This paper examines the nineteenth-century flourishing of a homoerotic theatre literature paralleling the development of jingju (Beijing opera), theorizing its impact on public culture in the Chinese capital. Popular among literati gentlemen, "flower guides" (huapu) extolling the beauty of boy actors (xiao ling) have left a valuable record of the busy social life that centered upon Beijing's theatres and nearby restaurants and nightclubs. With reference to the writings of Roland Barthes the authors argue that flower guide circulation contributed to the formation of new types of public space and new ways of "performing the self" associated with theatre in early modern China, a space they call "epitheatre."