The Fragile Scholar examines the pre-modern construction
of Chinese masculinity from the popular image of the fragile
scholar (caizi) in late imperial Chinese fiction and
drama. The book is an original contribution to the study of the
construction of masculinity in the Chinese context from a
comparative perspective (Euro-American). Its central thesis is that
the concept of "masculinity" in pre-modern China was conceived in
the network of hierarchical social and political power in a
homosocial context rather than in opposition to "woman." In other
words, gender discourse was more power-based than sex-based in
pre-modern China, and Chinese masculinity was androgynous in
nature. The author explains how the caizi discourse embodied the
mediation between elite culture and popular culture by giving voice
to the desire, fantasy, wants and tastes of urbanites.
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