Have Chinese perceptions towards Homosexuality become more or less conservative?

Essay by jemmaUniversity, Bachelor's October 2005

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Throughout China's history homosexuality has been tolerated but in the twentieth century this dramatically changed to a more conservative culture. But the proposition that homosexuality was completely tolerated in traditional china must be qualified by the arguments that a more conservative shift had already begun to occur in the Qing dynasty, that the submissive homosexual partner was not accepted and that men were forced to be bisexual in order to procreate.

Since China's early dynasties male homosexuality was widely tolerated (at least among the upper classes) but western influences in the early twentieth century began to make attitudes more conservative. Since the late Zhou dynasty there is written evidence of homosexuality being part of the sex life of many rulers. This was regarded as unexceptional and needing no justification. By the Song dynasty, literary accounts had broadened slightly to include accounts of male prostitutes living in the Song capital.

The high profile of these prostitutes caused the Song dynasty to take some action against them but the punishments were comparatively lenient and rarely enforced. Besides which it could be argued that their objection was to prostitution not homosexuality. It is suggested that in the twentieth century the shift from relative tolerance to open hostility was a result of three things, the Chinese were no longer reading classical Chinese, the script in which records of the Chinese homosexual tradition was written, the reformers saw divergence with western culture as a sign of backwardness and the adoption of western science that at that time saw homosexuality as pathological. This argument must be qualified by the fact that a shift was occurring even earlier in China's history. In the 17th century the Qing dynasty had already introduced a law banning homosexual acts. However, because at this time consensual homosexuality largely remained...