Even though it's always been like this, we could make a special effort to do better starting today and say that this is unacceptable! I believe that you can say such a thing. The other day, when a tenant farmer asked that his rent be reduced, you said it was unacceptable."

At first, he just smiled coldly. Then, a look of hatred flashed over his eyes. By the time I began to talk about their secrets, he started to turn green. A large group of people was standing outside the big gate. Zhao Guiweng and his dog were also among them. They were all pressing in to catch a glimpse. There were some whose faces I could not make out. It was as if they had covered their faces with a cloth. There were others who had that same terrifying look from before. Their lips were pursed. I realized that they were a part of the group of people that eat people. However, they each had different demeanors. Some felt that things had always been this way, and that people should be eaten. Others knew that one should not eat people, but wanted to eat them anyway. These others were afraid that I might talk them out of it. So when they heard my words, they became angry. However, they maintained their tightlipped cold smiles.

It was at that point that my older brother suddenly gave them a dirty look and shouted, "Get out of here! What's so interesting about a crazy person!"

It was also at this point that I began to realize how ingenious they were. Not only are they unwilling to change, they had this all arranged. They had made sure that I was labeled as the next crazy person. In the future, when they eat me, not only will nobody take issue with it, they will probably receive sympathy. When the tenant farmer told the story about how everyone had eaten the bad man, it was this same tactic. This was straight out of their old playbook.

Chen Laowu angrily stormed in as well. No matter how hard they tried to keep me from speaking, I could not help but say to them, "You can change. Make a change in your hearts! You must know that in the future, there will be no tolerance in the world for people who eat other people. If you don't change, you will be eaten yourselves. Even if more of you are born, you'll eventually be wiped out by real humans, just like wolves who have been hunted into extinction!--just like insects!"

The gaggle of people was driven off by Chen Laowu. My older brother dissappeared as well. Chen Laowu advised me to return to my room. It was pitch black inside my room. Above my head, the beams and rafters were shaking. After a while, they became larger and piled up on top of me.

They were very heavy and I could not budge an inch. His intention was to kill me. I knew that the weight was not real and began to struggle more. I broke out into a sweat. Despite this, I could not help but saying, "You can change. Make a change in your hearts! You must know that in the future, there will be no tolerance in the world for people who eat other people..."

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  筷子便大哥曉得妹子緣故妹子可愛可憐樣子眼前母親不住母親不要大約因為自己起來不免有點過意不去如果過意不去……   妹子大哥母親知道沒有不得而知


The sun has not come out and the door has not opened. I have been getting two meals per day.

Taking up my chopsticks, I started thinking about my older brother; I realized that he was the sole cause of my little sister's death. At the time, my little sister was no more than five years old. I can still see her cute, pathetic, face in my mind's eye. My mother would not stop crying. He begged my mother to stop crying. It was probably because he had eaten her. When she started crying, he could not help but feeling remorse. If, that is, he was still capable of feeling remorse...

I have no way of knowing whether my mother knew if my little sister was eaten by my older brother. I think my mother knew. However, she did not explain herself at the time, probably because she also thought that things were as they should be. I remember being four or five years old and enjoying the breeze in the front parlor, when my older brother told me that if one's parents were ill, the son should cut off a piece of his own flesh, cook it, and feed it to them. This was the mark of a good person. My mother never said this was unacceptable. If one can eat a piece of flesh, one can naturally eat the whole thing. However, to be honest, when I think of how she cried that day, it still pains me. How truly remarkable!

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  時時地方今天明白其中大哥家務妹子恰恰未必飯菜暗暗我們。   未必無意妹子現在自己……


I cannot think about it.

It is only now that I have come to understand that I have been dwelling in land where people have been eating people for the last four thousand years. Since my older brother was in charge of handling family affairs, I cannot rule out the possibility that he secretly mixed some of my little sister's flesh into my food after she died.

It is possible that I inadvertently ate a few pieces of my little sister's flesh. Now it's my turn to be eaten...

Even though I was unaware of it at first, I am the product of four thousand years of humans eating humans. Now that I know, I cannot bear to face real people!

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     Perhaps there are still children who have not eaten people.
     Save the children...

     April 1918

Notes edit

  1. Zhao Guiweng's name is a play on words. Guiweng means aristocratic old man. Zhao is meant to serve as a not-so-subtle metaphor for the corrupt aristocracy of China at that time.
  2. Gu Jiu's name is a play on words. Gu Jiu means old. Gu Jiu is meant to serve as a not-so-subtle metaphor for China's feudal past.
  3. The actual name of the book is Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu).
  4. "Exchange children and eat them" is an idiom from Zuo Zhuan. It is used to describe a dire situation.
  5. "Eat his flesh and then sleep upon his skin" is an idiom from Zuo Zhuan. It is used to describe one's utter disdain for someone.
  6. Yi Ya lived during the Spring and Autumn Period in the State of Qi. He was Duke Huan of Qi's beloved chef. Once, Duke Huan of Qi had commented that the only food that he had yet to try was the flesh of an infant. Upon hearing this, Yi Ya steamed his own infant and served it to Huan.

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