2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


Agonized Youth: Ming-Qing Scholars’ Sexual Inquietude and Relations Between the Sexes

Hung-tai Wang

Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

During their adolescence, scholars of the Ming and Qing periods slowly developed an awareness of sexual desire. The impulse of this instinct coupled with the stress caused by the imperial examinations (keju) gave rise to extreme tension in the hearts of young scholars, resulting in some of them in more remote areas developing intimate relations with maidservants, cousins, prostitutes, etc. The question of sexual inquietude is crucial in understanding the history of the lives of scholars, and the development of relations between sexes is an important basis for examining the “erotic culture” of the Ming and Qing. But as it was quite rare among scholars of that day to openly express feelings of this nature, this topic remains rarely analyzed by contemporary academics. As a result, we witness a big gap in understanding the lives of traditional scholars. This article explores the question of desire among young scholars (aged between 12 and 20 years old) during the Ming and Qing periods, and at the same time observes relations between sexes during this stage, thus providing a basis for examining the lives and the “erotic culture” of Ming and Qing scholars.


Keywords: literati culture, erotic culture, sexual inquietude, agonized youth, puberty