Friday, July 01, 2011

The Half-Eaten Peach

Bret Hinsch traces a tradition of male loving through 3000 years of Chinese history in his Passions of the Cut Sleeve. As time went on those who would speak of gay love could use a sort of shorthand – referring to a “cut sleeve” would conjure a story (an emperor was so enamored of his male lover that the emperor cut the sleeve on which the lover had fallen asleep in order not to disturb him), a story of gay love, which the highly educated literate elite would recognize and understand. The names of famous gay “favorites” of ancient emperors would provide similar service in conversation or poetry.

Another bit of shorthand was “the half-eaten peach”:

[One] day Mizi Xia was strolling with the ruler in an orchard and, biting into a peach and finding it sweet, he stopped eating and gave the remaining half to the ruler to enjoy. ‘How sincere is your love for me!’ exclaimed the ruler. ‘You forgot your own appetite and think only of giving me good things to eat!’

I like this one. Back in those days I imagine the product of the peach tree was less uniform. Pick two peaches and the chances of them both being delicious is not great. If you luck out and get a yummy one there’s that much more incentive for polishing it off. And you are that much more generous for sharing the treat.

I don’t like the “half-eaten” part of the phrase, though. “The saved peach”? Maybe … “The selfless peach”? … Neh … I’ll have to think on it.

source: Passions of the Cut Sleeve: the male homosexual tradition in China by Bret Hinsch

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