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SUBLIME LOVE AND THE ETHICS OF EQUALITY IN A HOMOEROTIC NOVEL OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: PRECIOUS MIRROR OF BOY ACTRESSES

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image of NAN NÜ

Precious Mirror of Boy Actresses is the most serious piece of fiction about male love since the late Ming and the lengthiest of all in Chinese literary history. It is remarkable in its extension of the egalitarian implications of the qing aesthetic that it inherits from the late Ming and from earlier Qing literature such as Dream of the Red Chamber. In the homoerotic relationship it idealizes, lovers who are rigidly separated in terms of status nevertheless experience a sublime love which necessarily results in the liberation of the man of lower status. The novel makes unique use of the qing aesthetic's idealization of the feminine to arrive at this ethically pragmatic conclusion whereby liberation is achieved. The foregrounding of this sublime love and the qing-perfected characters who embody it, moreover, link the novel with other works of the period which portray a China that is ultimately a stable and invulnerable entity. Thus Precious Mirror's interpretation of qing carries a historical significance in spite of the novel's obliviousness of the social and political turmoil of China in the mid-nineteenth century.

10.1163/156852602100402332
/content/journals/10.1163/156852602100402332
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/content/journals/10.1163/156852602100402332
2002-04-01
2016-12-04

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