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Viscount Mizi Xia and the Bitten Peach

Violent are the seasons of love and hate. Judging by the fate of Mizi Xia, we can tell how it will be with favorites in times to come. Even the future a hudred ages hence can be foretold
--Sima Qian

Viscount Mizi, whose given name was Xia, was a favorite, and a Great Master, during the reign of king Ling of Wei: he was the beloved of the king.* According to the law of the kingdom, the use of the king's carriage without permission was forbidden to all, upon pain of having one's feet cut off. One time it happened that Mizi's mother took gravely ill, and a breathless messenger came running to the palace in the middle of the night to bring him the news. He, without a second thought, jumped into the king's carriage and took off. When the king found out, instead of punishing him he praised him, saying: "What a devoted son! For his mother he risks even losing his own feet!"

Another time, on a warm summer afternoon, he was strolling with the king through the royal orchard. A beautiful peach on a low-lying branch caught his eye and he plucked it. Biting down on it he found it sweet, so he offered the rest to the king. The king, touched by the intimate gesture, said: "He loves me to the point of forgetting his own mouth and giving it to me!"

Later, the beauty of the viscount began to fade,** and the king's love with it. When the viscount was one time accused of a crime, the king said: "That one once hijacked my carriage, and he even gave me a half-eaten peach to eat!" Mizi Xia had not done anything unusual. If the ruler was now accusing him of a crime instead of praising him like he used to, that was because the king's love had now turned to hate.

Ever since those days, when people in China speak of male love, one of the names they give it is "the pleasures of the bitten peach."

*"he had the favor (chong) of the king."
**The quick fading of Mizi's beauty suggests that, rather than being a full grown man, whose beauty is lasting, he was valued by the king for being a fresh-faced youth.

From the Spring and Fall period, 722–481 bce.
Retold after the Italian version of Giovanni Vitiello and the English version of Bret Hinsch.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following form of citation:
Editorial Board, World History of Male Love, "Chinese Folktales", Viscount Mizi Xia and the Bitten Peach, 2000 <>

Chinese youths sipping tea, reading poetry and making love.

China, Qing dynasty
(18th–19th c.)

Individual panel from an
erotic hand scroll, paint on silk.
Kinsey Institute,
Bloomington, Indiana

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full picture.

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