On this, the longest day of the year, it seems fitting to read about and perhaps put a few words down on the topic of gender. What? Yes … The longest day of the year means the year with the most Sun, the most 阳气, the most Yang essence, the most masculine of days if you believe the Chinese. In some parts of the world, most notably Europe, this day (the Summer Solstice) is celebrated with massive bonfires. A reveling in the energy of the sun and its tiny cousin fire, both a symbol of potency and bright obvious power.
In China, this day is celebrated often with a bit of water … swimming perhaps … to balance out the Yang energy with a bit of Yin. Yin being the female – soft dark wet – susceptible to the moon and the tides, the hidden power, the power you never see coming.
I spent the day eating lamb, another source of Yang in China (lamb is not only 羊 yang in Chinese, but is also believed, like beef and dog meat and many other foods, to have strong Yang energy). Normally lamb is only eaten in winter, again, to balance out the cold winds and snows of the ultimate Yin season, sunless and dormant and secretly fecund. But I figured I’d revel in the Yang myself, and if a bonfire isn’t feasible, then a little lamb and some beer in the hot Sichuan sun should do the trick.
Before I went out to eat, I read three essays (one, two, three) on gender in the martial arts by (who else?) Ben Judkins and I found myself thinking of the Kungfu Women I have met over the years. Several of them fit Judkins’ descriptions of past Kungfu Women: magical, sexual, “honorary men,” yet still so feminine, no matter how many times she hit the bag or stared down a male rival …