20 Sep 2004 21:17:43
Chinks eat monkey brains when the monkey is still alive and kicking.

Live Monkey Brains

Most people probably have heard the tale of the barbaric foreigners who
strap a live monkey down and eat its brains while it screams. It has
even made it into the Hollywood mainstream in movies like "Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom." The common aspects of this story, as it
is almost always told, make it an excellent illustration of a classic
urban legend.


Legends have traditionally been passed down orally and it is no
different with the Live Monkey Brain legend. The following is the
universal recipe for this legend:

* Take one (1) living monkey. The story does not work without the
kicking and the screaming and the biting. Just eating monkey brain stew
is not particularly interesting or shocking.
* Strap beneath special table with hole in center. The monkey must
be strapped beneath a table with its head poking up through a hole.
* Bop monkey on the head, scoop and serve. The diners usually
deliver the fatal blow themselves with hammers, the skull is sawed off
and the brains are scooped out with spoons.

That's about as complex as the legend gets, but I'd like to add two
special ingredients that you may not have noticed in your culinary

* Others do it in other places. This is universal in every version
I have ever heard or seen. Americans say the Taiwanese do it.
Indonesians say the Taiwanese do it. Taiwanese say that Hong Kongers do
it. Hong Kongers say it is rural Chinese on the border with Vietnam.
Historical versions by officials from Beijing (in the North) report
that it is Southerners who do it. Variations might get as close as
another ethnic group in the same area or even that Grandfather did it
once in the old days, but you rarely hear a reliable first hand
account, which brings us to...
* A friend of a friend told me. The story is often claimed true
because a friend had a friend who was in Asia during the Vietnam war
who ate monkey brains or saw tables with holes while traveling.
Occasionally, someone does tell this as a first hand story, but (with
two anecdotal exceptions) everyone I have ever challenged has backed
down or has been unable to provide convincing details. Extraordinary
claims require extraordinary proof.

Note: Two normal people have contacted me by e-mail with
first-hand accounts. One account happened when the person was a child
and the other stated that each dinner had their own monkey and that its
head was "the size of a human infant." I remain skeptical, but these
two anecdotes are important.


There are a few variation, but what makes this such a classic legend is
that it is so consistent in its many tellings. For example, the
location can be Asia or some Middle Eastern country, but it is always
foreigners. Some locations I have heard or seen associated with this
story are: Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia,
Japan, Thailand, India, Africa and the Middle East.

The most common variation, by far, involves the Chinese. And the most
common report is from Indonesians (or Western reporters in Indonesia)
about ethnic Chinese Indonesians. If you ask someone from China about
the legend, they will almost certainly have heard of it. If you ask
them if it is true, as with all of the best legends, most people will
say that it is indeed true and may even offer the "we Chinese eat
anything with four legs that isn't a table" explanation. But if pressed
for details, it will inevitably involve people from some other region,
ethnic group or time.

I have collected a large number of references which I have critically
annotated. It's not just a boring list, so you should definitely hop
over and check out the movies and plays that feature monkey brain
eating (including Italian porn from the 70s), lots of newspaper article
and even pictures of a woman eating monkey brains.

Historical References

One of the best early references I have found is from a reporter in
Japan who heard that the legend was started by a colorful columnist in
1948, but the story is much older and has Chinese origins. There are
two important Chinese historical references. One is a legendary menu,
called the "Man Han Quan Xi" ("The Manchu-Han Complete Banquet" - see
title in Chinese at the end of the article), that is said to be from
the ultimate Chinese feast and is supposed to contain the most exotic
and wonderful foods from all over the empire. The menu (which no longer
exists, but is referenced by other sources) is from the Qing Dynasty
period, which peaked in the 18th century.

The other reference is from a book titled "ManTuoLuo Xuan XianHua"
("Casual Chat on Mantuolou's Veranda"), written by Zhang HaiOu in the
mid-19th century. This text collects traditional Chinese medicine and
food knowledge from various locales around China and in turn refers to
an account by a general who traveled around China, possibly as early as
the 16th century. He recounts a feast that he attended that included
live monkey brain, which he described as being quite tasty. The
previously mentioned Qing Dynasty menu and this 16th century report may
or may not be distinct references, however, and both may come from the
same source (e.g. the general traveled about and collected the dishes
that ended up on the now-lost menu). Unfortunately, this is a
literary-historical friend-of-a-friend tale, as I do not have access to
this 19th century Chinese book and have not read the actual account,
which of course refers to the other older source, of which I know
basically nothing (not even the title). While this is all very
interesting, hunting down primary source documents in classical Chinese
far exceeds my abilities and the patience of my Chinese friends (who
are far less obsessed with monkey brains than I am).

In any case, there is little doubt that this classic legend is probably
as old as time itself, first told by Java Man to Lucy about the exotic
eating habits of barbaric Peking Man.

Is It True?

The main purpose of this article is to discuss the canonical Live
Monkey Brain feast. As a legend, it is a classic in every way and is
particularly interesting because of its age and the extent of the
documentation surrounding it, whether it is true or false.

* Eating live monkey brains as a delicacy is highly unlikely and
the canonical tale is almost certainly not true. Key elements are
unbelievable and undocumented. This includes that the monkey is live
(and conscious), strapped below the table and that the diners excitedly
bop the screaming, kicking monkey on the head, while blood squirts all
around. Then they presumably wipe off the blood, have a good laugh and
enjoy the delicious brains. Yum!
* Eating live monkey brains as medicine is much more believable,
but I'd only put even money on it. This is not the standard version of
the tale, but it is a horrific and commonly reported variation. Paying
money to have the chef prepare fresh monkey brain sushi is only one
step removed from selecting a lobster from a tank and boiling it alive.
* Eating fresh (but not live) monkey brains as medicine is more
likely still , given the large number of reports. Powdered monkey brain
in a medicine shop seems quite plausible. Still, there is always room
of skepticism.
* Eating cooked monkey brains is also believable. Monkey brain stew
might even taste good.

Created: 17 July, 1998
Updated: 6 July, 2004

Annotated References

Don't take my word for it. Check out my extensive annotated references
and see for yourself: everyone has heard this story, no one has thought
very critically about it and no one has ever seen a live monkey brain
feast first hand.

The Chinese and Exotic Foods

Monkey brains are a special case of the more general legends about the
disgusting things that the Chinese eat. More about this is written in
another article.
Chinese References - referred to in the story above:

20 Sep 2004 21:23:07
Re: Chinks eat monkey brains when the monkey is still alive and kicking.

In Asia, do people scoop the brains out of a monkey's skull and eat



Dear Cecil:

Numerous tales originating in Asia (usually Hong Kong, although I have
also seen references to Singapore, Thailand, India, Japan, Korea, etc.)
describe restaurants that serve monkey brains. The procedure for
preparation is usually described thusly: A live monkey is brought to
the table and immobilized by having his head thrust through a metal
collar. In some versions scalding water is poured over his scalp to
kill off the lice. Then a tool of some sort is used to smash the
creature's skull, and its brains are scooped out and consumed raw. Can
you establish any truth to this, or are we dealing with just another
long-running urban legend? --Mark Schreiber, Tokyo

PS: I personally have no desire to witness such a procedure or consume
simian gray matter.
Dear Mark:

Don't kid me, you slime--that scene in Hannibal got you salivating,
didn't it? (Or maybe it was the one in Indiana Jones and the Temple of
Doom.) The idea seems so gross it can't possibly be true. But is it?

We began as we always do, by seeing what we could scare up on the Web.
Plenty has been written about this. The Chinese, or at least those in
Guangdong province, near Hong Kong, are said to prize all manner of
bizarre foods, including bear's paw, snake, crocodile, dog, kangaroo,
pigeon, frogs, sparrows, live baby mice ("good for ulcers"), newborn
rats ("pinkies," swallowed whole and alive for asthma), lizards, worms
seasoned in cheddar cheese and Mexican spices, fried ants, scorpions,
smoked reindeer, moose, crickets, caterpillar larvae, and of course
monkey brains.

We even got a lead on where we could score some brains, from the "Queer
Food" page on a Web site called "Food in Singapore" (formerly at
http://members.tripod.com/~zeoy/queer.html,but this address no longer
works): "Rumours say that there is a stall beside Bedok Reservoir that
sells monkey brains. We did not go down there to check that place out
due to 3 simple reasons: 1)We do not put much faith in rumours; 2)
Bedok is very far from our homes (Bedok is in the East and we are in
the West); 3) Nobody in our group is daring enough to eat monkey
brains. . . . However, if you happen to visit Bedok or live there,
check it out for us."

Pups. But I knew just the guy to contact--our man in Singapore, Brooks.
Described by even those fond of him as devious and conniving, Brooks
would get to the bottom of this if anybody could. Sure enough, mere
hours after sending him an urgent wire, we got word from him: They eat
monkeys in Singapore all right.

"There's a small group of monkeys" near a marina on an Indonesian
island a short distance from Singapore, Brooks wrote. He and his wife
and their friend Tony

were walking along the pier, minding our own business, & CRACK--we
hear a gun nearby. We look up & the customs guy is pointing a big
revolver toward the marina. We freeze then start walking backwards to
get behind a big cruiser. CRACK again. Then we hear Tony laughing with
the customs guys. He says come on up--lunch will be ready in an hour.

Tony translates what happened. The customs guys shot a monkey out
of the tree. You can't just shoot a monkey sitting in a tree, because
they don't fall. They rot up there, hanging on. So first you shoot to
get the monkey to jump. Then when he's scrambling, you shoot him &
he'll fall.

We don't see any monkeys in the tree & don't see one on the
ground--we figured he missed & Tony was joking about lunch. A while
later as we're leaving, the Indonesians near the boat shed have a beach
fire going & are cooking something in a big pot--and on a tree we see a
monkey skin.

The driver taking us to the ferry terminal tells us that monkey
meat is good. The brains are eaten raw, but he doesn't eat monkey ever
since he saw one skinned--skinned ones look EXACTLY like human babies!

OK, so they weren't eating the brains. But we've established that
Asians eat monkeys they've killed on the spot. Inquiring later, Brooks
was told that while consumption of monkey brains is now generally
illegal, the Chinese still eat them whenever they can get away with it.
What's more, he had a friend, D., whose father, a 'baba' (ethnic
Chinese), had eaten monkey brains himself. Here's what D. says his
father told him:

The monkey's head was supported by its neck in a bracket, two
pieces of wood with a semicircular hole on each side such that when you
put them together, they form a complete circle around the animal's
neck, allowing the head to be exposed above the plank. The hair around
the head is shaven with a shaving razor. A small chisel and a hammer is
used to quickly chisel a circle around the crown, and the top part of
the skull is removed. A teaspoon is used to scoop up the brain, which
is immediately eaten. This has to be done before the monkey dies.

According to D., this happened in 1948 or '49. Pops, now deceased, was
an eyewitness but didn't say whether he'd partaken of the brains
himself. Possibly he was jerking his kid around, but I've heard enough
similar stories to make me think this is legit. Brooks, at any rate,
remains on the case. We'll let you know what else we find out.

20 Sep 2004 21:25:29
Re: Chinks eat monkey brains when the monkey is still alive and kicking.

July 17, 2004

Eating monkey brains and pissing off aboriginals

An increasingly hardline Jiang Zemin is the one with the ultimate
authority in the CCP, and he's vowed to "resolve the Taiwan problem" by

Dark clouds are gathering over Ilha Formosa, but thankfully we have the
Apple Daily to tell us about...





Now you're probably thinking, "Hmm, I've got a monkey in a cage. But
how would I go about eating his brains?" Thankfully, as a service to
their readers, the Apple provides a step-by-step guide to cracking open
some monkey skull (second picture above). To translate:

1) The chef cleans the monkey's pate, and then shaves the hair off the

2) The monkey, with its limbs bound, is placed into a specially
designed table with a hole in the center, so that only its head is
exposed. To eat it, you just have to break its skull and pry it open.

3) With the monkey's cranium pried open, diners can either dip the
brains into hot chili oil or spoon it directly out. Either way, the
monkey cannot attack but still feels an extreme amount of pain.

(As a side note, why is the flash HTML tag turned off in IE? It would
make the text above so much funnier if it could flash.)


In similarly disgusting news, Vice President Annette Lu continues to
open her mouth and shame the entire DPP. First, she says that it would
be a swell idea to move all of those mountain-dwelling aboriginals
affected by the recent floods to Latin America. Then she suggested that
aboriginals (who originally came from Polynesia a couple of thousand
years ago) weren't the first people to come to Taiwan. Rather, it was
"=E7=9F=AE=E9=BB=91=E4=BA=BA" i.e. short black people who came to Taiwan fi=
rst, about ten
or twenty thousand years ago. Now, Annette Lu is calling all of the
negative stories about her in the press a form of "black terror."

This of course is causing the aboriginal community to flip out. There
was a small protest last night on Ketegalan Blvd, where one aboriginal
pol was talking about how the DPP was a "colonial government" and Lu
was "oppressing them with her heartless ignorance"
=B0=91.") Meanwhile,
some DPP legislator who is not Annette Lu thought it was wise to chip
in that the government has coddled the aboriginals for too long and
that that has made them stupid ("=E8=AE=93=E5=8E=9F=E4=BD=8F=E6=B0=91=E9=83=


I'm not sure which reaction is funnier to watch: DPP pols scrambling to
distance themselves from Lu's remarks (Su Zhenchang:
or the lunatic TI supporters over at Forumosa racing to be apologists
for her.

I really don't understand what's in the heads of some of these white
guys who are hardcore Taiwanese independence supporters. I mean, I
understand how many white guys, after having lived here several years
and marrying a DPP-supporting local gal, would want to tell the CCP to
fuck off. But more than a few foreigners have crossed the line into
pure fantasy. How can anyone seriously argue that sovereignty of Taiwan
was not transferred from Japan to the Republic of China at the Cairo

Use this analogy to understand the rich irony of a non-=E5=8F=B0=E8=AA=9E s=
white guy adamantly supporting the DPP: An Indian computer programmer
goes over to the US on a tech worker's visa. He finds a nice Republican
woman and settles down with her. Then, partially based off listening to
his wife and partially based off of reading the Urdu-language version
of the National Review (the only local magazine he can understand), he
ardently supports Pat Buchanan, who he believes is the only one who can
protect the purity of the American heritage from the pollution of
foreign influences. Sure, some member of Buchanan's party might
publicly denigrate his race all the time on the news, but he still
loves America (even though he isn't an official American citizen
because of legislation passed by Buchanan's party.)

Moreover, this recent immigrant often frequents Urdu-language Internet
forums, where he and some of his buddies call the majority of Americans
brainwashed because they're not as pro-American as they are. An actual
American who has studied Urdu for several years might occasionally drop
by, but he'll probably be flamed for not having a native speaker's
fluency in Urdu. If this American persists in disagreeing, he'll be
dismissed as a crank.

It's this analogy, my friend, that describes a good 50% of the posters
at the Taiwan Politics forum at Forumosa. Another 40% are still fairly
pan-green, but at least they're still somewhat grounded in reality. Of
course, this analogy isn't perfect. For one, it's a lot easier for a
non-local to obtain the same rights (everything from the right to vote
to the right to have a five-year drivers license) as a local in the US
than in the ROC. Moreover, blatant xenophobia is much more accepted in
public discourse here in the ROC. Ergo, it's even harder to fathom why
a Westerner would be so single-mindedly supportive of the DPP.

I guess I'm becoming more pan-blue (inasmuch as a completely passive
foreign observer can identify with one wing or the other). Maybe it's
because recently I've been thinking of sticking around for another
year, and the blues seem less likely to lead this island into total