Homosexuality in the Zhou Period

Discussion of homosexual behavior in Chinese literature referred back to three classic tales of love from the Zhou period, the Story of Mizi Xia, the Story of Pan Zhang, and the Story of Lord Long Yang.

The Story of Mizi Xia

As recorded in the Legalist philosophical work, Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 78-79).

In ancient times Mizi Xia won favor [chang] with the ruler of Wei. According to the laws of the state of Wei, anyone who secretly made use of the ruler’s carriage was punished by having his feet amputated. When Mizi Xia’s mother fell ill, someone slipped into the palace at night to report this to Mizi Xia. Mizi Xia forged an order from the ruler, got into the ruler’s carriage, and went to see her, but when the ruler heard of it, he only praised him, saying, “How filial! For the sake of his mother he forgot all about the danger of having his feet cut off!” Another day Mizi Xia was strolling with the ruler in an orchard and, biting into a peach and finding it sweet, he stopped eating and gave the remaining half to the ruler to enjoy. “How sincere is your love for me!” exclaimed the ruler. “You forgot your own appetite and think only of giving me good things to eat!” Later, however, when Mizi Xia’s looks had faded and the ruler’s passion for him had cooled, he was accused at committing some crime against his lord. “After all,” said the ruler, “he once stole my carriage, and another time he gave me a half-eaten peach to eat!” Mizi Xia was acting no diffrently from the way he always had; the fact that he was praised in the early days and accused of crime later on, was because the ruler’s love had turned hate.

If you gain the ruler’s love, your wisdom will be appreciated; you will enjoy his favor as well; but if he hates you, not only will your wisdom be rejected, but you will be regarded as a criminal and thrust aside…. The beast called the dragon can be tamed and trained to the point where you may ride on its back. But on the underside of its throat it has scales a foot in diameter that curl back from the body, and anyone who chances to brush against them is sure to die. The ruler of men too has his bristling scales.”

The Story of Pan Zhang

When Pan Zhang was young he had a beautiful [mei] appearance and bearing, and so people of that time were exceedingly fond of him. Wang Zhongxian of the state of Chu heard of his reputation and came to request his writings. Thereafter Wang Zhongxian wanted to study together with him. They fell in love at first sight and were as affectionate as husband and wife, sharing the same coverlet and pillow with unbounded intimacy for one another.

Afterwards they died together and everyone mourned them. When they were buried together at Lofu Mountain, on the peak a tree with long branches and leafy twigs suddenly grew. All of these embraced one another! At the time people considered this a miracle. It was called the “Shared Pillow Tree.”‘

The Story of Lord Long Yang

The King of Wei and Lord Long Yang shared a boat while fishing. Lord Long Yang began to cry, so the King asked why he wept. “Because I caught a fish.”

“But why does that make you cry?” the king asked.

Lord Long Yang replied, “When I caught the fish, at first I was extremely pleased. But afterward I sought a larger fish, so I wanted to throw back the first fish I had caught. Because of this eveil act I will be expelled from your bed!”

“There are innumerable beauties in the world. Upon hearing of my receiving your favor, surely they will lift up the hems of their robes so that they can hasten to you. I am a previously caught fish! I will also be thrown back! How can I keep from crying?”

Because of this incident the King of Wei announced to the world “Anyone who dares speak of other beauties will be executed along with his whole family”.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

3 responses to “Homosexuality in the Zhou Period

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