Love, friendship, fraternity, and sexual pleasure between men in Pu Songling’s Qing dynasty tale Huang Jiulang (c. 1740)

Thomas William Whyke, Joaquin Lopez Mugica

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the structures and possibilities of love, friendship, and fraternity in a sexual relationship between men in the late imperial Chinese zhiguai tale (strange tale) Huang Jiulang. Huang Jiulang is a short fictional supernatural story by Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) writer Pu Songling (1640–1715) about a homosexual love affair that takes place between mock brothers, a fox spirit Huang Jiulang and a human He Shican, first published c.1740 in the third volume of Pu’s zhiguai tale collection Liaozhai Zhiyi (Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio). In China there is a long tradition of people who were not blood related but shared a fraternal bond, for instance by becoming sworn brothers or sisters due to their shared interests, ambitions, or responsibilities. In terms of the wulun (five Confucian interpersonal relationships) brotherhood is superior to friendship. By converting friendship into this mock kinship of brotherhood, the relationship was able to become both more enduring and more affectionate than ordinary friendship. In other words, taking such an oath allowed people to establish a non-kinship family bond. In Huang Jiulang, however, Pu Songling uses the relationship between a human and a fox figure to demonstrate that mock brotherhood could in fact be quite complex by showing the existence of slippages between homosociality and homosexuality, i.e., male friendship, fraternity, sex, and romantic love in late imperial China. In this article, we argue that for Pu Songling, when mock brotherhood became caught up with erotic relations, it signaled a crisis in Confucian masculinity and consequently created a disciplinary model that restricted masculinity to the familial domain and marriage. This takes place within a late imperial Chinese context where marriage was of the gravest importance to both families and society, as well as being important for the cultivation of virtue.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalSexuality and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2021


  • Late imperial China
  • Pu Songling
  • Qing Dynasty
  • Homosexuality
  • Huang Jiulang (c. 1740)
  • Brotherhood


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