In Xenocide by Orson Scott Card, Jane tells the myth of I Ya to Qing-jao to ask her if she is a slave similar to the character of this myth.

"Remember the story of I Ya, the great cook," said Jane. "His master said one day, 'I have the greatest cook in all the world. Because of him, I have tasted every flavor known to man except the taste of human flesh.' Hearing this, I Ya went home and butchered his own son, cooked his flesh and served it to his master, so that his master would lack nothing that I Ya could give him."


"Are you a servant like I Ya?" asked Jane. "Will you slaughter your own world for the sake of an unworthy master like Starways Congress?"

Is there any parallel to this myth in real life, or at least any known inspiration? The Jade of Master Ho, the title of this chapter, is indeed a real myth in Chinese mythology. It seems odd for Card to just make up a Chinese myth on the spot.


1 Answer 1


Yes, this individual (also known as Yi-Ya or 易牙) appears to have existed. The story is much as described.

As a final example nearly 4000 years ago during the Shang Dynasty, the Chinese cook I-ya was reputed to have had such a sensitive palate that he could taste the difference between the waters of the Tzu and Sheng rivers. By way of bizarre self-abasement, I-ya is recorded as having prepared for his employer, Duke Huan of Ch’i, the ‘ultimate taste’, the steamed head of the cook’s own son (Knechtges 1986: 57-8).

A History of Cooks and Cooking by Michael Symons


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