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three pairs of lovers with space



The following information about pederastic practices in late nineteenth-century China comes from the expanded English edition of Untrodden Fields of Anthropology: Observations on the Esoteric Manners and Customs of Semi-civilised Peoples, Being a Record by a French-Army Surgeon of Thirty Years’ Experience in Asia, Africa, America and Oceania, published by Charles Carrington, “Publisher of Medical, Folk-lore and Historical Works”, in Paris in 1898.

The unknown author, described in the original French edition[1] as “le Docteur Jacobus X…”, does not record ever having gone to China himself, but he lived in the French colony of Cochin-China (corresponding to southern Annam or Vietnam) for five years in the mid 1860s and revisited it twenty-five years later, and during these times he informed himself from Chinese he knew there as well as reading the works of others.

Everything Dr. X wrote about pederasty in China appeared in one of his chapters on Cochin-China. What he wrote about the practise of it by the Chinese in Cochin-China, as opposed to China itself is of much greater value as being a witness account, but that is presented in the article “Annamite Pederasty in Untrodden Fields of Anthropology”, rather than here. The following concerns only Greek love in China itself.



Annamite Gamblers, Thieves, and Sodomites. It is necessary to point out a mistake that has been thoughtlessly repeated by many travellers, that the soldiers of the Expeditionary Corps had acquired, in the Chinese campaign, certain depraved habits, which they afterwards carried into Cochin-China, where they have taken root. These travellers forget that the Chinese came to Cochin-China several centuries before we did, and have had plenty of time to vitiate the manners of the natives.

 Anglo French 1860. Le pont de Baliqiao Bridge le soir de la bataille Emile Bayard U
The Expeditionary Corps (wrongly reputed to have imported their acquired taste for sodomy into Cochin-China) in action, Baliqiao Bridge, 2nd Opium War, 1860. Engraving by Émile Bayard

We must not even accuse the Chinaman, for the Annamite is naturally quite as depraved as he is, if not more so,—which is saying a good deal.

The Chinese Pederast. [Footnote:] Ellis in Introduction to his book on "Sexual Inversion" (London, 1897 (pages 6-7). The reader interested in this curious aberration should attentively read this valuable work in its entirety) calls attention to the fact that "homosexual" practices exist and have long existed in most parts of the world outside Europe, even when subscrviug [sic], no obvious end. How far they are associated with congenital inversion is usually very doubtful. In China, for instance, it seems that there are special houses devoted to male prostitution, though less numerous than the houses devoted to females. When a rich man gives a feast he sends for women to cheer the repast by music and song and for boys to serve at table and to entertain the guests by their lively conversation. The young people have been carefully brought up for this occupation, receiving an excellent education, and their mental qualities are' more highly valued than their physical attractiveness. The women are less carefully brought up and less esteemed. After the meal the lads usually return home with a considerable fee. What further occurs the Chinese say little about. It seems that real and deep affection, is often born of these relations, at first platonic, but in the end becoming physical— not a matter for great concern in the eyes of the Chinese. In the Chinese novels, often of a very literary character, devoted to masculine love, it seems that all the preliminaries and transports of normal love are to be found, while physical union may terminate the scene. (Morache, Art. "Chine", Dict. Ency. des Sci. Med. In Annan, also, according to Mondière (Mem. Soc. d'Anthrop. T. i. p. 465), pederasty has always existed, especially among young people.) In China, however, the law may be brought into action for attempts against nature even with mutual consent; the penalty is one hundred strokes with the bamboo and a month's imprisonment; if there is violence the penalty is decapitation; (Pauthier, Chine Moderne, p. 251.) I am not able to, say how far the law is a dead letter.

Chinese 18th 19th c 01
                                     A man about to pedicate a boy, 18th or 19th century

Dr. Schlegel, who resided as a medical practitioner in Canton, had uncommon opportunities of noting the Chinaman's proclivities and we quote the following remarks from his interesting little study on the subject:

The long quotation which follows from “La Prostitution en Chine” (Rouen, 1880), the French translation of Dutch sinologist Schlegel’s Iets over de Prostitutie in China, is omitted here as it can be read in the article Prostitution in China by Gustaaf Schlegel. Dr. X… contributes to it only one irrelevant footnote.

Chinese Erotic Literature. It is agreeable to find that our observations are amply borne out by Dr. C. A. Schlegel who writes:

A further long quotation follows from “La Prostitution en Chine” is likewise omitted here as it too can be read in the article Prostitution in China by Gustaaf Schlegel. The only thing Dr. X… contributes to it is a footnote quoting at length from Sir Richard Burton in Volume VI of his "Supplementary Nights" to The Arabian Nights on the subject of the circulation of English "erotics", but this has no direct relevance to Greek love.


[1] L’amour aux colonies. Singularités physiologiques et passionnelles observes Durant trente années de séjour dans les Colonies françaises Cochin-Chine, Tonkin et Cambodge—Guyane et Martinique—Sénégal et Bivières du Sud—Nouvelle Galédonie, Nouvelles-Hébrides et Tahiti par le Docteur Jacobus X…, Isidore Liseux, Paris, 1893.




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