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Tongzhi LivingMen Attracted to Men in Postsocialist China$
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Tiantian Zheng

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780816691999

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816691999.001.0001

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A Cultural History of Same-Sex Desire in China

A Cultural History of Same-Sex Desire in China

(p.33) Chapter 1 A Cultural History of Same-Sex Desire in China
Tongzhi Living

Tiantian Zheng

University of Minnesota Press

By elucidating the historic continuities of diverse, malleable, ambiguous, and fluid sexual imaginations in China, chapter 1 critiques the postsocialist construction of heteronormativity and the portrayal of homosexuality as a representation of a decadent lifestyle imported from the West. It argues that recasting the past and linking the past to the present can enrich our understanding of the present and challenge the current discourse. During the ancient and imperial periods in China, same-sex desires were deemed normal and were enjoyed by many emperors and upper-class scholars and bureaucrats. There was never a fixed or reified sexual identity linked to a certain sexual preference. Sexual fantasies during these many centuries in China were fluid, diverse, and in constant flux. At the turn of the twentieth century, the onslaught of Western medical knowledge changed this cultural tradition and indoctrinated in society heteronormativity and a pathologized and vilified vision of homosexuality. This inaugurated the repression of same-sex-attracted people during the Communist era. The normalizing of heterosexuality and disavowing of China’s past continued in the postsocialist era.

Keywords:   Asian studies, Chinese history, LGBT community, Imperial China, Postsocialism, heteronormativity, Communist China

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