Xing: The Discourse of Sex and Human Nature in Modern China

Rocha, Leon Antonio (2010) Xing: The Discourse of Sex and Human Nature in Modern China. Gender & History, 22 (3). pp. 603-628. ISSN 0953-5233

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In Modern Chinese, xing is the character most commonly used to denote sex, gender and sexuality. However, the character was a specialist Confucian term originally meaning ‘human nature’ in Classical Chinese, and only came to signify both sex and human nature in the early twentieth century. This usage was invented by Japanese intellectuals in the late nineteenth century for their translations of sexological texts from Europe, in which they encountered the concept of sex as a natural drive and the fundamental core of individuals. This article investigates the convoluted linguistic career of xing, and argues that in China in the 1920s, sex/xing became the point of anchorage for a new politics, which naturalised sex, legitimised talk about reproduction and desire, and made imperative the intensification of the production of scientific knowledge on sex (and by extension ‘human nature’). It is emphasised that the history of xing in China in the 1920s is not just a curiosity or appendage to more ‘mainstream’ history of sexuality; rather, it is impossible to appreciate the global nature of modernity without a thorough understanding of the circulation of sexual ideas.

Keywords:History of sexuality, Modern Chinese History, History of Medicine, Translation studies, Modern Japanese History
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V380 History of Science
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V241 Chinese History
L Social studies > L320 Gender studies
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q910 Translation studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V140 Modern History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:34980
Deposited On:15 Feb 2019 09:53

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