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Cross-Dressing and Gender Passing in 18th Century China: Three Case Studies

Women's and Gender History Guest Seminar

Jan 24, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 05:30 PM

2203 Social Sciences & Humanities

In China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), consensual sexual relations between men were formally prohibited but seldom punished, and then only relatively mildly. But the crime of "a man disguising himself in woman's attire" was punishable by death, under the statute against "using heterodox doctrines to provoke and deceive the people" – an ideological category that induced, on the part of elites and officials, something like the hysteria with which early modern Europeans treated their own peculiar crime of "sodomy." Three case studies of individuals with male anatomy who chose to live as women help illuminate what was at stake – both for the individuals themselves and for the officials who prosecuted them. 


Matthew Sommer, Stanford University