Gender and Sexuality in Modern Chinese History (New Approaches to Asian History)
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Gender and sexuality have been neglected topics in the history of Chinese civilization, despite the fact that philosophers, writers, parents, doctors, and ordinary people of all descriptions have left reams of historical evidence on the subject. Moreover, China's late imperial government was arguably more concerned about gender and sexuality among its subjects than any other pre-modern state. Sexual desire and sexual activity were viewed as innate human needs, essential to bodily health and well-being, and universal marriage and reproduction served the state by supplying tax-paying subjects, duly bombarded with propaganda about family values. How did these and other late imperial legacies shape twentieth-century notions of gender and sexuality in modern China? In this wonderfully written and enthralling book, Susan Mann answers that question by focusing in turn on state policy, ideas about the physical body, and notions of sexuality and difference in China's recent history, from medicine to the theater to the gay bar; from law to art and sports. More broadly, the book shows how changes in attitudes toward sex and gender in China during the twentieth century have cast a new light on the process of becoming modern, while simultaneously challenging the universalizing assumptions of Western modernity.
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builds on centuries of government involvement in promoting a social order grounded in the gender division of labor within households. Absent the mediating influence of powerful religious institutions, the modern Chinese central government – like its predecessors – has been relatively free to manipulate the family system in directions favoring the interests of its own leadership. Moreover, because of the conflation of political values with gendered values (the links between loyalty to the state
looks, her skill, her talent, her wit, her scent. Printed catalogs gave scores for these “ranked flowers” to guide the novice. Longtime patrons of the “kingfisher quarter” (qing lou or cui guan) made money – and gained notoriety – from their insider stories. Details of dress and makeup and ambience and conversation, with very occasional delicate allusions to a courtesan's bound feet, were eagerly passed around, first in handwritten notes and then in printed volumes. Those feet – the awareness of
biological make-up, and demonstrating that many of the male and female characteristics long taken for granted by the dominant ideology of Western society are determined by social custom rather than by genetics. That does not mean that the Chinese believe that the ability of male runners to run faster than female runners has no genetic component. Rather, there is a firm conviction that women's biological disadvantage in physical performance may be compensated for by socially-conditioned superior
will ask how the relationships between gender and power have been configured in China's modern history, particularly in the transition from the late empire to the modern nation. Our primary focus will be the Chinese cultural context within which those relationships were framed and negotiated over time. This approach enables us to view modern Chinese history through a lens that makes us think differently about the social and cultural costs of the end of the empire and the beginnings of the