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Behaving Badly in Early and Medieval China$
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N. Harry Rothschild and Leslie V. Wallace

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824867812

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824867812.001.0001

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Copulating with One’s Stepmother—Or Birth Mother?

Copulating with One’s Stepmother—Or Birth Mother?

(p.56) 3 Copulating with One’s Stepmother—Or Birth Mother?
Behaving Badly in Early and Medieval China

Paul R. Goldin

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter discusses the reviled but well-attested ancient Chinese practice of zheng烝‎, or copulating with a deceased father’s concubine. Certain social structures, notably institutionalized polygyny, must be in place before one can have such a concept; thus we are dealing with a culturally specific form of perversion. The commonplace of copulating with one’s stepmother--or, in extreme instances, one’s birth mother--is deployed as a token of barbarism: the only men who do it are rulers who cannot control their urges and savages who do not know better.

Keywords:   Chinese history, history of sexuality, sexual deviance, mother-son incest, ethnic stereotypes, Zuozhuan 左傳, Xiongnu 匈奴

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