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Sex, Culture and Modernity in China

Frank Dikotter

Publication Year: 1995

With the disintegration of Confucian cosmology after the fall of the imperial system in China, medical science was introduced as a foundation for social order. This study traces the emergence of new sexual identities in this period.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

I acknowledge with gratitude the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship of the British Academy which allowed me to carry out the research for this book from its very inception to its completion. The Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine gave me timely support for a research trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan during...


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-13

The revolution of 1911 profoundly altered the political structures of imperial China. In its aftermath, another revolution soon challenged the sexual order maintained by Confucianism: sex shook the large cities in early Republican China. Open talk of sex rapidly became a sign of liberation from the 'shackles of...

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2. The Passive Sex: The Naturalization of Gender Distinctions

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pp. 14-61

The authority and prestige of neo-Confucian knowledge, on which prescriptive claims about gender hierarchy were founded, gradually eroded during the last decade of the nineteenth century and finally disintegrated with the disappearance of the last dynasty in 1911. Natural sciences were introduced instead to...

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3. Sexual Desire and Human Procreation

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pp. 62-101

With the sexualization of the body by modernizing

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4. 'Four Hundred Million Siblings': The Regulation of 'Population'

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pp. 102-121

If the authority and prestige of Confucian knowledge rapidly declined after the fall of the last dynasty in 1911, a growing number of scholars increasingly invoked scientific categories of analysis in their search for national wealth and power. The biological category of 'race' and the administrative category of...

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5. 'Civilization is Syphilization': The Cultural Meanings of 'Disease'

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pp. 122-145

Controversies over population control and race improvement were closely related to discussions about public hygiene, venereal disease and prostitution in Republican China. The physical vigour and moral purity of the nation demanded the elimination of deviant practices. They were described as 'social problems'...

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6. The Cultural Construction of 'Youth'

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pp. 146-179

If biologizing discourses in Republican China ascribed new meanings to the categories of 'manhood' and 'womanhood', the invention of 'youth' as a social category was also important. 'Youth' or 'adolescence' is a historically contingent concept defined in different ways by different cultures.1 Boundaries...

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7. Epilogue: The Regulation of Sexuality in the People's Republic

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pp. 180-186

Republican China was a crucial period of change during which modernizing


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pp. 187-221

Character List

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pp. 223-228


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pp. 229-233

E-ISBN-13: 9789882202733
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622093829

Page Count: 242
Publication Year: 1995