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Theorising Chinese Masculinity: Society And Gender In China
(Kam Louie)

Gender studies, particularly in the field of masculinity, have been dominated by Western conceptions since the significance of such studies came to prominence. The Western idea of ?manliness? becomes problematic when it?s haphazardly applied to studies of the male gender on a global school. Applying such notions to the study of the Chinese male is particularly troublesome as the very idea of what constitutes ?masculinity? in Chinese tradition is often in opposition to the current popular theories on the male gender.

Kam Louie?s book is one of the first of its kind to be printed in English and written with a view to placing Chinese conceptualisations of masculinity within a modern explanatory framework. The central, defining aspect to Louie?s approach lies in the understanding and application of the Wen-Wu model of masculinity. Wen (meaning cultural attainment) and Wu (meaning martial valour) are two opposing versions of masculinity that don?t fit neatly into the Western model. The Wen male is one of high culture, feminine traits (and often looks) with a penchant for weeping over song and poetry. In contrast, the Wu male is a general of war, expert in the martial and physical aspects of life. The key factor in the difference between these two ?types? lies in their sexual difference. The Wen male is expected to be a romantic lover of women while the Wu male doesn?t concern himself with physical sexual pleasure, regarding it as a weakening of his martial prowess.

What Louie informs us of, is how these two masculinities have been afforded equality throughout Chinese history. Only in more recent globalised times has Chinese masculinity been affected by Western notions. In providing a detailed socio-historical analysis of Chinese masculinity Louie is opening the door for academics to analyse aspects of Chinese culture from a different, more culturally significant viewpoint. Within his book, Louie looks at Chinese cinema, computer games, literature and Chinese masculinity in the post Mao period.
Theorising Chinese Masculinity is a well-informed book, essential to those who study in an academic field that incorporates gender studies or Chinese studies. He delves into Chinese history and backs up his theories with a wealth of evidence and well-argued thought. A truly original and informative book that covers a woefully neglected field of study.

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