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The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern China

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In early twentieth-century China, age-old traditions of homosocial and homoerotic relationships between women suddenly became an issue of widespread public concern. Discussed formerly in terms of friendship and sisterhood, these relationships came to be associated with feminism, on the one hand, and psychobiological perversion, on the other—a radical shift whose origins ha In early twentieth-century China, age-old traditions of homosocial and homoerotic relationships between women suddenly became an issue of widespread public concern. Discussed formerly in terms of friendship and sisterhood, these relationships came to be associated with feminism, on the one hand, and psychobiological perversion, on the other—a radical shift whose origins have long been unclear. In this first ever book-length study of Chinese lesbians, Tze-lan D. Sang convincingly ties the debate over female same-sex love in China to the emergence of Chinese modernity. As women's participation in social, economic, and political affairs grew, Sang argues, so too did the societal significance of their romantic and sexual relations. Focusing especially on literature by or about women-preferring women, Sang traces the history of female same-sex relations in China from the late imperial period (1600-1911) through the Republican era (1912-1949). She ends by examining the reemergence of public debate on lesbians in China after Mao and in Taiwan after martial law, including the important roles played by globalization and identity politics.


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In early twentieth-century China, age-old traditions of homosocial and homoerotic relationships between women suddenly became an issue of widespread public concern. Discussed formerly in terms of friendship and sisterhood, these relationships came to be associated with feminism, on the one hand, and psychobiological perversion, on the other—a radical shift whose origins ha In early twentieth-century China, age-old traditions of homosocial and homoerotic relationships between women suddenly became an issue of widespread public concern. Discussed formerly in terms of friendship and sisterhood, these relationships came to be associated with feminism, on the one hand, and psychobiological perversion, on the other—a radical shift whose origins have long been unclear. In this first ever book-length study of Chinese lesbians, Tze-lan D. Sang convincingly ties the debate over female same-sex love in China to the emergence of Chinese modernity. As women's participation in social, economic, and political affairs grew, Sang argues, so too did the societal significance of their romantic and sexual relations. Focusing especially on literature by or about women-preferring women, Sang traces the history of female same-sex relations in China from the late imperial period (1600-1911) through the Republican era (1912-1949). She ends by examining the reemergence of public debate on lesbians in China after Mao and in Taiwan after martial law, including the important roles played by globalization and identity politics.

45 review for The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern China

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    I read this book for a history class on the history of Chinese sexuality. It appears to be one of the only monographs to deal with Lesbianism in China. It focuses on the Modern era, with special attention to Republican, Post-Mao, and Nationalist Taiwan China. There is much literary analysis of May 4th generation literature on lesbianism and also how lesbianism has been separated from male homosexuality in China, to the point where the latter is more tolerated than the former. Lesbian sexual enco I read this book for a history class on the history of Chinese sexuality. It appears to be one of the only monographs to deal with Lesbianism in China. It focuses on the Modern era, with special attention to Republican, Post-Mao, and Nationalist Taiwan China. There is much literary analysis of May 4th generation literature on lesbianism and also how lesbianism has been separated from male homosexuality in China, to the point where the latter is more tolerated than the former. Lesbian sexual encounters were only allowed in pre-modern China when they were done between concubines, servants, and wives of Confucian official patriarchs, sometimes for the patriarch's enjoyment. Otherwise, it was villified for being an open defiance of the Confucian patriarch's monopoly on his women. In modern times, it is a shame for families, as women are expected to produce sons for the family line. In cosmopolitan cities, though, lesbian communities exist and underground lesbian magazines are produced, praising Western lesbian culture. The author is a Chinese lesbian herself and includes accounts of her interviews with Taipei lesbians. Chinese lesbians often feel like "crocodiles", monsters with human skin wrapped around them. That is, they feel like outsiders and hated. Foucaultian post-structuralism is displayed at its finest here.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bizzy

    a very important book. the introduction is especially informative and worthwhile. she clearly explains why using literature is an important way to evaluate perceptions of same-sex desire and her writing is very lucid and easy to understand. very good for people who are interested in gender in China.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Holdaway

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shivanie

  5. 4 out of 5

    jax

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lotus (Yang Yu)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Delphi May

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jess Overton

  10. 5 out of 5

    Angel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Betty

  12. 4 out of 5

    Viv Lee

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fatima

  15. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

  16. 4 out of 5

    Angel

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zow Ormazabal

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dian

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gearie Ooang

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abhi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jess

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tom Carter

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wgary

  24. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor Collard

  26. 5 out of 5

    DFZ

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mathilda Craft

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Max Renn

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  31. 4 out of 5

    Melon109

  32. 4 out of 5

    Hermes

  33. 4 out of 5

    Susie Q

  34. 5 out of 5

    Murray

  35. 4 out of 5

    Lee's Storage

  36. 4 out of 5

    阿睿

  37. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

  38. 4 out of 5

    Caitlyn

  39. 4 out of 5

    Chally

  40. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

  41. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Kolarik

  42. 5 out of 5

    David

  43. 4 out of 5

    Aishe

  44. 4 out of 5

    Andre

  45. 4 out of 5

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