Strange Women: Queerying Female Sexuality in Qing Dynasty Zhiguai

Thomas William Whyke, Melissa Shani Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


This is the first of two chapters which are linked in exploring queer depictions of women and men in zhiguai tales. In both cases, we consider social and representational norms, and thus what constitutes deviance. In this chapter, we consider the challenges of interpreting the representation of women’s sexualities in a wider context of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ (vis-à-vis Rich in Journal of Women’s History 15:11–48, 2003). Considering the wider compulsion to marry and the prevalence of depictions of women as sexually available to men, we focus on female figures who orient themselves away from men, and the heteropatriarchal family. We begin with discussion of women’s ‘coldness’, for the ways in which this depicts women’s control over their sexual availability to men. We particularly focus on Pu Songling’s The Swordswoman [Xianu]. We then explore rare tales that depict female same-sex romantic relationships (lesbianism).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPalgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePalgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies
VolumePart F1303
ISSN (Print)2662-7922
ISSN (Electronic)2662-7930


  • Asexuality
  • Compulsory heterosexuality
  • Compulsory sexuality
  • Female sexuality
  • Gender
  • Ji Yun
  • Lesbianism
  • Pu Songling
  • Qing femininities
  • Queer femininities in literature
  • Women in China
  • Yuan Mei
  • Zhiguai

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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