Sex Education during Ancient Times

  • August 14, 2008
  • Editor:zhuhong
  • Change Text Size: A  A  A


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


comment on this story

Messages that harass, abuse or threaten others; have obscene or otherwise objectionable content; have commercial or advertising content or links may be removed.

  You may put in  6,000  characters
Verification code: Click to change the identifying code    If the code is not clear, please click here for a new code.
No comment
    • Thank you so much for your reply, Yang. I appreciate it very much! Have a wonderful day! LindaLinda Ann Jones from USA
    • respected madam, I am a PhD student from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. These days I am here in Shandong University, China for learning Chinese PhD topic deals with the women workers in china. I would be really greatful to you if yo ...ila joshi from Indian
    • Hello, I received your publication in an email and see that you have a section on education. I would love to have you consider for review my book entitled Alphabet Anatomy: Meet the Capital Letters, which presents an innovative and fresh concept fo ...Linda Ann Jones from USA
    • Hello, we are looking to interview one to two members of your organisation for a piece on gender and age diversity across the public sector in G20 countries. Our interviews usually get international press coverage and this would be an excellent oppor ...Kyle Monk from London, Westminster
    • I am looking for a Chinese woman who wants to come to Italy to live with me, my email: georgegiorgio from italy
    • Hi, i come back from Phuket, Thailand, and i was very surprised because a lot of chinese tourists woman get assaulted/raped in Thailand,and you do nothing to warn them. You should warn your people to becareful for holidaying in Phuket! Here t ...Jerome from France
    • Please could you provide me contacts that would like to come to Belize and teach the art of Ballet With Gymnastics. You can contact me at above email. preference female, 18-mid 30's.Shihan Kelly from Belize
    • Dear Madam, I'm a Dutch student and for my research on the position of Chinese woman on the labour market, i like to speak with an expert and a succesfull or less succesfull business lady. Is there a possibility i can speak to someone of the A ...Sharon Usai from Holland
    • Hello, The Honorable Barbara Hackman Franklin, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under George H. W. Bush and current President and CEO of Barbara Franklin Enterprises, is interested in contacting Ms. Shen Yueyue, the new President of the All- ...Samantha Ellison from US
    • Dear Sir or Madam I am currently doing my master's thesis at the University of Eastern Finland. My subject is "Women and Hukou". I want to understand the Chinese hukou system better and also research how the hukou-system treats women. I do not wan ...Pia Eskelinen from Finland
      • 10 Outstanding Women Working in NGOs
      • 10 Notable Women in Chinese History
      • Historical Changes in Chinese Women
      • 100th Anniversary of International Women