'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

28 November 2010

Male Love in China

Love Pleasure and Passion in China
In ancient China male love was known by many terms, one being 'the pleasures of the bitten peach' which dates back to the Zhou dynasty around 500 BCE. Duke Ling of Wei was offered a peach which his favourite Mizi Xia had bitten and found good. In the Han dynasty (260 BCE – 220 CE) Emperor Ai
and his favourite, Dong Xian, aroused another term 
'tuan hsiu - passions of the cut sleeve'. Dong Xian had fallen asleep on the Emperor’s sleeve so when the Emperor wanted to get up, he cut off the sleeve rather than wake his friend. The cut sleeve became a favoured court fashion statement. In later times male relationships were known among scholars and among the common people. Boy marriages were common in the province of Fujian where a man would pay  the parents, as for a bride, and take the boy to live with him until he was old enough to marry. In more recent times the older traditions were forgotten and such love was seen as a Western weakness and banned but the rotations begin again as laws once again are being eased in some quarters like Hong Kong.
For two centuries at the height of the Han, China was ruled by openly bisexual emperors. The names of their male favourites were recorded in the official histories  by Sima Qian and Ban Gu. The spellings and some dates differ from those above as do many lists I see and in books I have.
Ten Han Emperors and their favourites.

Emperor Gao 206-195BCE and Jiru
Emperor Hui 194-188
BCE and Hongru
Emperor Wen 179-141
BCE and Deng Tong, and Zhao Tan, and Beigong Bozi
Emperor Jing 156-141
BCE and Zho Ren
Emperor Wu 140-87
BCE and Han Yan, and Han Yue, and Li Yannian
Emperor Zhao 86-74
BCE and Jin Shang
Emperor Xuan 73-49
BCE and Zhang Pengzu
Emperor Yuan 48-33
BCE and Hong Gong, and Shi Xian
Emperor Cheng 32-7
BCE and Zhang Fang, and Chunyu Zhang
Emperor Ai 6
BCE-1CE and Dong Xian
The following emperors also are reported to have had open male relationships.

Pei Kai 237-291
Zhang Hanbian 265-420 and Zhou Xiaoshi
Yu Xin 513-581 and Wang Shao
Emperor Jianwen 550
Emperor Xizong 874-889 and Zhang Langgou
Emperor Wuzong 1506-1522
Emperor Shenzong 1573-1620
Emperor Xizong 1621-1628
Emperor Pu Yi - the last Qing (Manchu) Emperor

Some Chinese literature on male love

The Story of Pan Zhang
When Pan Zhang was young he had a beautiful appearance and bearing, and so people of that time were exceedingly fond of him. Wang Zhongxian of the state of Chu heard of his reputation and came to request his writings. Thereafter Wang Zhongxian wanted to study together with him. They fell in love at first sight and were as affectionate as husband and wife, sharing the same coverlet and pillow with unbounded intimacy for one another. Afterwards they died together and everyone mourned them. When they were buried together at Lofu Mountain, on the peak a tree with long branches and leafy twigs suddenly grew. All of these embraced one another! At the time people considered this a miracle. It was called the "Shared Pillow Tree."

The Story of Lord Long Yang
The King of Wei and Lord Long Yang shared a boat while fishing. Lord Long Yang began to cry, so the King asked why he wept. "Because I caught a fish." "But why does that make you cry?" the king asked. Lord Long Yang replied, "When I caught the fish, at first I was extremely pleased. But afterward I sought a larger fish, so I wanted to throw back the first fish I had caught. Because of this evil act I will be expelled from your bed!  "There are innumerable beauties in the world. Upon hearing of my receiving your favour, surely they will left up the hems of their robes so that they can hasten to you. I am also a previously caught fish! I will also be thrown back! How can I keep from crying?" Because of this incident the King of Wei announced to the world "Anyone who dares speak of other beauties will be executed along with his whole family".
Ruan Ji (210- 263CE), lover of Xi Kang, was one of the most famous Chinese poets to describe the love of another man.

In days of old there were many blossom boys --
An Ling and Long Yang.
Young peach and plum blossoms,
Dazzling with glorious brightness.
Joyful as nine springtimes;
Pliant as if bowed by autumn frost.
Roving glances gave rise to beautiful seductions;
Speech and laughter expelled fragrance.
Hand in hand they shared love's rapture,
Sharing coverlets and bedclothes.
Couples of birds in flight,
Paired wings soaring.
Cinnabar and green pigments record a vow:
"I'll never forget you for all eternity. "

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