Male Homosexuality and Foxes in Ji Yun’s Zhiguai Collection Tales of the Thatched Cottage

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Tales reflecting homosexual relationships between foxes and humans had appeared as early as the Ming Dynasty. With both the increase in prevalence in society and fictional representation of homosexuality during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the stories of male–male sex between foxes and humans became increasingly popular, demonstrating the popular attitudes toward homosexuality among the Qing literati. In this paper, I analyze late imperial Chinese homosexuality as portrayed in Ji Yun’s zhiguai collection “Tales of the Thatched Cottage” (Yuewei Caotang Biji). Zhiguai, or strange tales in English, is a genre of writing featuring ghosts, magical animal–human shapeshiftings, dreams that intervene in reality, and other supernatural characters and events. These tales are set against a background of strict Confucian orthodoxy and Buddhist beliefs in sexual activity (whether heterosexual or homosexual) as a manifestation of human greed, in a society where everything had its place, in which the boundaries of sexuality were rigidly controlled. I examine what foxes reveal about homosexuality in these tales as they cross the boundary between moral and immoral, healthy and destructive. I argue that the fox’s homosexual punishment of humanity has two motives: (1) disciplining sexual lasciviousness and (2) karmic retribution for misdeeds in a former life. In these instances, the fox’s ensuing erotic deviancy serves as the vehicle for cautionary tales that demonstrate homosexuality to be a taboo as it punishes greedy desires (sexual or otherwise).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-374
JournalFudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Zhiguai tales
  • Ji Yun
  • Yuewei Caotang Biji
  • Foxes
  • Male homosexuality


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