Cornell University

Before Sexual and Normal: Shifting Categories of Sexual Anomalies from Ancient to Fourteenth-Century China

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 at 4:45pm to 6:00pm

Stimson Hall, 206
204 East Ave., Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

This presentation examines records and discussions of sexual anomalies in Chinese texts from the first to the fourteenth centuries and their intellectual, religious, and political contexts. The goal is to investigate how the human body and what we now identify as “sexual” were organized in different ways when neither “sexual” nor “normal” was a conceptual category. My materials include sexual anomalies recorded in the zaiyi (portent interpretation) texts, references to female-to-male sex change in Buddhist and Daoist literature, a thirteenth-century proto-encyclopedic entry of the “human-demon,” and a fourteenth-century medical discussion of the “dual-formed” bodies. I will also address why queer method is important in studying premodern China.



Hsiao-wen Cheng is assistant professor of Chinese religion and history at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a cultural and intellectual historian interested in issues related to gender, sexuality, medicine, and religion in Middle Period China. She is currently completing a book manuscript titled, Manless Women: Medicine, Celibacy, and Female Sexuality in Medieval China. Her next project is tentatively titled, Sexual Anomalies and the Temporality of Norms in Medieval China.

Event Type



Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Studies, Asian Studies, Asian & Asian American Center, East Asia Program, Department of Performing and Media Arts


cascal, East Asia program, asianstudiescal, fgsscal, lgbtstudiescal, relstcal, cashum, caspma, Medieval studies

Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Trisica Munroe

Contact Phone



Hsiao-Wen Cheng

Speaker Affiliation

University of Pennsylvania


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