Back to Shanghai Homepage
Sights & Attractions --- The Ancient china Sex Culture Museum

The Ancient China Sex Culture Museum, at 1133 Wuding Road, Shanghai, is the only private museum of the kind in China. It has been a point of controversy ever since its establishment in September 1999. Some people are opposed to its exhibits, considering them distasteful and unhealthy, while others believe that they form part of ancient Chinese civilization, and reflect objectively humankind¡¯s attitude towards sex. For a time the museum seemed likely to close down, but as people are now more aware of the cultural value of ancient sexual practices, the museum has fortunately met with development opportunities, and a branch has opened in Zhejiang¡¯s Hangzhou.

Some distance from the museum can clearly be seen the characters, ¡°Ancient Sex Culture Exhibition,¡± on the museum wall. Beside this sign is a logo in the from of a man and woman, half human and half snake, with interlocking tails. This logo is actually a stone carving from the Han Dynasty (206BC¨CAD220). The man is said to be Fu Xi, and the woman, Nu Wa. In Chinese mythology, these were the legendary ancestors of the Chinese mythology, these were he legendary ancestors of the Chinese nation, but they were also brother and sister. In ancient Chinese, ¡°interlocking tails¡± is a metaphor for sexual intercourse, and this carving indicates that marriage between a brother and sister was practiced in ancient times.

The exhibition comprises 10 sections: the evolution of sex, sex worship, the development of the marriage system, sexual oppression of women, sex accessories, erotica, sexual health, sex and religion sexuality. The Chinese nation has a subtle attitude towards sex, and consequently most of the exhibits have an implicit significance. For example, one may wonder why a 5000-year-old frog-patterned pottery jar is on display here. What does the frog have to do with sex? The answer is that the frog has bi belly, and is a prolific breeder, so it was an object of fertility worship for the ancient Chinese. The museum exhibits include objects of ancient sex worship, and also on display are the tools used to bind women¡¯s feet, and to keep them chaste. There are, in addition, instruments used to torture women, seals used to mark the chaste status of candidates for posts as minds-in-waiting, and artificial vaginas dating from 3500 years ago through to the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911). There are, moreover, artifacts used in ancient sex education, and images relating to narcissism and homosexuality in ancient times, as well as articles common to ancient brothels.

Curator Liu Dalin of the museum is a professor at Shanghai University, and a noted sociologist in China. The 1000 or so items on display at the museum are his personal collection. In the early 1980s, he became keenly aware of sex as a social problem and concentrated his attention on the science of sex. From 1989 to 1990, he presided over a nationwide sex survey of over 20000 cases ¨C the largest ever in the world. He then plunged himself into research into China¡¯s 5000-year history of sex culture. ¡°Without any understanding of our present and future,¡± says Professor Liu. He has collected a large amount of ancient sex artifacts, in order to study as well as rescue these precious cultural relics. ¡°Many sex artifacts have great cultural value, but historical bias categorizes them as pornography and results in their damage or destruction. I must therefore rescue them, make them known, and leave them to our descendants.¡±

Regent Tour China Your China Specialist. Email: