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Homosexual emperors


bhchao
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There are 3 homosexual Chinese emperors in history that I can think of.

1) Han Wudi - Not sure if this is really true, but Liu Che was supposedly bisexual. He did not seem to have an interest in women, and was quite ruthless to empresses in the court. There was one incident where Wudi put a high-ranking empress to death just in case she will not become an empress dowager after his death. He only had one son and this son was probably too incompetent to become emperor after his father's death. Because of the shortage of able offspring and the huge cost burdens associated with the military conquests, Western Han declined sharply right after Wudi's death. Liu Che's descendants had numerous sons because they loved to flirt with concubines. For example, Liu Bang had 8 sons, most of whom were killed by Empress Lu. Fortunately Liu Heng was one of the surviving sons. He in turn had 5 sons, one of which became Emperor Jingdi. Jingdi had 14 sons, the oldest being Wudi.

2) Han Aidi - This was the emperor just before Wang Mang's usurpation. He was definitely homosexual and appointed his male lover as army marshal.

3) Chienlung - As a future heir-apparent during his father Yongzheng's reign, Chienlung came across a lady-in-waiting putting on makeup in one of the palace rooms. He decided to sneak up behind her and pull a prank on her by frightening her from behind. She turned around, panicked, and accidentally touched the future emperor. A maid passing by witnessed the breach of protocol and reported it. Unable to bear the shame of breaking protocol, the lady-in-waiting committed suicide. During the later years of his reign, the aged Chienlung saw a young man named He Shen with a very feminine appearance closely resembling the lady-in-waiting whose death he helped cause. Because of his guilt over this past deed, Chienlung became obsessed with He Shen because of the resemblance with that lady. The emperor gave the corrupt He Shen so many powers which resulted in most of Yongzheng's surpluses being squandered. The corrupt official was later put to death after Chienlung's death.

Given the scandalous behaviors and way these three emperors conducted affairs of state, it is not surprising that their dynasties declined right after their deaths.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Han Wudi is also one of the overrated emperors in Chinese history. On the positive side, the Han empire was at its zenith during his reign of 54 years. He was strong and decisive, and was not an emperor you would want to mess with. If Yue Fei was Han Wudi's general, Wudi would tell him to kick the Jurchens back into the Stone Age.

Wudi has to be given credit for the positive results that arose from his conquests and expansionist policies, for example, the opening of the Silk Road and the beginning of Chinese influences on the cultures of other countries such as Korea. Korea was able to make its transition from primitive culture into high civilization because the Han military expansion brought with it Confucian influences. Without the Silk Road, different ethnic peoples of Central Asia would not have made it into China during the Tang dynasty, making the dynasty less cosmopolitan.

On the negative side, Wudi had a ruthless streak. Any general who was defeated by the Xiongnu not only was beheaded, but also had their whole families executed as additional punishment. One general who lost to the Xiongnu saw his mother, sister, and the rest of his family executed; before he himself suffered the same fate. Many people may see this punishment as a good thing, because it forced the Han generals to fight their battles well against the Xiongnu, therefore saving China's sovereignty.

Perhaps one of the most famous incidents during Wudi's reign was the Li Ling Affair. Li Ling, one of his generals, lost to the Xiongnu and defected. Wudi was furious and everyone at court tried to appease him by cursing Li Ling. However Sima Qian defended Li, whom he highly respected. This may have been Sima Qian's political mistake, but the historian has to be given some credit for speaking out for his principles. This received the wrath of Wudi, who gave Sima Qian the option of either death or castration. Sima Qian chose castration so he can complete his Shiji.

Towards the end of his reign, China's peasants carried a high tax burden and the economy began to suffer.

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  • 5 months later...

I wonder if I might suggest that whatever the Emperor Qianlong was he was not a homosexual.

He was actually quite red blooded. He sired seventeen sons, ten of whom grew to maturity. He also had ten daughters, of whom five attained maturity. One of these, Princess He Xiao, was given in marriage to his infamous protégé, He Shen.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 8 years later...
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The first 10 Han Dynasty Emperors were bisexual.  They all had male consorts in addition to female ones.

 

They are recorded in history but only the ones that were interesting or affected the course of history were elaborated on.

 

For example, Emperor Ai who was the 10th emperor was likely gay and not just bisexual. He not only greatly promoted Dong Xian, his favourite but as he had no heir he mentioned within his lifetime his wish to pass the throne to Dong Xian.  On his deathbed he did just that and gave him the imperial seal.  That led to his death in the ensuing battle for the throne.  It is from this couple that the euphemism cut sleeve originates.  Dong Xian once fell asleep on the emperors sleeve. The emperor cut his sleeve off to avoid waking his lover and later recounted the story to a courtier who asked what happened.

 

Han Wudi had at least 2 sons. The one that was born to Wei Zifu and rebelled due to conspiracies and the later the one he had to a consort at 62.  Let us not forget his Queen was originally his cousin Ah Jiao.  So it seems chinese social rules were still in their infancy.  He killed his crown princes mother, lest she seize power like Empress Lu or Empress Dou that lorded over him since his heir was only 6.

 

The way male consorts were recorded in history we get the impression it was part and parcel of normal life as it seemed mundane at best.

 

Very few of the Han Dynasty emperors were exclusively heterosexual.

 

In all, historians say that 10 emperors of China were gay, many more were bisexual.

 

The anecdotes of homosexuality in chinese history had already begun in the Shang and Zhou period eg. between the King of Wei and Lord Longyang.  They were fishing and Longyang caught a big fish and threw the previous smaller one back in. He was tearful and the King asked why.  He explained that the King's love for him would be the same.  The King then decreed that anyone that introduced beauties to him would be punished. That seemed to include male or female.

 

There was Mi Zixia who bit a peach and upon discovering it was sweet gave it to his King. Officials were angered by this rudeness of offering a half eaten peach to King Ling of Wei but the King sided with his lover and praised his loyalty.  Later when the looks of his lover had faded and his eye wandered, he reversed his opinion and brought up the act negatively, saying he gave him a half eaten peach.  He also stole a carriage to visit his ill mother and while it was praised when he was favoured, it was criticized later.

 

Qianlong had a male favourite - the official Heshen.  It was him that was tasked with receiving the British envoy led by Lord McCartney who sought trade privileges.

 

The legendary yellow emperor was mentioned as having male bed mates by chinese historians although he rejected the account.  But it does go to show the long tradition it had.  It was not seen as at odds with masculinity or having many females as well.  So our views of sexuality are probably quite at odds with traditional understandings.

 

During the Jin Dynasty it was said to be common among the aristocrats. During the Sui & Tang there is evidence in literature (the first crown prince of Tang was gay) but more subdued.

 

By the times of Song it was in full swing again: All the gentlemen and officials esteemed it. All men in the realm followed this fashion to the extent that husbands and wives were estranged. Resentful unmarried women became jealous.

 

Most dynasties until the Song also reserved a chapter for biographies of male consorts.  By the time of Yuan there were some attempts to suppress it but they seem unsuccessful.  Those got into full swing in Qing and Kangxi was proud he was purely heterosexual but then his grandson, Qianlong had at least one male favourite.  Still, the case law shows it was not that successful and Jesuit missionaries from Yuan, Ming and Qing were all reporting it's occurence with disgust.

 

Gay marriage even appeared as a social custom among the masses in Ming Dynasty Fujian so it seems it was not something confined to the elites.  There are still temples to a god prayed to by gay/bisexuals that still exist in China and Taiwan.

 

While modern China does not seem to be a gay rights pioneer, we actually skipped out the bulk of the persecution that characterized christendom.  The PRC has also declassified homosexuality as a mental illness and stopped officially sending them to labour camps. That is a huge shift in policy and possibly ahead of societal opinion and happened with little or no pressure.  The official policy is neutral although the reality is that they are still dragging their feet. 

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