The Delicacy

By John Yu Branscum & Yi Izzy Yu

March 9, 2020

The Delicacy

The Delicacy by Ji Yun (1724-1805), Imperial Librarian and Investigator of the Strange

Translated by John Yu Branscum and Yi Izzy Yu

The "Eight Mountain Delicacies" are among the most sought after dishes from the Imperial Banquet of 1720, but they are nearly impossible to make. Some of the more exotic ingredients, such as leopard fetuses, are unobtainable because of the danger involved. Other ingredients are simply rare—such as the hump of the one-hump camel. Therefore, I’d only managed to try two dishes—bear paws and deer tails—when, in the fortieth year of the Emperor Qianlong’s reign, General Min Shaoyi gave me a box.

Its red silk threaded with silver, the box was the type usually reserved for jewelry. But when I opened this one, I found the peeled face of an ape. The whole face, from forehead to chin, and from ear to ear, had been scalped and cured. Everything was there: nose, eyebrows, eye holes, two drooping lips, an open hole of a mouth. It was like an actor’s mask.

I asked my chef what could be done with such a thing. He had no idea. So I kept the box with its face tucked inside until eventually passing it onto a friend. I later learned that the friend passed on the face too. I have no idea where the face is now or what’s being done with it.

I have no idea how one cooks such a thing, nor how one feels after eating it.


Yi Izzy Yu, a devotee of the strange, and tulpa John Yu Branscum teach Cross-Cultural Communication and English Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Their English-language collaborations can also be found online at 3:AM MagazineStrange Horizons: Samovar, Wigleaf, Lunch Ticket, and Cincinnati Review.


Photo courtesy of Martin Brechtl on Unsplash

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