International Studies: Interdisciplinary Cultural and Political Journal


Cross-dressing, as a cultural practice, suggests gender ambiguity and allows freedom of self expression. Yet, it may also serve to reaffirm ideological stereotypes and the binary distinctions between male and female, masculine and feminine, homosexual and heterosexual. To explore the nature and function of cross-dressing in Chinese and Western cultures, this paper analyzes the portrayals of cross-dressing heroines in two Chinese stories:《木蘭辭》 The Ballad of Mulan (500–600 A.D.), and 《梁山伯與祝英台》The Butterfly Lovers (850–880 A.D.). Distorted representations in the English translated texts are also explored.


Female cross-dressing, gender role, patriarchal hegemony, parody, performativity


Altenburger, Roland. “Is it Clothes that Make the Man? Cross-dressing, Gender, and Sex in Pre-twentieth-century Zhu Yingtai Lore.” Asian Folklore Studies, 64.2 (October 2005) 165-205.

Brook, Barbara. Feminist Perspectives on the Body. London and New York: Longman, 1999.

Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York and London: Routledge, 1999.

Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Ed. Sue Ellen Case. Performing Feminism: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre., Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1990.

Chin, Charlie. China’s Bravest Girl: The Legend of Hua Mu Lan. California: Children’s Book Press, 1993.

Dyer, Richard. Only Entertainment. London: Routledge, 1992.

Hou Han shu [The Book of post-Han Dynasty]. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1965.

Lee, Geok Lan. The Butterfly Lovers. Singapore: Federal Publications, 1995.

Li, Siu Leung. Cross-Dressing in Chinese Opera. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003.

Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai [In Chinese]. Hong Kong: Outstanding Publication Ltd., 2004.

Louie, Kam. Theorizing Chinese Masculinity: Society and Gender in China. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

O’Sullivan, Emer. Comparative Children’s Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.

Salih, Sara. Judith Butler. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

Mulan ci [The Ballad of Mulan]. Trans. Arthur Waley. Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1923, 2003.

Tootsie. Dir. Sydney Pollack. Film. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, 1982.

Wang, Robin R. Introduction to “The Ballad of Mulan.” Ed. Robin R. Wang. Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: Writings from the Pre-Qin Period through the Song Dynasty. Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2003.

Wang, Yiyan. “Mr Butterfly in Defunct Capital: “Soft” Masculinity and (Mis)engendering China.” Ed. Kam Louie and Morris Low. Asian Masculinities: The meaning and practice of manhood in China and Japan. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003.

Xiao, Lily Hong Lee. The Virtue of Yin: Studies on Chinese Women. Honolulu: University Hawaii Press, 1994.

First Page


Last Page