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1 0 6 “In this passage, Confucius was just allowing his disciple Zigong to find out for himself if the lady in question was indeed pure, by pretending to make advances to her. Contrary to their expectations she resolutely resisted all advances, causing Confucius to express his admiration and respect for the lady. It is my opinion,” said our classics professor, “that Confucius treated her unfairly.” In our graduation year, his lectures became increasingly unorthodox, so that a lecture on Confucius allowing Zigong to investigate whether “Yon beldam hath the right to speak withal” led to a disquisition on Western sexual liberation. He told us that in the context of the sexual revolution, Zigong should have been making genuine advances to the woman rather than putting her moral integrity to the test. “According to Western views on these matters,” the professor asserted, “women who are unmoved by sexual advances are probably frigid.” Nobody was quite sure where he had come by his insights into “Western views on these matters.” Students of Western philosophy said he was off-the-wall, and those studying Chinese philosophy said his ideas were a mishmash . Be that as it may, his lectures increasingly became a blend of “discourse on everything but analysis of nothing” and “interpretations of the sexual relations of yin and yang.” At times he would even mention himself in the same breath as foreign movie stars. The classics professor also conducted individual tutorial sessions, an hour a week with each of us. In addition to 1 0 7 going through our class work, he would cover ground that was well outside the syllabus. These sessions were pretty easygoing to begin with, but the relaxed atmosphere grew strained later on. On his wall was pasted a scroll bearing the inscription, A serene heart need not bestir itself. When he felt serene, he would nod his head beatifically at it, but when he did not feel serene, or did not want to, his spirit would take exception to the inscription. Being as widely read as he was, it was pretty easy for him to refute his inscription when he was in a combative mood. It was only a piece of paper with a few characters written on it, after all, so he could rip it down and tear it to shreds any time he wanted to. But if he did that, what would he do if he ever needed them again to settle his spirit? That scroll was a free tranquilizer, the cheapest psychologist you could hope to find – just one look and you could cool right off. When I went for tutorials, I would sit facing his scroll, absorbing its wisdom as I listened to the professor talking. But because he was sitting facing me, his mind would be in turmoil. “We Chinese have always taken the Confucian maxim ‘Twixt man and woman, hand should ne’er touch hand’ as embodying our traditional view of sexual morality. In fact, the novels The Golden Lotus and The Carnal Prayer Mat are also a seminal part of the national heritage. Ours is a long and noble history of erotic literature. Indeed, our erotic literature is the precursor of erotic literature worldwide. So why is it that we are today so repressed, so craven, so bigoted ?” By this point his mouth was twitching. He pulled an early edition of The Golden Lotus from his desk drawer and showed it to me. “Have you read this? It’s a classic of erotic fiction, and erotica is central to the Chinese literary tradition .” Of course I didn’t dare confess to having read the book ten years before, in case he told the university authorities and got me sent down. 1 0 8 “Umm, I’ve heard of it, Professor,” I admitted. “It’s supposed to be very good.” He opened the book and held it out for me to read. It was a section detailing the erotic skills and mutual delight of the nobleman Ximen Qing and the Golden Lotus Pan Jinlian. “Exquisite style! Brilliant!” The professor’s hands were shaking uncontrollably. Maybe it was premature senility. “Yes, Professor.” In point of fact I found it rather hard to follow. My purpose in reading it ten years before was to find out how we got made. I hadn’t been in it for the culture. Now, confronted by this man holding the book out to me with shaking hands, I couldn’t bring myself to sober perusal...


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