By Keith McMahon

For centuries of chinese language background, polygamy and prostitution have been heavily associated practices that legitimized the "polygynous male," the fellow with a number of sexual companions. regardless of their strict hierarchies, those practices additionally addressed basic antagonisms in sexual kinfolk in severe and positive methods. Qing fiction abounds in tales of lady resistance and superiority. Women―main other halves, concubines, and prostitutes―were adept at exerting keep an eye on and gaining prestige for themselves, whereas males indulged in difficult fantasies approximately girl strength. In Polygamy and stylish Passion, Keith McMahon introduces a brand new notion, "passive polygamy," to provide an explanation for the bizarre variety of Qing tales within which girls take cost of a man’s wishes, turning him into an tool of lady will. To this he provides a narrative that haunted the associations of polygamy and prostitution: the story of "sublime passion," during which the most characters are a "remarkable" girl and her male lover.

Throughout the booklet McMahon examines how polygamy, prostitution, and the tale of chic ardour encountered the 1st phases of paradigmatic swap within the 19th century, a long time prior to the criminal abolition of polygamy. by way of the tip of the Qing dynasty in 1911, love tales have been celebrating the exploits of street-smart prostitutes who fleeced gullible consumers within the bustling urban of Shanghai. What do those characters have in universal with their early opposite numbers as women and men grew to become population of a brand new urban in an period flooded with rules from substantially international sources―all of this occurring in a time of monetary and cultural dislocation? McMahon reads overdue Qing love tales in a traditionally symbolic means, taking them as a part of a bigger fable of chinese language civilization present process a primary concern. The polygamous marriage and the affairs of the brothel turned metaphorical staging grounds for portraying the future of China at the verge of modernity. eventually, McMahon speculates at the adjustments polygamous sexuality underwent after the Qing dynasty ended and even if it exerted a residual effect in later times.

Polygamy and elegant Passion will unquestionably interact these drawn to chinese language society, tradition, literature, and gender reports in addition to comparativists looking to comprehend the various responses to modernization round the world.

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Extra resources for Polygamy and Sublime Passion: Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity

Sample text

The young scholar, a man of “deep passion” (duoqing, 1389), marries her anyway, after which she regains her original beauty. These stories all feature the gesture of severing a part of one’s self, whether one severs actual flesh or endures some form of loss of social face, which may have to do with looks (tolerating the mark on the courtesan’s face) or social status (marriage to a rat or someone of low class). The gesture of severance can be defined as a kind of absolute negativity through which one must pass in order to progress in one’s identification with qing.

His blankness and failure as a full masculine self may be something for which he compensates by seeking the company of idealized Women, but it is also a deficiency that he ultimately shares with them, above all with Daiyu, the person who in this light is no longer simply an idealized Woman. Baoyu and Daiyu are in other words two versions of the same subject defined by a fundamental flaw or deficiency that they always unclearly realize they hold in common, thus their love for each other in spite of the fact that they can never utter or fulfill it.

The remarkable woman now takes shape in plural form first in Suchen’s sagely mother and then in his numerous wives with their various fields of expert knowledge. The wives are said to be his zhiji, “soul mates,” one of the chief terms in late-Ming literature for designating qing-inspired lovers. Their plurality, however, renders them distinctly lower than Suchen and his mother, and none becomes Suchen’s exclusive qing companion. Filial piety takes precedence over loyalty to a lover. The key to sexual harmony lies in Wen Suchen’s definition of sexual pleasure, the model for which is the method of intercourse once a month according to the woman’s menstrual cycle.

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