Feb 012016


China has an old culture that is often in conflict with the modern day country of material global expansion.  As a lesbian blogger, my research brings me surprising facts that I like to share.  It is a vast country with regional differences.  Now, in January, 2016, a male gay couple are challenging the central government for marriage equality.  They are in love and want to get married.


The LGBT community is making progress and many cities and towns have pride celebrations.  China remains a society that follows the philosopher Confucious who placed family as the foundation of life and everyone knew his or her place.  As long as a man produced male children and worked hard, he was free to pursue same-sex lovers, and sometimes he brought them into the family.

Historians, particularly LGBT advocates, are now finding that same-sex love between women was just as widespread as men, but historian James Neill explains that, like other societies throughout history, literature was produced by men and for men, so anything that didn’t revolve around a penis didn’t get put to paper.

During the Han period — at the mid-second century of the common era — historian Ying Shao observed one practice among women in the emperor’s household: “When palace women attach themselves as “husband and wife” it is called dui shi. They are intensely jealous of each other.”

The written word occurred in the Ming dynasty (1368-1800)

In Pitying the Fragrant Companion by Ming-era author, Li Yu, a young, unmarried woman is beloved by an older, married one. The older woman prays to be transformed into a man so they can be together, which does not happen, so she dresses as a man instead. They’re separated again, so the older woman begs her husband to bring the younger woman into the household as a concubine.  They live as a three-some and it seems that this

was acceptable as bi-sexuality was acceptable.

Unknown Work – Based on Three-Some Sex

Another description from a Ming-era work illustrates this further: “Lady precious Yin and Mistress White Jade lay on top of each other, their legs entwined so that their jade gates pressed together. They then moved in a rubbing and jerking fashion against each other like fishes gobbling flies or water plants from the surface.  It ends with male dominance. “Great Lord Yang li thrust his “jade root” in between them until they all “shared the ultimate simultaneously.”

Same-Sex Marriage?

Same-sex marriage was noted among both men and women, especially in certain regions of China. “Golden Orchid Associations” were especially common in Guangdong province, the region outlying Hong Kong and Macau, where one woman assumed the role of husband, and the other wife. The women would exchange gifts and feast, like any other marriage ceremony, and would then go on to adopt female children who inherited property from their parents. Male same-sex love may have been more consistently celebrated and recorded, but female homosexuality in China was strong.

Self combed Liang Jieyun, 85, and Huang Li-e, 90, are rarities as zishunü and have never had a husband or children. Photograph: Tania Branigan for the Guardian Tania Branigan/Guardian

Self combed
Liang Jieyun, 85, and Huang Li-e, 90, are rarities as zishunü and have never had a husband or children. Photograph: Tania Branigan for the Guardian Tania Branigan/Guardian

In an earlier blog, I wrote about Chinese women in Guandong Province who decided not to marry.  In a public ceremony, dressed in a red wedding garment, their ‘hair was combed out’ by the mother and worn on top.  These women swore to support their families for their entire lives.  Many of these women emigrated to Hong Kong and Singapore and lived in female communities.  They were known as Zishunu or self-combed women.

In June 2009, China’s first gay pride festival was held in Shanghai, which was followed by a seven-day film festival featuring LGBT-themed films. On 25 August 2009, after police crackdown on gay meeting places in Guangzhou, about 100 gay men publicly protested in the  People’s Park , a popular hangout for gays. According to Human Rights Watch, the protest “has been hailed as a milestone” in the history of LGBT rights in China.

In July 2015, many gay users of Sina Weibo used the microbloggingservice to discuss the Obergefell v. Hodgesruling in the US, issues like “coming out” to parents, and articles in the People’s Daily on gay men.  Two Chinese men who wish to marry have succeeded now in 2016 to have their case heard by a court.   Good luck to them and to all our Chinese gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered brothers and sisters.


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