During this time, female homosexuality was widespread, but male homosexuality was rare. Male homosexuality was
forbidden because it was considered a complete loss of yang essence on the part of both men. Meanwhile, since
women were said to have an unlimited yin essence, there was no loss of yin in female homosexual relations.
Not until the Han dynasty did male homosexuality figures reach the same standard as among other societies.
At first, prostitution was accepted by the Chinese. Men thought that they could gain more yin from prostitutes
than from normal women. They believed that since such women had sex with so many men, that they had acquired more
yang essence from them, thus, they could give a patron more yang essence than he had lost. However, Chinese
medicine began to identify prostitutes with many diseases at an early stage in human history and they began
warning men against them.
Ch’in Dynasty – 221 BC to 24 AD
The Ch’in Dynasty shifted the Taoist culture to a Confucianist culture, which was completely different.
Women were placed in an inferior position to men. All physical contact between men and women was confined
to marriage and their bedroom or a couch. After leaving the bedroom or couch, there was to be no physical
contact between husbands and wives. The sex act in itself was looked upon as a sort of sin by Confucianism.
Sex was only for procreation and to provide a sacred family life.
Men were allowed to see concubines and there was an entire set of Confucianist rules for concubines, such as
grooming rules. A man’s concubine was not allowed to stay in bed after the sex act if his wife was not present
but the concubine had to leave. Even if the concubine was age 50, the man was supposed to have sex with his
concubine every five days. During this time period, there were many sadistic relationship among the Ch’in
dynasty families and many incestous relationships between close kin members of the dynasty.
Later Han Dynasty – 25 AD to 220 AD
With the Han Dynasty came the return of Taoist doctrines, only by this point in time, Taoism was now an
organized religion with its own church and priests. New sexual texts began to surface such as The Handbook
of the Plain Girl and The Art of the Bedchamber. Both texts referred to a Yellow Emperor, who was attempting
to live a long, healthy life and obtain a form of immortality through sex. Emphasis was placed on breathing
techniques during sex to prolong a man’s orgasm to make a woman orgasm several times to gain her yin essence.
New metaphors and symbolicism evolved in literature to show men and women and their sexuality. The color red
was female, a crucible, the ova, her cinnabar (vulva). The color white became symbolic of men and their semen.
The White Tiger was symbolic of men and the Green Dragon was symbolic of women.
Three Kingdoms & Six Dynasties – 221 AD to 590 AD
During this time frame there were many conflicts between different cultures and the ruling classes during the wars.
There was intermixing between Taoist doctrines, Confucian doctrines and Buddhist doctrines.
Sui Dynasty – 590 AD to 618 AD
Once again, China returned to the Taoist doctrines and new sexual literature and manuals began to flourish.
Such texts included the following:
The Secret Methods of the Plain Girl
Handbook of Sex of the Dark Girl
Recipes of the Plain Girl
Secret Prescriptions for the Bedchamber
Principles of Nurturing
Secrets of the Jade Chamber
Many of the texts continue the sexual instruction to the Yellow Emperor, trying to tell him how to obtain a long,
immortal healthy life, by having many sexual relations with many women gaining their yin essence without expending
his yang essence, or prolonging his orgasms/ejaculation. All of the texts are very detailed and each has unique sets
of sexual positions with animal-like names for each individual sex position. Sex was seen as a cure-all for every
health ailment that a man had, and different sexual positions were given as prescriptions to cure these ailments.
For Further Readings on Sex in Ancient China:
Dikotter, Frank. (1995) Sex, Culture, and Modernity in China. London: Hurst & Company.
Golden, Paul. (2002) Culture of Sex in Ancient China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Maynes, Mary Jo. (1996) Gender, Kinship, Power: A Comparative & Interdisciplinary History. New York: Routledge.
Ruan, Fangfu. (1991) Sex in China. New York: Plenum Press.
Van Gulik, Robert. (1961) Sexual Life in Ancient China. Netherlands: E. J. Brill.
Wile, Douglas. (1992) Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics Including Women’s Solo Meditation. New York: State University of New York Press.