Class and Jia Baoyu’s Same-Sex Attractions

university_sydney_logo2016 Chinese Studies Department Seminar Series, University of Sydney

Class and Jia Baoyu’s Same-Sex Attractions
Professor Louie Kam

12pm – 1:30 pm, Friday 27 May 2016
SLC Common Room 536, Brennan MacCallum Building A18, University of Sydney

In this paper, I will present some preliminary thoughts on how same-sex attractions are depicted in Jia Baoyu, the protagonist of one of the most important novels in traditional China, the Hongloumeng. Most readers and critics see Jia Baoyui’s romantic attachments to Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai as all-consuming and little attention has been paid to his homo-social relationships. By framing the discussion of Jia Baoyu’s sexual orientations around my previous work on masculinity and wen-wu, I will draw out the class implications of Cao Xueqin’s depictions.

I will firstly rehearse my published work on wen-wu, in particular the homo-sociality of the wu icon Guan Yu, the hero in the novel Sanguo yanyi. With an ignoble class background, I argue that he needs to appear beyond temptations and repress his sexual desires, because without other avenues to display power and domination, sex becomes a fundamental test to show a (working class) man’s self-control. By contrast, coming from an aristocratic class, Bao Yu’s sexuality, (in this paper I look at his homosexuality) can be less restrained. The paper concludes that these depictions are not accidental: they function as vehicles to ensure that in intimate relationships, class boundaries are not crossed.

Before serving as Dean of Arts at Hong Kong University (2005–2013), Professor Louie Kam was Professor of Chinese at UQ and ANU. Currently, he is an Honorary Professor at UNSW and Hong Kong University. He has served on a number of bodies such as the Cultural and Educational Advisory Committee of Queensland-China Council and the Australia-China Council. He has published eighteen books on various aspects of Chinese culture.

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