Masculinities in China

Hird, Derek (2019) Masculinities in China. In: Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies :. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN 9781138959897

[thumbnail of Hird_Masculinities_in_China]
Text (Hird_Masculinities_in_China)
Hird_Masculinities_in_China.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.

Download (457kB)


Discourses, forms and practices of masculinities have seen significant transformations throughout Chinese history, yet enduring patterns and themes can be picked out. The two most enduring concepts in Chinese masculinities, wen (cultural attainment) and wu (martial attainment), form the departure point of this study, which surveys masculinities in China chronologically through the pre-modern, Republican, high socialist, and reform eras. Despite the epistemic changes throughout the 20th century, the wen-wu dyad has remained a relevant, if diluted perspective from which to interpret masculinities in contemporary China. Echoes of the “fragile scholar” (才子 caizi) can be seen in today’s androgynous pop stars; the “Confucian gentleman” (君子 junzi) is promoted as China’s civilizational archetype; the middle class adopt wen aspirations; the affective relations of “good fellow” (好汉haohan) brotherhoods are echoed in carousing during yingchou socialising; and the male protagonists of contemporary TV dramas infuse Confucian morality and brotherly loyalty into a calculating market logic. Furthermore, male honour is still a key component of masculinities, albeit expressed through wealth and concepts such as “face”, “ability”, and “responsibility”, rather than “righteousness” or slavish devotion to political leaders. The tender father and romantic partner may have taken centre stage, but achieving honour through one’s wife—via her fidelity, submission, education, presentation, or state of leisure—persists, and concubines are making a post-Mao comeback in the shape of “second wives”. A lively gay culture exists without legal or political affirmation. Yet above all, the story of masculinities in China is the story of power and its contestation, as it is anywhere. The reconfiguration of masculinities in China has served elite men’s struggles to retain their privileges vis-à-vis women and other men; and Chinese men broadly continue to reap many benefits in what remains for the most part a man’s world.

Item Type:
Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge/CRC Press in Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies on 19/11/2019, available online:
?? menmasculinitieschinachinesegendereast asia ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
13 Jan 2020 12:15
Last Modified:
19 Jun 2024 23:51