The majority of people investigating gender and sexuality over the past
dozen or so years have worked in American and European cultures and
have rarely been able to find in-depth studies about these topics in non-
European fields. This book is one of several recent attempts to alleviate
that problem.
More translation and exposition of sources will be necessary in this
study than in those on Western culture. Too many of the texts I rely on
are utterly unknown to contemporary readers and scholars; most have
never been and probably never will be translated. The linguistic and
bibliographic demands of these works have required extensive explica-
tion, cross-referencing, and comparison of editions. Readers in fields in
which such aspects are no longer at issue must understand the need for
this approach, although they may skim over parts they deem too spe-
cialized, including some lengthy translations which I nevertheless feel
will have little or no other chance to be seen in print.
As involved as I have become in the effort of gaining access to rare
texts, however, I
am still primarily interested in using them to map a
broad range of sexual and gender-related behavior. My main goal will be
to treat novels as if they were debating the issue of polygamy, a promi-
nent material manifestation of male sexual privilege, even though polyg-
amy was of course taken for granted in eighteenth-century China and by
and large not openly questioned. In other words, although authors were
in no way united in seeing polygamy as a problem, their works are full of
signs that such male sexual privilege was ambiguous and problematic.
Numerous sources besides vernacular fiction provide information on
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