Confession of the Rabbit God

Hongwei Bao

Andrew Thomas Huang, ‘Kiss of the Rabbit God’, film, 2019, 14 min. Screenshot by author, used with the permission of Andrew Thomas Huang

According to the Qing Dynasty Chinese scholar Yuan Mei’s short story collection What the Master Would Not Discuss (子不語, 1788), a clerk named Hu Tianbao (胡天保) from South China’s Fujian Province was found following a government official around and even peeking at the official’s nude body. Hu was arrested and put on trial. In this short story, Yuan didn’t give much detail about the trial in his writing. This is what I imagine Hu’s speech could have looked like.

My honourable sir,

please forgive me

for following you like a shadow.

Excuse my boldness

to desire your beautiful body.

I’ve upset you. My offence

has no excuse. But I’m here

to give my defence.


There’s a sensation

in this world called

se (色beauty),

It’s possessed by women

as well as by men.

There’s a feeling

among the humanity named

yu (慾desire).

Even Confucius the Sage

couldn’t deny it, Nor could he

expect anyone

to repress it.


Emperor Ai of Han Dynasty cut

the long sleeve of his robe, so his beloved

Dong Xian would have a late

morning sleep-in.

Lord Ling of Wei Kingdom shared

a peach with his favourite

Mi Zixia. Their happy smiles

matched the blooming flowers

in the orchard.

My feeling for you is no



Our southern province of Fujian is well-

known for nanfeng.

Whether this refers to 南風 (southern style)

or 男風 (male style)

is for the wise to decide.

Men live with men, swearing

loyalty and lifelong commitment.

Women live with women, combing

hair for each other untill death.

Generation after generation they prosper

and perish.


I fell for you, my dearest

sir, the first time I saw

you. I look up to your

stature, as grand as

the Mount Tai. I admire

your composure, as calm

as a pine tree. I marvel

at your knowledge, as vast

as the East Sea. I desire

your beauty, as delicate

as cherry blossoms.


I dream

of you each night,

and take delight

in seeing you every morning.

How I long to stay close

to you, smelling

your scent, touching

your skin.


My heart’s desire

can’t be fulfilled.

A tormented soul

only I know I have.

I’m humble.

But my love is not.

If Emperor Wei and Lord Ling

were here today, they’d have given me

their blessings.


My kindest sir, I readily

leave myself at your

mercy, anticipating

the harshest punishment.

But I beg your

forgiveness, my most

generous sir.

My love for you

is here for all to see.

Heaven and earth

bear my witness.

Hu Tianbao was sentenced to death immediately after this speech. In the underworld, the God of the Dead was touched by his story and appreciated Hu’s courage; he subsequently appointed Hu as the Rabbit God (兔兒神), the patron god for queer people. Today, temples specifically dedicated to the Rabbit God can still be found in many parts of East and Southeast Asia.

Hongwei Bao (he/him) grew up in China and lives in Nottingham, UK. He trained in Gender and Cultural Studies and currently teaches Media Studies at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of Contemporary Chinese Queer Performance (Routledge, 2022). He uses short stories, poems, reviews and essays to explore issues concerning queer desire, Asian identity, feminist politics, diasporic positionality and transcultural intimacy. His creative work has appeared in Allegheny, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Messy Misfits Club, Shanghai Literary Review, The AutoEthnographer, The Hooghly Review, The Ponder Review, The Sociological Review Magazine, the other side of hope, The Voice & Verse and Write On.

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