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"The Passion of the Cut Sleeve - Fact or Fiction?"

China, the world’s oldest and most prolific culture, has a long history of generating elegant and poetic expressions for all aspects of human activity. Several examples of love between men are included in that history.

One early term, “The Half -Eaten Peach” started in the Zhou dynasty(500BC) and was recorded in the ancient work titled Han Fei Zi. The story goes that whilst out strolling one day, Duke Ling of Wei (534-493BC) and his favourite male concubine Mixi Zia stopped by a fruit laden peach tree. Xia took a bite of a peach and on discovering how delicious and sweet it was, immediately offered the fruit to the Duke. The ancient text records that the Duke exclaimed “how sincere your love is for me that you forgot your own appetite and thought only of giving me good things to eat”. This expression of love known smply as “The Half Eaten Peach” survives even today as a reference to homosexuality.

In the Han dynasty (220-260 BC) Emperor Ai(6BCE-1CE) was responsible for another poetic expression, "Tuan Hsiu" translated as 'The Passion of the Cut Sleeve'.The emperor had woken up one day to find his beloved male concubine asleep on his sleeve. Unwilling to disturb the sleeping youth, the emperor cut off the sleeve of his royal robe. So deep and thoughtful was the love of the emperor for his concubine that “Passion of the Cut Sleeve” became a favoured court statement by the Han literati as a term for male love.

Homosexuality was an accepted part of life at this time, known and understood amongst all classes. In the province†of Fujian, boy marriages were practiced by the upper and educated classes who would buy boy brides from their parents to live with them until the boy himself reached marriageable age.

As time passed society changed and these old traditions were soon forgotten. Love between men was mistakenly seen as Western weakness. However all Chinese know that over time, life delivers a natural harmony and that nothing stays the same forever. The culture has evolved yet again and homosexual laws are being eased in Hong Kong. And who knows where the remarkable disproportionate number of male children in China will lead?