A Fantasy Tip From History: The Infamous Gu Poison

Nicholas C. Rossis

Gu poison | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Minority women in southern China were accused of poisoning northern men with a special poison made of venomous creatures. WELLCOME LIBRARY/CC BY 4.0 via Atlas Obscura

Fans of the film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the television show Sleepy Hollow may remember a powerful poison, used as a method to manipulate lovers and cause death. Atlas Obscura has the fascinating history of this legendary toxin — and I use the word “legendary” both figuratively and literally, as it is still unclear whether such a concoction was ever anything more than an ingenious way of marginalizing southern China minorities.

Dating as far back as 610 AD, travelers to southern China were warned of women who seduced travelers, feeding men meals laced with a powerful poison known as gu poison to keep their lovers from returning to their homes in the north. Gu poison, so the stories went, was collected by sealing venomous snakes…

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