Pedo history (of all times and all nations): China

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By: Edward Brongersma

"Roscher, and Bloch after him, claimed, with great emphasis and while trying to outdo each other, that both 'natural' and 'unnatural' sexual abuse are spread 'alarmingly' throughout China. Unintentionally, they produce evidence with this that homosexuality, even bred systematically, organized in all possible forms, cultivated in all degrees, spread over all social classes and promoted without any scrupules and by all means by folk who are bent on money and do not even spare the children, is not capable anyhow to encroach noticeably upon the life strength of an otherwise sound nation." Thus wrote the great scientist Ferdinand Karsch-Haak in 1906, therefore in a period in which there was no talk of any recognition of homosexuality.

This was, of old, different in China. Not much difference was made between sexual intercourse with people of the same sex and with those of the other sex. Whenever we read a certain disapproval, it is a very slight one. A seventeenth century chronicle reports that an officer who used a boy in an anal way, was transferred to a far-off garrison for punishment. A Buddhist hair-cloth calls homosexuality a sin, but it puts it on equal terms with a man wearing women's clothes, which would resulte in ritual uncleanness. The great teacher Confucius (551-479 B.C.) warned young people against it, though his admonition is a very moderate one: boys should rather not go to feasts and stage performances, and ought to avoid contact with men who are cursed with such inclinations, but this needs to be done very tactfully, so that these men will not be hurt. By the way, the same Confucius put friendship above love of marriage. When asked about his dearest wish, he said, "Let old people live in peace, let all friends be true to each other and let all young people love the older ones. "And when a certain Seng Tien told him that he liked nothing better than taking a bath in the Yi river on a spring day with six or seven boys around him, Confucius cried, "You are a man after my heart!"

Until the victory of Communism, old China never knew this fear of sex which afflicted the Western world so much. It was taught that in the human body two primal forces were ruling: yang and yin, which needed to remain in balance. Sex was one of the best means to control these forces. The scientist Tung-Hsüang wrote in the seventh century: "Of all things which promote the well-being of man, there is nothing like sexual intercourse." This way is not just an enjoyment for the partners, but also an act of piety, because it is something heavenly. Centuries before that, Ko Hung proclaimed: "It is intolerable that someone keeps sitting still and makes himself sick and anxious by not having sex." Only, he added, you must not exaggarate it. The danger was that, while ejaculating his sperm, a man lost something of his yang. But if the partner himself was a man too, he received a bit of yang in return from him. So, homosexuality even had its advantages! Opposite to that, sexual continence - chastitiy - was morally inferior. After all, Man has been given his genitals to let others enjoy them.

There is a development in this all though, through the centuries, from more public and exuberant to more private and personal, to more modest and hidden. But as a moral principle counted invariably that intercourse in which one partner takes pleasure while the other consents at least, is beyond reproach. In the imperial times the love for boys was not in the least surrounded with secrecy. The emperors sometimes raised their young favourites to the highest offices. A beautiful stable-boy could make it into a minister! Once, even an actor who had been castrated for his criminal offences, managed to become an emperor's favourite lover. The Emperor Yan Ti (605-612) built a 'Palace of Joy', in which some hundreds of young actors lived, and 'actor' meant the same as 'pleasure boy' at the time.

And how highly these boys were honoured and how well they were treated can be heard in the famous anecdote of the young Tung who was in the Emperor's bed and fell asleep, lying on a sleeve of the imperial garment. When the Emperor had to leave, he rather cut off the sleeve than wake up the boy. So, boys and their parents were prepared to do many things to acquire a desired position. One way to preserve a beautiful, young appearance, to keep the skin smooth and hairless, was castration. Of old, castration was a punishment. Originally, the penalty system knew five penalties, in the order from lighter to more severe: branding on the forehead, cutting off the nose, chopping off the feet, castration, and putting to death. Prisoners of war were castrated too. It was soon found out that eunichs were particularly fit for sexual use. Their mouths and anuses had an increased sensitivity to stimulation and their sense of touch had been intensified as well. Besides, just like the Turkish rulers, the emperors liked to have eunuchs around them. After all, the eunuchs could safely visit the imperial harem, and if they occupied high offices of state, they did not go deeply into intrigues to ensure high-standing positions for their sons, as normal men would usually do.

Thus, from the social desire to move up came into blooming both castration as a penalty and voluntary castration. Only skilled professionals were allowed to perform the operations; certain families reserved the profession by heredity. The operation in itself was quite simple, but the follow-up treatment demanded great skill. This increased the costs of the operation so much that poor families needed to find a sponsor to be able to afford the price for their son's castration.

Only mature boys, capable of forming their own judgements, were eligible. Before he proceeded to the operation, the surgeon first asked the victim if he was sure that he would not regret it later on. If only the slightest doubt could be heard in the answer, the case was off. But if the patient was determined, the genitals were bathed in hot pepper water. After that, some assistants held him tightly, his legs widely-spread, and, at one stroke, the operator completely cut off member and scrotum with a razor-sharp, sickle-shaped knife. A wad in the urethra prevented defiling of the wound by urine. The castrated person was not allowed to drink for three days - an awful suffering. Then the surgeon pulled the wad out of the urethra. If a flood of urine was the result of that, it promised a succesful cure. If nothing was the result, the patient was doomed to die in extreme pains. One boy out of ten did not survive the treatment. Despite all pains and dangers, boys and young men submitted in large numbers to this distortions. When the Emperor's fall in 1924 changed Chinese society thoroughly, the number of eunuchs was estimated at least 100,000.

Apart from these eunuchs there were the rent boys who made a profession out of sex. They were called slan kon, which means 'helping young gentlemen'. Poor parents sold their young sons when they were four or five years old, to managers who trained the boys for the theatre or to please men. Sometimes boys were just stolen and kidnapped by traders. The selling by the parents did not count as shameful or loveless at all. On the contrary, it was a way to ensure a better future for their son. Therefore, the family ties did not snap off; the parents kept on visiting their child regularly during his training and later on, during his career as a brothel boy.

At theatre schools and brothel schools the boys learned to sing, to recite and to behave in a delicate and civilized manner. That's why rent boys counted as more intelligent and fascinating than their girl competitors. From the age of five on, their anuses were systematically stretched out by putting thicker and longer wooden pins into them, just like we described how the Japanese did. But a remarkable difference between these Eastern cultures is expressed by that. The sadistic element - not absent in Japan - had been cultivated in China in a much more distinct way. Only the Chinese had made the execution of someone condamned to death an art, by means of public entertainment. It demanded very great skill from the executioner: he had to inflict the most horrible distortions on the victim, and had to dissect him alive without the release by death. The same longing for voluptuousness by torture drove many visitors to the brothels. They did not only come there to give blow jobs or to be sucked, but also to beat boys, to bite them, to make them dance on the whip.

That's why the training was aimed at cultivating masochism in the boys from the start: they had to feel lust during pains and to endure the worst of these with joy. Methods to ease the discomfort of the anal training by drugs which relaxed the anal sphincter, were only used exceptionally. After all, the exercises needed to be painful, and, in order to stimulate the association with pleasure, people acted paradoxically: on festive occasions or if the boy had deserved a reward for good behaviour, the trainer rammed an extra thick pin into his behind; if he deserved punishment for something or the other, then he was exactly not allowed to sit on such a pin. The preparations did not only concern anal intercourse. He was also trained in licking and sucking.

At the age of thirteen, fourteen he was fit for use. There was only one more thing to be done. The first real sexual intercourse with a man, his deflowering. This was a festive event and, completely after the fashion of the proceeding upbringing, the act was executed by one of his teachers in the most rough and painful possible way. After that, he was often castrated in order to remain beautiful for a longer time. From then on he was available for visitors of the house. Sexual intercourse was not painful anymore to him after a while, but anyway, he had learned to pretend that he suffered extremely, because the customers liked that. Everyone knew that it could hurt. In daily contacts "I will bugger you!" counted as a joking threat. In the novel Chin P'íng Mei a boy complains after a night with the famous war hero Hsi-men, "He pushed his poker in between my buttocks with so much violence that today they are still swollen from the sharp pain. I begged him to stop it, but he only moved it back and forth the more fiercely."

Remarkably enough, it was demanded from a good slan kon that he never got an erection himself. Even if a penis which had been deeply pushed into his behind, massaged his prostate, the own excitement was not allowed to become visible. Boys who had difficulty with this, used to tie down their penises along their legs with a handkerchief. By the way, not all boy lovers felt the same about that. This becomes clear from the cited novel Chin P'ing Mei, in which we read: "Hsi-men released the boy's garment, put his trousers down and caressed his penis softly. And when the boy offered his behind to the mighty fighter Hsi-men, Hsi-men caressed his stiff penis."

Surely, there were lovers who desired the boy's pleasure. In the novel Jou pu t'uan the hero calls a young servant to his bed on one given moment. The boy "managed to serve his master hand and foot and to comply with his wishes. He had learned to press his rear reception room upwards, just like a woman did, and to move his belly muscles back and forth in such a way that his honoured visitor easily slided inwards. He could also give cries with joy and groan with pleasure. It was all just a game, but it sounded just like being with a woman."

There were brothels in every town. Often the complement was mixed. There were boys and girls, sometimes aged ten to twelve already, willing to do all forms of sexual intercourse. In 1860, a town like Tientsin possessed no less than 35 brothels, open day and night, with a total of 800 boys between eight and seventeen years old. Fifty years later, only one of them was left, with four boys, the youngest of them fourteen years old. In the nineteenth century, neighbourhoods did not take any offence at all at the existence of such houses. A Frenchman who travelled through China at the time, said that even the police obligingly showed the way to the nearest 'house of joy'. After his entrance the stranger was immediately given an opium pipe, a boy came and sat onto his lap and told horny jokes. The smoking of the opium evoked lovely dreams of naked, shining, tender, flattering shapes. In another brothel the boys that were available, were shown one by one to the visitor. When he had made his choice, this was followed by a conversation with the manager in another room, in order to establish if he only wanted to have sexual intercourse or also desired to apply special tortures; he had to pay extra for this. According to the testimony of another European, the boys were well-fed, but not very neat.

The career of such a rent boy lasted until he was 20 or something - from then on he was regarded too old for it. The manager of the brothel was obliged to pay him a sort of board. In the sophisticated brothels there was no room for boys who were less intellectually gifted. They did not get further than being servants in cheap restaurants, where they found less affluent customers. Before the revolution, there was a complete street in Beijing with restaurants like that. Inside you could see boys with make-up sitting on visitors' laps and separating themselves with them after a while into rooms which were specially equipped for that.

Up to 1911 no women were tolerated on stage, so the parts of women were for boys, just like in Japan. Their performances put them in contact with rich lovers. The actors used to travel around the country in groups of about fifteen boys aged twelve to fifteen under the leadership of an older man, in order to give performances on the streets or in rich peoples' houses. Other boys worked in real theatres, which were equated with brothels and were even established in the same neighbourhoods. Many boys were also walking amidst the spectators all the time; they accompanied persons of honour and were often being fondled and caressed in public by them. Besides, it was a custom to invite slan kon for the adornment of feasts.

Passions flared up highly. There are stories about ruined lovers who even needed to sell wife and kids in order to please their slan kons. But also about boys who rather committed suicide than bring their lovers into trouble. Sometimes a socially highly-placed person sealed his love for a boy by accepting him as a son. Sometimes the relationship looked rather like a marriage, and when the man visited his small friend's relatives, he was greeted there like a groom. When a boy like that had sex with another person, it was considered adultery.

Though the theatre schools counted as brothels, the contact with actors, the most developed ones among the boys, was much more stylish than it was with the pure brothel boys. Thus, a German in the nineteenth century told about a visit to a house in Beijing, where he was received by a well-dressed eighteen-year-old. He offered to fetch some friends. After half an hour three particularly beautiful boys, one twelve-year-old and two sixteen-year-olds, appeared. They ate and drank together, while a blind musician was playing his instrument, and the boys sang beautiful songs, one after the other. After an hour they said goodbye, because they had to go home, they said. The visitor received their addresses. Thus he could invite the boy who had pleased him most, for a meal in a good restaurant. On that occasion the man took a gift for him. After a few of these encounters they were friends officially and the boy went along with him to his bedroom.

The great flowering time of Chinese boylove was during the one and a half century between 1127 and 1279, when the southern Sung dynasty ruled. In these days everything was taking place in public and the rent boys even had their own guild. After that period the whole movement continued undiminished, though in a somewhat less defiant way. Up to and including the nineteenth century, Western visitors were affected by the naturalness and general acceptance of sexual intercourse of men with boys.

Of course, the Communist regime, which even permits married couples to have sexual intercourse only on certain days and which restrains the number of children to be bred, wants to have nothing to do with homosexuality or pedosexuality. All dictatorships are chaste. But it might be that, exactly as a result of these restrictions of heterosexual tension, more men are secretly looking for outlets in contacts with boys. And with that, discover that they are worth a lot more and can mean a whole lot more than mere substitutes.

source: Article 'Pedo History (Of All Times and All Nations): China' by Edward Brongersma; OK Magazine; no. 8; August 1987