After an incredible journey, we’re now settled in Shanghai, so I thought it apt to share a few images of erotic art through Chinese history.
Chinese erotic art is not abundant online because much of it was destroyed during the Mao era, which lasted from 1949 until 1978.
Erotica in the form of letters, paintings and crafted sculptures was a tradition that spanned from antiquity until its apex in the Late Ming Dynasty (early 17th century) however and it was not just produced for stimulation, it was in fact layered in ideals of feminine beauty, tender narratives, humour and love.
Chinese erotic art is often referred to as ‘spring palace painting’. The word ‘spring’ addresses the ancient springtime rituals during which girls would gather on one side of a brook, boys on the other and they would sing love-songs to each other. Later, the word ‘palace’ was added as an allusion to the emperor’s residence, with the artists and audiences alike captivated by the imaginings of what pleasures could be enjoyed behind the walls of the Forbidden City if one were in the possession of absolute power.
Scenes often include gardens and open spaces, giving a feel of voyeurism and each figure seems to have been painted with true tenderness giving the works and sensuality no matter how explicit the scene. It’s also worth mentioning that small feet are a hallmark of feminine beauty and feature heavily in Chinese erotic art in addition to poetry and literature, with the practice of foot binding especially apparent.
Erotic motifs can be found on inlaid boxes, snuff boxes, porcelain figurines, silk or rice paper paintings, and even on the soles of ceramic shoes, however, the album (a series of paintings loosely bound in book form) was the preferred form of erotic art.
Shanghai now has a booming pleasure product market (more on that soon) and attitudes towards sex seem to be relaxed and ready for a new surge of contemporary erotic art.
Image source: Pagonda Red