Lu Tongyin, author of Misogyny, Cultural Nihilism & Oppositional Politics: Contemporary Chinese Experimental Fiction, said "a clear-cut dichotomy between heterosexuality and homosexuality did not exist in traditional China." Same-gender love can sometimes be difficult to differentiate in Classical Chinese because the pronouns he and she were not distinguished.

And like many East and Southeast Asian languages, Chinese does not have grammatical gender.

The most common of these references to homosexuality referenced Dong Xian and Mizi Xia.

This manuscript sought to present the "supreme joy" (sex) in every form known to the author; the chapter on homosexuality comes between chapters on sex in Buddhist monasteries and sex between peasants.

It is the earliest surviving manuscript to mention homosexuality, but it does so through phrases such as "cut sleeves in the imperial palace", "countenances of linked jade", and "they were like Lord Long Yang", phrases which would not be recognizable as speaking of sexuality of any kind to someone who was not familiar with the literary tradition.

Thus, poems such as Tang Dynasty poems and other Chinese poetry may be read as either heterosexual or homosexual, or neutral in that regard, depending on the reader's desire.

Another complication in trying to separate heterosexual and homosexual themes in Chinese literature is that for most of Chinese history, writing was restricted to a cultivated elite, amongst whom blatant discussion of sex was considered vulgar.

Lesbians usually call themselves lazi (Chinese: The political ideologies, philosophies, and religions of ancient China regarded homosexual relationships as a normal facet of life, and in some cases, promoted homosexual relationships as exemplary.

Ming Dynasty literature, such as Bian Er Chai (弁而釵/弁而钗), portrays homosexual relationships between men as enjoyable relationships.

Bai Juyi is one of many writers who wrote dreamy, lyrical poems to male friends about shared experiences.

He and fellow scholar-bureaucrat Yuan Zhen made plans to retire together as Taoist recluses once they had saved enough funds, but Yuan's death kept that dream from being fulfilled.

In Water Margin, a Song Dynasty novel, male revolutionary soldiers form deep, long lasting, and arguably romantic friendships. A Ming Dynasty rewriting of a very early Zhou Dynasty legend recounts a passionate male relationship between Pan Zhang & Wang Zhongxian which is equated to heterosexual marriage, and which continues even beyond death.