Libertine Monks and Women: Sexual Fantasies in Late Imperial Chinese Vernacular Erotica
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AbstractThe image of women in late imperial China was often portrayed as the oppressed, where the practice of foot-binding, social hype for chastity and the Confucian-patriarchal kinship based society seemed to have sufficiently confined women into a prison of morality. However, such practices took place simultaneously with a surge of vernacular erotic entertainment in the general society, and there is no reason to overlook their engagement of such culture in their daily life, which this paper intends to examine.

Aside from the most famous erotic classic novel — The Golden Lotus, there are over 50 extant late imperial Chinese vernacular erotic novels that remain largely unknown to and neglected in the academia at present. One possible reason for their anonymity is mainly due to the lack of accessible first-hand materials, since they are generally scattered in different libraries or in private collections. The lack of properly edited modern reissue and translation only further reduced attention of scholars working on late imperial Chinese literature on these texts.

Serving as precious records of the erotic fantasy and daily life of late imperial Chinese, one of the recurring themes of these texts is the sexual affair between Buddhist monks and women. While such stories could be interpreted as the satirical criticism of Buddhist monks’ morality, the tales are likely also a product catered to the fantasy of general women at the time. Three representative erotic novels, namely Dengcao Heshang [The Candlewick Monk], Fengliu Heshang [The Libertine Monk] and Wutong Ying [Shadow of the Chinese Parasoltree], are singled out for in-depth study. Through analyzing the sexual interactions of women and the Buddhist monks and their sentiments in the novels, this paper attempts to articulate how the supposedly cloistered women came in contact with the Buddhist monks and their sexual fantasies over religious figures. Furthermore, the paper will illustrate the elements of late imperial Chinese women’s everyday lives reflected by such stories, and their relation with possible outlets of women’s desire under the society’s watchful eyes.
All Author(s) ListWai Cheuk Yee
Name of ConferenceUniversity of Oxford China Humanities Graduate Conference 2017: (Extra)ordinary China: Practices of the Everyday
Start Date of Conference11/01/2017
End Date of Conference12/01/2017
Place of ConferenceUniversity of Oxford
Country/Region of ConferenceGreat Britain
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsVernacular Chinese Fictions, Late Imperial China, Erotic Literature, Buddhist Monks, Dengcao Heshang, Fengliu Heshang, Wutong Ying

Last updated on 2018-20-01 at 19:00