Masculinities in Chinese History

By (author) Bret Hinsch

Publication date:

28 August 2013

Length of book:

208 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442222335

Masculinities in Chinese History is the first historical survey of the many ways men have acted, thought, and behaved throughout China’s long past. Bret Hinsch introduces readers to the basic characteristics of historical Chinese masculinity while highlighting the dynamic changes in male identity over the centuries. He covers the full span of Chinese history, from the Zhou dynasty in distant antiquity up to the current era of disorienting rapid change. Each chapter, focused on a specific theme and period, is organized to introduce key topics, such as differences between the sexes and the mutual influence of ideas regarding manhood and womanhood, masculine honor, how masculine ideals change, the use of high culture to bolster masculine reputation among the elite, and male role models from the margins of society. The author concludes by exploring how capitalism, imperialism, modernization, revolution, and reform have rapidly transformed ideas about what it means to be a man in contemporary China.
Historian Hinsch (Foguang Univ., Taiwan) chronicles changing ideals of manhood in China from the 11th century BCE to the present, viewing the evolution of Chinese masculinities as a continuous historical process sustained and characterized by men's relationships with familial ideologies, the state, economic conditions, and cultural others. Hinsch employs the concept 'hegemonic masculinity' to come to terms with masculine paragons invented by both mainstream society and marginal men. He argues that hegemonic masculine values in Chinese history were not fixed values or behaviors of certain groups of men, but rather discursive positions open for tapping by men of different social standings. Hinsch develops the bipartite model of wen (civil) and wu (martial) into a complex and mutable system encompassing educated and refined scholar-officials, the male honor culture encouraging vengeance and violence, and variants. The author draws on hagiographical and popular representations to document the development of manhood over the centuries. The nature of the sources restricts his analysis largely to Han Chinese visions. Comparable to Susan Mann's Gender and Sexuality in Modern Chinese History (CH, Nov'12, 50-1627), Hinsch's book is indispensable for teaching gender and manhood in China. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.