Nourishing the Parent with One’s Own Flesh


in Sanctity and Self-Inflicted Violence in Chinese Religions, 1500-1700

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199844906
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949564 | DOI:
Nourishing the Parent with One’s Own Flesh

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This chapter discusses the practice of gegu or “slicing a piece of flesh from one’s thigh,” which was a ritualized practice of using one’s own flesh to make healing medicine for sick parents, or elders in the family. Contrary to the prescriptive notions that to be filial means not to harm one’s body received from parents, people regularly engaged in body slicing precisely for filial reasons. Scholars generally consider this filial act a “Confucian” practice. This chapter argues that o reduce this practice to a Confucian imperative is to rob it of other cultural discourses such as medicine, anthropophagy, and self-sacrifice. Filial slicing was bound up in a web of associations, and people consumed human flesh for many reasons: famine, political intrigues, hatred, medicinal purposes, or even out of the cult of immortality. Filial slicing must be appreciated from this broader perspective.

Keywords: gegu; body-slicing; filial piety; filial slicing; anthropophagy; cannibalism; medicine; sacrifice; body; stimulus response; flesh; vinaya; miracle; guanyin

Chapter.  12357 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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