The Chinese View

The Chinese View on Love and Sex

Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D. - February 28, 2022


In Chinese there is no word for “romance.” Traditional Chinese marriages are a ceremonial ritual that is sometimes pre-arranged between families. In fact, Chinese parents have long engaged in matchmaking, rather than just waiting for love and romance to blossom.

A popular form of matchmaking is the so-called Chinese Marriage Markets, held at People's Park in Shanghai, where parents of unmarried adults flock to the park every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. to trade information on their children.

Many Chinese men say they would prefer to marry a woman who hasn't had premarital sex. Women are often evaluated on the basis of their virginity. Since time immemorial, virgin maidens have been prized as symbols of purity and chastity. Conversely, women who have lost their virginity before marriage are regarded as slutty, sexually promiscuous or provocative in a way that is considered in bad taste.

In mainland China, polygamy is illegal under the Civil Code passed in 2020. This replaced a similar 1950 and 1980 prohibition. Anthropologically, polygamy is defined as marriage between one person and two or more spouses simultaneously.

Their law says that polygamy exists in two main forms: (1) polygyny, where one man is married to several women, and (2) polyandry, where one woman is married to several men. Polygyny where wives are held of equal status with their husband had always been illegal and had been considered a crime in some dynasties.

In imperial China a man was allowed to have only one wife, but he could have multiple concubines. Such a polygamous institution prevailed not only among the wealthy and powerful but also in ordinary families.

China no longer exerts strict control over personal sexual behavior. Sex is increasingly considered something personal and can now be differentiated from a traditional system that featured legalized marital sex and legal controls over childbirth.

Abortion in China is legal but new policies discourage it. Yet, all of the major contraceptive methods are available without cost. The user is permitted to be absent from work with pay when he/she chooses either intrauterine device (IUD) insertion/removal, vasectomy, tubal ligation, and induced abortion.

And IUDs, oral contraceptives (OCs), sterilization, and condoms account for most of the contraceptive practice in China.

There is no official ban or specific restriction on surgery, though hospitals and doctors conducting vasectomies, along with tubal ligations and abortions for women, must be approved by country-level health departments.

Although Yin-yang is used as a universal concept, it has some relations on love and sex. Yin in Chinese medicine refers to all those aspects of the body that are moistening and cooling. Yan describes the body's functions that are warming and activating.

Yin is what makes us want to receive sexual energy from another person and yang is what makes us want to initiate sex with our partner.

Love and sex become one. The yang partner offers yang energy in exchange for yin, and the yin partner receives yang and gives back yin energy.

But the masochistic view in Chinese culture is also evident. Yin-Yang theory teaches that everything is a product of two principles, Yin is considered weak, female and destructive, while yang is considered strong, male and creative.