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Liang Jian Wen Di
(ruled 549 - 551) China

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Emperor, poet

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Emperor Jian Wen of Southern Liang dynasty, personal name Xiao Gang, courtesy name Shizuan, nickname Liutong, A masterful poet, he is best remembered for his lyrics describing plum blossoms and female beauty. Yet, one of his greatest works is a short encomium to his beloved boy-friend. This poem invokes the homosexual tradition of Zhou and Han - his greatest tribute to his favourite's beauty is that it surpasses even that of Dong Xian and Mizi Xia.

The poet then hints at their intimacy by describing the sights, smell, and sounds of their bedchamber. A portrayal of the unnamed boy's look and clothing progresses to examples of the effects these attributes have in arousing the poet's passions. To close the poem there are again references to the famed male lovers of ancient times.

The "latest catch" refers to the conversation between the king of Wei and Lord Long Yang comparing the love of a ruler to catching fish; and "former carriage" harks back to Mizi Xia's improper use of his lord's vehicle to visit his sick mother. These allusions reinforce both the beautiful and pathetic aspect of male love. But not only does Jianwen's boy surpass famous youths of antiquity; he even incites jealousy among the most beautiful women of the day.

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Source: Passions of the Cut Sleeve, by Bret Hinsch, University of California Press, 1990

Read his verse in our book Famous Homoerotic Poems

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