Bisexual behaviours are relatively common among men who have sex with men in China. This pilot study aims to reveal the complex processes through which such men manage their sexuality, family responsibilities and sexual behaviours in a rural Chinese setting. A total of 15 men who have sex with men were recruited by purposive sampling. Face-to-face in-depth interviews were conducted to explore participants' views about their sexual experiences and practices. The Chinese traditional moral code, family values and gender roles that form the crucial components of Confucianism were reflected in the participants' efforts to maintain familial and social harmony through a compromised form of sexual partnership. Most study participants demonstrated a mixed experience of social stigma, sexual naiveté and ignorance of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Under cultural and family pressure, men who have sex with men entered heterosexual marriages with the intention of maintaining a balance between their collectivist (familial) obligations and their individualistic (same-sex sexual) desires. However, the opaque nature of their concurrent sexual relationships may endanger their personal health and accelerate HIV and STI transmission. Reducing the stigma and social prejudice associated with male same-sex sexual relations is essential for any culturally sensitive HIV-prevention programme to succeed in rural China.