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2013 events

Pornography, Urban Commoners, and Late-Ming Fiction and Drama

Dr Wu Cuncun, Associate Professor in classical Chinese literature, University of Hong Kong

Research seminar

4-6pm, Wednesday 9 October

Room K-1.14, King's Building, Strand Campus

All are welcome to China Institute research seminars - no need to register


Much of the discussion of pornography in late-imperial China has to date focussed on libertine cultural rebellion associated with sections of the privileged literati or scholar-official class (shidaifu). Such an approach possibly neglects other social-historical dimensions surrounding transgressive forms of cultural expression in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In this seminar I will fist give an outline of my view of what was happening in this period, as well as try and point to links to similar developments in Europe, keeping in mind that there needs to be a basis of comparison if theoretical insights are to be read either way.

Adapting some insights from analyses of early pornography in enlightenment Europe I will describe how I think pornographic genres in Ming China were in part expressions of change in urban social stratification. I will illustrate these issues with reference to several works from the seventeenth century, including the short story collection Huanxi yuanjia (Enemies enamoured) and the less well-known plays of Huang Fangyin, where the rehearsal of sexual dramas are clearly situated among the urban commoners of the prosperous Lower Yangtze delta.


Dr Cuncun Wu is associate professor in classical Chinese literature, The University of Hong Kong. She has published widely in both Chinese and English on late-imperial Chinese literature and gender and sexuality in Chinese history, including Sex and Sensibility in Ming and Qing Societies (in Chinese, People’s Literature Press 2000), Homoerotic Sensibilities in Late Imperial China (Routlege 2004) and Homoeroticism in Imperial China: A Sourcebook (co-authored, Routledge 2012). She is currently working on two research projects 1) homoerotic writing in late Qing Beijing theatre circles, and 2) pornography and modernity in late Ming China.

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