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Chinese Mythology  
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Until the 1980s, it was not uncommon for members of the Chinese community in Hong Kong to proclaim their opposition to the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults. They stated that homosexuality does not exist in China; and if it does, it is the result of decadent Westerners introducing such vices to our innocent people. This idea is popular in China even today.

In reality, however, China has a long, continuous gay history and a large collection of gay documents. Chinese mythology, in particular, is rich in stories about homosexuality.

Religions and Homosexuality in China

The Chinese conception of sexuality is influenced by its aboriginal religions, especially Taoism and Confucianism. Later, Buddhism, which was introduced into China in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.), and Christianity, which was introduced formally to the general public and literary circles during the Ming dynasty (1368 C.E.-1644 C.E.), also influenced Chinese attitudes toward sexuality and sexual morality.

While Christian attitudes do significantly influence modern China, Chinese mythological stories reflect ancient Chinese views toward homosexuality. Such views were mainly influenced by ancient religions, including the worship of animals and nature, Buddhism, Taoism, and, to a certain degree, Confucianism.

Almost every dynasty in China has its own mythological writings, which concern not only extraordinary heterosexual loves, but also homosexual ones. These writings include stories of same-gender sexual relationships between human beings and fox demons, fox fairies, pig fairies, flower fairies, dragons, monkeys, or spirits. In Chinese mythology, there are also homosexual gods, such as Rabbit-god Wu Tien Bao. There are also temples set up by (predominantly heterosexual) communities to worship deceased but revered gay couples.

Among the famous mythological masterpieces of China are the zhiquai stories, or records of strange events, from the Wei-Chin dynasty (265 C.E.- 420 C.E.), the most renowned of which is Gan Bao's Soushen ji (In Search of Spirits). Some of these are homosexual stories, such as the zalu (miscellaneous topics) and biji (random jottings) stories of the Qing dynasty (1644 C.E.-1911 C.E.), including the ghost stories of Pu Songling's Liaozhai zhiji (Tales of Anomalies from the Studio of Leisure) and the heresy stories by Ji Yun (1724-1805) in his Yuewei caotang biji (Random Jottings at the Cottage of Close Scrutiny). These are the best known ones in China and overseas.

The Chinese View on Sexuality and Mythology

Contrary to the popular belief that the Chinese are ascetic and conservative sexually, the people of ancient China were fond of making love. Early historical records from the Autumn and Spring period--722 B. C. E. to 481 B. C. E.--show how candid the rulers were about sexuality. One empress even publicly compared the national military strategy to the love-making techniques practiced by her and the emperor. For many males in China, sexual freedom prevailed even as late as the 1950s, when polygamy was declared illegal. As late as the 1930s, it was quite ordinary for a man to have concubines (including male concubines) as well as a wife.

Confucius once said "Shi se xing ye" (food and sexuality are natural urges). This motto reflects how the Chinese treat sexuality as a natural human desire about which one should not feel ashamed. This philosophy is reflected in the treatment of sexual affairs in the mythological stories, although some of them are didactic.

From the Taoist viewpoint love-making is a way of harmonizing the energies of heaven and earth, thus containing nature's cycle of creation. Love-making, or the "Arts of Chamber," was not only an integral part of early Taoist spiritual training or meditation, it was also believed to be an important method of gaining longevity. So in the mythological stories, it is common for spirits or demons to copulate heterosexually or homosexually with human males in order to extract his "bodily essence" so as to return to human form or to gain longevity.

However, Buddhists view sexuality differently. They believe that sexual activity (whether heterosexual or homosexual) is a manifestation of human greed. Such activity prevents one from "liberating" oneself from the bitter sea of greediness. By committing such sins, the individual is bound to lunhui, or reincarnate, after one's death into either a human, animal, or even demonic form, and continue to suffer in the next life. Whether one incarnates into a male or female, into a ghost or an animal, depends entirely upon what the individual did in the past life, a concept that is called bao or yinquo baoying, the karmic retribution of the next life.

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A bronze statue of Confucius, who taught that sexuality is natural and not shameful.
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