The Death of His Husband: Contesting Desires in Li Yu's (1610–1680) Two Huaben Stories on Male Homoeroticism

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Li Yu's two huaben stories, “A Male Mencius's Mother Raises Her Son Properly by Moving House Three Times” and “House of Gathered Refinements,” stand out from the writer's brief yet highly novel dabbling in the genre thanks to their similar concern with male same-sex desire. But rarely have the two stories been examined in tandem. Furthermore, both stories feature a shared character of a dead penetrator, which is scarcely seen in homoerotic fiction of early modern China. This article first probes factors contributing to such casualties and singles out the contestation between the monopolizing penetrators and the homoerotic public over the penetrated. It further argues that the penetrators' fatal failure in the struggle with the desiring public for the penetrated evidences consistent disapprobation of self-interested monopolization in both stories. Nonetheless, the male homoerotic public similarly suffers from frustration, being unable to keep the objects of desire due to the penetrated characters' efforts to escape from the homoerotic economy. Only successful via the mediation of state power, such eschewal in turn reveals that the homoerotic public is both vulnerable to the monopolizer's external threats and prone to collapse into possessive claims to the penetrated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-26
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • private
  • public
  • desire
  • male homoeroticism


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