Human Sacrifice

In the Yangshao and Longshan cultures, human skulls with traces of hacking have been unearthed, and these may be the beginning of human sacrifice. Human sacrifice is called “human sacrifice”, which is a living sacrifice used to worship the gods. The human animals were usually prisoners of war, criminals, etc. Human sacrifice first appeared at the end of primitive society, flourished during the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, and gradually declined during the Spring, Autumn and Warring States.

The oracle bone fragment 744 below has a divination in which a female prisoner of war is burned to pray for rain. There are hundreds of human sacrifice pits excavated at the site of the tomb of the king at Yinxu, and the total number of people killed was more than 1,900; however, according to the oracle bones, the total number of animals killed in the late Shang dynasty was more than 14,000. During the Wuding period, there were more wars, and the total number of human sacrifices was more than 9,000; the largest number of human sacrifices was at palace site No. 7 in Xiaotun Group B, with a total of 585 people. In addition, there is a difference between human sacrifice and human martyrdom; human sacrifice happened in the sacrificial pits, while human martyrdom happened in the graves. Some of the martyrdom was voluntary, as the relatives and soldiers of the deceased committed suicide and were buried for them; some of the martyrdom was compulsory, using prisoners of war and household slaves; the Yin people believed that people would become ghosts and gods after death and might need companions in heaven, so the spirits of the relatives, soldiers, and household slaves of the deceased were made to accompany the deceased. From the mounds and oracle bone inscriptions at the Yin ruins, it appears that human sacrifice and human martyrdom were rare in the Shang dynasty during the Di Yi and Di Xin periods, and that barbaric treatment of prisoners of war was not used; there were many wars during the Di Yi and Di Xin periods, and the sources of prisoners of war were abundant, and the decrease in human sacrifice and human martyrdom may be related to the dilution of the concept of ghosts and gods at that time.

King Wu of Zhou, Jiang Taigong and Duke of Zhou still practiced the human sacrifice system and accused King Zhou of being “disrespectful to God”. When the rulers of the Western Zhou Dynasty frequently conquered foreign countries, especially when they attacked the Han River basin and the eastern region, they held many rituals to kill and sacrifice prisoners in Luoyi, the accompanying capital of the Zhou Dynasty. There are large scale human sacrificial pits at the sacrificial site of Luoyi in the Western Zhou Dynasty. A small pellet tripod from the Western Zhou period records that King Kang of Zhou killed human sacrifices in his ancestral temple, which came from prisoners of war obtained from ghosts. The custom of human slaughter was also practiced in the Western Zhou Dynasty, but since the tombs of the kings of the Western Zhou have not yet been discovered, only a total of more than 800 martyrs have been found in the Western Zhou tombs excavated so far.

During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, both human sacrifice and human slaughter were severely criticized by the scholars and sages. Ximen Bao severely punished sorcerers who performed human sacrifice, and Duke Xian of Qin ordered that human slaughter be banned. However, human sacrifice and human slaughter were still written in history. According to Zuo Zhuan, during the Spring and Autumn period, Ji Pingzi of Lu “used human beings in Bo She”; in the late Spring and Autumn period, more than 160 martyrs and 20 human animals were excavated from the tomb of Duke Jing of Qin; according to the Northern History, the minority people of southwest China “were afraid of ghosts and gods, and they were especially fond of obscene rituals. The people killed, beautiful temples and beards will be peeled of their faces, caged in bamboo, and dry, called ‘ghost’, inspired by the sacrifice, for the welfare. To sell their wives and slaves, they sold themselves for sacrifice.” The Book of History – Chen Shushi Shijia: The alliance was made for the altar, and the sacrifice was made to the head of the lieutenant. It can be seen that there were still sacrifices at the end of the Qin Dynasty. Many Han emperors, including Liu Bang, the Gaozu of Han Dynasty and Liu Che, the Emperor of Han Dynasty, banned human slaughter, and although there were some periods of repetition, human sacrifice and human slaughter were gradually abandoned as society progressed.

Although human sacrifice and human slaughter are barbaric and backward institutions, they cannot be considered as evidence of a slave society (especially in Eastern countries such as China) because the victims are usually enemy prisoners of war, relatives of the deceased, and domestic slaves rather than productive slaves.


In India, a small number of Hindu Sexualists make offerings of human bodies, human blood, or human heads to goddesses such as the Mother of Time and the Mother of Difficulty. This practice was still practiced by a few followers during the British colonial rule, was banned by the British colonial authorities, and gradually disappeared later.

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, the head-hunting of the South Islander peoples, including the out-grass of the aborigines of Taiwan, all have the meaning of ancestor worship.

West Asia

Human sacrifice occurred in ancient Sumer and Babylon. The ancient Semites used to sacrifice human animals to the gods, such as burning children to sacrifice to Moloch. The book of Genesis contains the story of the test of Abraham’s willingness to kill his only son in sacrifice to Jehovah (Jehovah).


In Europe, human sacrifice existed in agricultural societies at least 5,000 years ago. In ancient Greece and Rome, human sacrifice was an important part of some religious beliefs by the time of the Roman Empire, such as the sacrifice of a living person to Adonis, the Greek god of plants, and Proserpina, the Roman goddess of the underworld, etc. Death and resurrection became important features of these beliefs. The Roman consul Crassus banned human martyrdom in 97 BC. During the Roman Empire, there were rumors that Carthaginians, Druids, Jews and Christians used infant sacrifice, which led to discrimination and persecution of believers.


The Mayans and Incas also had this practice. When the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan was inaugurated in 1486, the ruler ordered more than 20,000 captives to be carried to the altar, had their hearts ripped out and sacrificed to the sun god, then threw the hearts into a container held by a stone idol and threw the bodies down the steps of the temple.

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