Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau
Romeo was a girl
On 21 February 1932 in the afternoon, Xu Qinwen brought his guest away. When he came back home, he met his servant in front of the door telling him that no-one let him in. Annoyed, he took out his own key but was unable to unlock. He rang the doorbell and nobody answered. Xu got angry. He went to the backdoor, broke the iron hook and entered the yard. It was completely silent. He was shocked to find two young female bodies covered in blood lying on the grass. One of them was his friend’s daughter Tao Sijin, now in coma and the other was her best friend, Liu Mengyin, dead. The murder took place by the West Lake in Hangzhou city near Shanghai, one of the most romantic spots in China. The scandalous episode soon became a boiling event and flooded national media throughout the country.
Tao and Liu were students at the Zhejiang Art College where they shared the dormitory and developed a romantic relationship. Both women had agreed to never marry a man in their life. However, when Liu met her teacher, she fell in love with the new woman. Tao swore she would kill one of them. The summer vacation started and Tao and Liu were both staying at Xu’s place. When Liu wanted to take a bath, she sent the servant to get her some skin product for her. Tao locked the doors as soon as he left and started a quarrel with Liu. She demanded the latter to end her relationship with her teacher. The heated argument escalated and Tao decided to take the kitchen knife. She killed her lover and passed out.
Tao was sentenced lifelong. And when WWII broke out, the Japanese seized Hangzhou. The Chinese authority released all prisoners, including Tao. Then she married the judge who ruled the trial as the juicy closing chapter.
During China’s twenties and thirties, homosexuality was a common phenomenon among both male and female students. However, it was especially trendy for “new women” to have love relationship with one another. “Hot, homosexual sisters” was an expression of elitist social status.
After Tao-Liu scandal shook the country, the influential female magazine Linglong (《玲珑》Exquisite） called to “halt” homosexuality, stating: ” […] homosexuality is illegal, immoral and physiologically wrong. It is a criminal act. This perverse version of pornography is often dangerous. Young women must establish heterosexual love and promote a bright, happy life. ”
Inevitably, the sex trend was reflected in the literature of the time which was heavily influenced by the West. Female writers wrote extensively and significantly about hot, homosexual sisters. For instance, in Lin Shuhua’s (凌叔华 1900–1990) novel Romeo was a girl (《说有这么一回事》), the writer encouraged the female gender to “get rid of the shadow imposed by the past and embrace experiences different from men’s perception and values”.
Lin Shuhua is likely remembered because of her love affair with Bloomsbery’s son Julian Bell, who wrote in his letter to his mother Vanessa Bell about her: “…though not beautiful, I’m very attracted to her.”
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