(Boylove Documentary Sourcebook) - An Excerpt from 'Pleasant Spring and Fragrant Character' by Xin Yue Zhu Ren

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A youth about to penetrate a compliant boy, on a elegant terrace by moonlight. Gouache painting. China, 19th century. London, Wellcome Library.

From Sex in China: Studies in Sexology in Chinese Culture by Fang Fu Ruan (New York: Plenum Press, 1991).

Note: Xin Yue Zhu Ren's novel was written at a time when China followed the East Asian age reckoning, by which people are born at the age of one, i.e. the first year of lifetime using an ordinal numeral (instead of "zero" using a cardinal numeral), and on Chinese New Year or New Year's Day one year is added to their age. Since age is incremented at the beginning of the lunar or solar year, rather than on the anniversary of a birthday, people may be one or two years older in Asian reckoning than in the international age system.[1]

The Ching dynasty novel providing the most detailed and concrete descriptions of homosexual lovemaking would have to be Pleasant Spring and Fragrant Character (Yi-chun Xiang-zhi). This novel, written under the pseudonym Xin Yue Zhu Ren, was so rare it was not even included in standard bibliographies listing works with sexual themes (e.g., Sun Kai-ti, 1982; Liu Cun-ren, 1982). However, it was included on lists of books officially banned during the Dao Guang (1821–1850) and Tung Chih (1862–1874) periods. As a banned book, it was rarely circulated, and the edition referred to here is a handwritten copy stored in the Beijing Library. The novel appears to have been written between 1796 and 1843, and can safely be said to belong to the first half of the nineteenth century.

The work contains four volumes, respectively titled Wind, Flower, Snow, and Moon. Each volume is an independent story with five chapters and contains numerous descriptions of homosexual behavior and acts. One of the simpler, more easily understood portions, quoted here, illustrates the wealth of detail contained in this novel. The scene takes place in Chapter 1, Volume 1, between Li Zun-xian, an eighteen-year-old student, and Sun Yi-zhi, a thirteen-year-old student:

Li’s penis had reached Sun’s anus and was fully erect but could not enter. Despite several attempts in different ways, Li still could not succeed in entering Sun. Meanwhile Sun was screaming with pain and begged Li to stop. Li told Sun that he did not want to hurt him, but the really wonderful sensations would come later. Li also told Sun that it would help if Sun moved his buttocks. Sun replied that it hurt everywhere, so Li might as well come into him.

Li instructed Sun to hold his own buttocks and then bear down. He would enter Sun at that time. Meanwhile, Li lubricated his penis with his saliva, and with a strong push succeeded in entering Sun. Sun’s inside was still quite tight and dry. Li used another strong push, inserting the whole length of his penis. Li then forcefully pushed up and down, in and out. Gradually, Sun’s inside began to feel smooth and slippery. Li could now enter and withdraw easily. Sun began to feel as if liquid were flooding his inside, and had a strong sensual feeling. He began to move his buttocks up and down until he could hardly breathe and indulged himself in this pleasure.

Li knew then that Sun was enjoying himself, and pushed his penis with great force while Sun was resting, catching his breath. It was at this point that Sun reached his sexual climax. He moaned, “Dear brother!” and turned around and kissed Li on the mouth.
(Translated by Ruan & Tsai, 1987)

Young Actor and Young Scholar. China, end of the Ch'ing period. Silk painting. Amsterdam, F. M. Bertholet Collection.


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