This article examines the representation of emotion and desire in Ah Cheng's The King of Chess (Qi wang). The interpretation of The King of Chess has been oriented toward an allegorical reading that revolves around grand cultural concepts, such as aesthetics, Taoist tradition, cultural consciousness, and national identity. In this paradigm of reading, the literary text has largely become a footnote of the master narrative of China's cultural reconstruction of the 1980s. Following the recent interpretative turn of this story from cultural to existential and from allegorical to corporeal, the article extends to yet another domain, that of emotion, intimacy, and desire, which is rarely addressed but crucial to further understanding the text. My analysis illuminates an account of same-sex romance in this novella. In analyzing the homoerotic narrative, this article explores how Ah Cheng's writing constitutes a counter-narrative to some dominant ideas concerning the world of emotion and desire under Maoism. Transcending the overfamiliar double image of either the political passion of activists or the emotional distress of underdogs, Ah Cheng's work calls for a rethinking of the domain of emotion and desire of that era in diverse forms, especially the nonconventional ones that may have existed but have been ruled out. The discourse of same-sex romance in Ah Cheng's The King of Chess ultimately delivers a subtle criticism of the Cultural Revolution whose hyperbolically political grand narratives facilely dismissed human desire into subtraction, abstraction, and disposal.
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Wang, Yanjie. “Remapping Emotion and Desire: Same-Sex Romance in Ah Cheng's ‘The King of Chess.’” American Journal of Chinese Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, 2014, pp. 45–60.