Sex Education during Ancient Times

August 14, 2008
Editor: zhuhong


Was there any sex education in ancient China? Of course there was; it was just not systematic or comprehensive, and usually used visual teaching aids or methods of hinting and inducing. The "dowry paintings" and "yaxiangdi (valuables at the bottom of the chest)” were two major ones among the ancient means.

The dowry painting was actually a file of erotic pictures: about 8-10 pieces of art that showed different ways of having sex. They were very crude and mostly from woodblock printing because there was a large demand for them. Before the wedding, the bride’s parents would often buy one or two sets of dowry paintings and put them inside the dowry. The daughter brought the dowry paintings to her husband’s house and spread them on the bed on the wedding night. The newly-married couple would have sex according to the paintings.


Woodblock dowry painting
Yaxiangdi (valuables at the bottom of the chest) is used to teach newly-weds about sex in ancient China.
Yaxiangdi (valuables at the bottom of the chest) from Qing Dynasty(1644-1912)
The dowry painting writer Zhang Heng in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220) writes about.

The first record about dowry paintings appeared in the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), and their material objects could still be found at the time of the founding of the Republic of China (1912 - 1949). Thus, we could see that dowry paintings existed for a very long time in Chinese history. There was a writer called Zhang Heng in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220), who wrote a poem about the mood of a man and a woman on their wedding day from the woman’s perspective. This poem was highly appraised in later ages. It was considered lovely, but not dirty.

The first part of this long poem is filled with foreshadowing. But after that it moves onto the main subject of the couple’s first encounter, from removing their makeup and costume to spreading the dowry painting on the bed and imitating those acts which interest them. The happiest time of one’s life is the pleasurable time tonight, and this feeling will not be forgotten even in old age.

We can see that this long poem not only describes the dowry painting, but also describes the joyous time of making love on the wedding day.

In addition to dowry paintings, yaxiangdi (valuables at the bottom of the chest) was also used in sex education in ancient China. It was made of china, as large as a human’s fist, and was often shaped like fruits in appearance. Inside the yaxiangdi was the figures of a man and a woman having sex. People placed them in the bottom of their chests as talismans. Before the wedding of their daughters, mothers opened them and showed their daughters how to have sex with their future husbands.

Of course, sex education in ancient China was not just by hinting and inducing. There were also ancient books about sex, but they were not very popular. Before a wedding, the wet nurse, midwife and her sisters might teach the bride. Sometimes sisters would sing folk songs outside the bride’s window hinting about sex. There were many playful phrases in folk songs which revealed things about sex.


(Source: / Translated by


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