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Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China [Hardcover]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 July 1992
The first detailed treatment of the Chinese homosexual tradition in any Western language, "Passions of the Cut Sleeve" shatters preconceptions and stereotypes. Gone is the image of the sternly puritanical Confucian as sole representative of Chinese sexual practices--and with it the justification for the modern Chinese insistence that homosexuality is a recent import from the decadent West. Rediscovering the male homosexual tradition in China provides a startling new perspective on Chinese society and adds richly to our understanding of homosexuality.Bret Hinsch's reconstruction of the Chinese homosexual past reveals unexpected scenes. An emperor on his deathbed turns over the seals of the empire to a male beloved; two men marry each other with elaborate wedding rituals; parents sell their son into prostitution. The tradition portrays men from all levels of society--emperors, transvestite actors, rapists, elegant scholars, licentious monks, and even the nameless poor.Drawing from dynastic histories, erotic novels, popular Buddhist tracts, love poetry, legal cases, and joke books, "Passions of the Cut Sleeve" evokes the complex and fascinating male homosexual tradition in China from the Bronze Age until its decline in recent times.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520067207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520067202
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,864,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This study sheds light on an important aspect of Chinese social history about which virtually nothing has been written previously, and does so with sensitivity, good sense, and grace. It opens entirely new vistas on the history of sexuality. Readers will learn new and unexpected things not only about Chinese history and homosexuality, but about human nature itself."--John Boswell, Yale University

About the Author

Bret Hinsch is a Ph.D. candidate in history and East Asian languages at Harvard University. He is currently doing research in Taiwan.

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First Sentence
Like so many aspects of Chinese culture, the origins of the homosexual tradition are both ancient and obscure. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4.0 out of 5 stars scholarly! 20 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An interesting study using translations of the very few surviving ancient texts available to support the theories expounded. No great revelations but interesting nonetheless.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The first of it's kind 10 May 2005
By David D. Evseeff - Published on
I've seen some somewhat unfair criticisms of this book on here, so I'd like to set the record straight. I'm an American graduate student studying in Taiwan, and my field of studies is Chinese homoerotic literature. It is true that Hinsch's book is a bit outdated, but it was the first of it's kind in English, and I still find many good insights in my own research. Before this book's publication, there was very little research on this topic either in the West or in China/Taiwan. In recent years, a number of scholars have taken up this subject and there have been a number of intruiging articles and books published. Hinsch's work provided the impetus for more research in this field, which is exactly what the author's purpose in writing it was. As for the secondary research material in Chinese that some reviewers believe is superior, I have found it to be exactly the opposite. While there are some books and quite a few articles on the subject in Chinese, they are heavy on primary source material and light on good analysis and lack much application of good literary criticism or theory. This is the advantage that Sinology in the West maintains over research in China/Taiwan. I would definitely recommend that no one overlook or dismiss this excellent book by Dr. Hinsch! By the way, he now does research on women in Chinese history, and has published a book called "Women in Early Imperial China," as well as a number of articles. They are all well worth looking at!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book on the History of Homosexuality in China 11 May 1998
By A Customer - Published on
There are not many resources on the history of Homosexuality in China and many Chinese will tell you that there isn't a history of it at all. This book spans two thousand years of history to show that there was a gay literary tradition in China. It is really the first work of the kind on China in English. It is full of romantic antidotes, poetry and stories from a time that China, particularly under communist influence has tried to deny or at least forget.
Personally I would like to see an update of this first work or the expansion by another author on other Asian countries like Korea where their homophobia has also prevailed and they have taken to rewriting pages of history.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Just for China Scholars 5 Aug 2001
By tamiii - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This delightfully accessible book on an inaccessible topic provides an appetizing read. Bejeweled with wonderful quotations which are variously elegant, erotic, bawdy, and sometimes just simply endearing, the author reviews the two thousand year literary tradition of male same-sex attraction known as the "cut sleeve" (based on a lovely story which I will not spoil by recounting). In the course of this overview, the author provides interesting evidence of the benefits to kinship groups of same-sex relationships as well as the manner in which this tradition harmonized with reproductive marriage. Lastly, he describes how this tradition was lost--though one suspects that his explanation based on western cultural influence does not do justice to indigenous circumstance.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best book written in English 4 Aug 2000
By SEBASTIANVS - Published on
This is the best book on the history of male-love in Chinese history written in English, and Xiaomingxiong's ZHONGGUO TONGXINGAI SHILU is the best one on the same topic written in Chinese. However in both of them, even I a Japanese can indicate some omissions of important persons and famous stories.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the best survey in English 16 Jun 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Anyone who can read Chinese would do better to find Xiaomingxiong's ZHONGGUO TONGXINGAI SHILU (a 2nd edition of which has just been published).
Even if the only originality is the language and some of the readings are naive(ly romantic), this book presents the best survey IN ENGLISH of male-male love across three millennia of Chinese literature and chronicles and points readers to literature both in Chinese and English bearing on the subject
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