The hu schiwei is a giant insect found in the land of Taopai.
The hu schiwei is an enormous insect, as tall as a tree, with thick, spindly legs and a relatively small body. It bears a vague similarity to a distorted beetle. Its carapace is a dark gray-brown, but the inside of its mouthparts is a vivid blue.
There is a Taopei saying: "The hu schiwei never stops growing, but its shell does." According to local folklore, the hu schiwei grows constantly but can only shed its exoskeleton so many times in its life. When it runs out of moltings, it crushes itself in its own skin.
The hu schiwei lives in the mountain forests of Taopai, where it feeds on the succulent leaves and brightly-colored flowers of the parasitic vines that grow in the upper canopy there.
Every five years the female hu schiwei deposits gluey clumps of eggs in the branches of trees. Each egg is as large as a melon. The males fertilize the eggs, often with several males jostling each other for access to the same clump. The first nymph to hatch from a clump will eat the other eggs for its initial sustenance. It then goes through a series of moltings, leaving behind successively larger husks, until it reaches its final size.
The meat of the hu schiwei is pale blue that turns rich purple when cooked. It contains an odd mystical poison: you can eat it once without any ill effects, but the second time you eat it, even decades later, you will die a swift and painless death. Many Taopei families have a tradition of giving hu schiwei to a young adult as they come of age, and of eating hu schiwei once more on their deathbed when the pain becomes too much or they feel as if they are a burden. Some Taopei will describe premature or accidental death by saying, "They died without tasting hu schiwei again."
The traditional preparation for hu schiwei is to marinate the meat in a sweet pepper vinegar, then broil it and cover with a light, savory sauce. It is served over flower-infused rice. The taste is said to resemble rich shrimp, although people who have eaten it will often romanticize it as being the "best meal they've ever tasted."