This essay offers a study of male homoeroticism in an unconventional and yet seminal nineteenth-century woman-authored tanci work, Fengshuangfei 鳳雙飛 (Phoenixes Flying Together; preface dated 1899) by Cheng Huiying 程蕙英 (before 1859–after 1899). Perhaps the only tanci known today that focuses centrally on male same-sex relations, Phoenixes Flying Together offers a vital example of early modern queer literary tradition by illustrating fluid male-male bonds and hybrid ideals of homosexuality. Such textual representations shift Confucian cardinal relations, redefine the power of nanse, and demonstrate queer identifications beyond heteronormative relations. Reading women's tanci through the intersectional lenses of early modernity, queer theory, and narrativity, this study examines such narratives as an inspiration to initiate a more contextualized epistemological, historical, and methodical understanding of the dynamic textual spaces that harbor same-sex intimacies, erotic desires, and clandestine longings in vernacular traditions. Narratives of male intimacy, camaraderie, and homosexual love in Cheng's text facilitate the construction of queer subjectivities through character focalization and embedded frames of storytelling and thereby reconfigure patrilineal norms of personal, familial, societal, and political relations. Ultimately, when engaged in conversation with global queer discourses, early modern Chinese vernacular narratives foster a culturally situated understanding of queer historiography, as well as the shifting social structures of power that often condition and facilitate nonnormative expressions of gender and sexuality.

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