Ming-era erotica

Fang-fu Ruan wrote in the “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”: In China, Taoism has both a philosophical and a religious tradition. The philosophy of Taoism is outlined in Lao-tzu's Tao-te Ching, offering a practical way of life. Later, its teachings came to be utilized in the popular religion called Tao-chiao. In the Chinese tradition, the two have been separate, but in the West they have often been confused under the one name Taoism. Both philosophical Taoism and religious Taoism included in their classics many positive ideas about sex.”

Wang Ping wrote: “In [D]aoist sexual alchemy, human bodies become symbolic furnaces where elixir could be extracted through sexual union between yin and yang. This practice was later turned into cai yin shu, a sheer harvesting of yin from female bodies through intercourse. A man gathered or stole yin from as many women as possible to repair his broken yang until he gained health, longevity, and even immortality.’ [Source: Wang Ping, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 92]

According to the “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”:“Taoism had some definite ideas about sex. For example, the wife's purpose is to please the husband and conceive more children. If the wife is barren, the husband can have a concubine or mistress to bear children, especially sons, for him. Both philosophical and religious Taoism included in their classics some positive ideas about sex. For example, from Lao tzu's Tao Te Ching. “All things have their backs to the female and stand facing male. When male and female combine, all things achieve harmony”. And from Taiping Jing (The Canon of Peace and Tranquility), an early classic of religious Taoism: “Through the way of copulation between husband and wife, the Yin and Yang all obtain what they need and Heaven and Earth become peace and tranquility;” “Based on one Yin and one Yang, Heaven allows both man and woman to exist and to be sexually attractive to each other, therefore life can be continued." [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality hu-berlin.de/sexology, 1997]

Good Websites and Sources on Taoism: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu; Religion Facts Religion Facts Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org ; Stanford Education plato.stanford.edu ; Taoist Texts Chinese Text Project ; Taoism chebucto.ns.ca ; Chad Hansen’s Chinese Philisophy hku.hk/philodep Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Wikipedia article on Chinese Philosophy religion Wikipedia Academic Info on Chinese religion academicinfo.net ; Internet Guide to Chinese Studies sino.uni-heidelberg.de lots of dead links, but maybe helpful

Taoism and Taoist Beliefs

Taoism is regarded as the oldest of China's three religion-philosophies (Confucianism and Buddhism are the other two). Like Confucianism it emerged in the 5th century B.C. during the Age of Philosophers and is said to have been founded by a humble, legendary Chinese mystic named Lao-tze and given some structure by influential Taoist scholars such as the Taoist master Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). Taoism has both a philosophical and a religious tradition in China. The philosophy of Taoism outlined in the Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching offers a practical way of life.

According to the “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”:“Daoism is based essentially on the participation of man in the universal order. This order depends on the equilibrium of the two elements Yin and Yang, which represent the constant duality of nature: rest and motion, liquid and solid, light and darkness, concentration and expansion, and material and spiritual. The material world being imbued with these two principles, the Daoist believes that whoever is able to act according to these principles could become the master of the world. This belief, in turn, has promoted a kind of mysticism, reflected in the magical practices of certain shamans who claim to possess the secret of the universe. [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality hu-berlin.de/sexology, 1997 */]

“The Daoist refrains from troubling the natural order of things; on the contrary, he conforms to it in every circumstance. He considers the taking of initiatives to be a waste of time and energy. In respecting the basic Daoist doctrines of passivity and absence of care, he avoids the active life. These doctrines, which were adopted by many Confucian scholars as well, are summed up in the Daoist maxim: “Do nothing and everything will be accomplished simultaneously." The supreme divinity of Daoism is the Emperor of Jade. With his ministers of Death and Birth, he controls the destiny of men. The cult is replete with incantations, charms, and amulets, which once made for prosperous trade, with the shamans intervening in every possible occasion in life. */

Joshua Wickerham wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”: Taoism, as China's only popular native religion, developed complex and measured sexual prescriptions somewhat incongruous with its more freewheeling social philosophy, which sanctioned drinking, debauchery, and sexuality. Taoists based their cosmology on yin and yang, the lowly as virtuous, and change as the only constant. Their ultimate goal was oneness with the ultimate and great unnamable Dao (Tao, or Way), the progenitor of the "ten thousand things." Taoists argued that the "female" force is more capable of blending with the Way because it is yielding, while the "male" goes against the Way because yang creates its own change. Practically speaking, Taoism can be cast as a reaction to Confucianism's ritualization. [Source: Joshua Wickerham, “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Development of the Sexual Focus in Taoism


Fang-fu Ruan wrote in the “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”: Although philosophical Taoism flourished early in the fifth century B.C., Taoism as a religion did not develop until the first century A.D. The historical founder of the Taoist religion was Chang Ling, a popular religious leader and rebel. He urged his followers to read the Tao-te Ching and, in 143 A.D., organized them into Tao-chiao, or the Taoist religion. After the founding of the Taoist religion, two major schools developed. One, Zheng Yi Pai ("Orthodox Unity School"), that is, Tien Shih Tao, was a highly organized religion. [Source: Fang-fu Ruan, “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”, Haeberle, Erwin J., Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, eds., sexarchive.info]

The other Taoist school, Quan Zhen Pai'm ("Perfect Realization School"), sought immortality through meditation, breathing exercises, bathing, gymnastics, sexual arts, medicines, chemistry, and other means. A measure of systemization was brought to this second school of Taoism by Wei Poyang (second century A.D.), who, in his Chou-i-ts'an-t'ung-chi (Textual Research on the Taoist and Magical Interpretation of the Book of Changes, or, in short, Ts'an-tung-chi), attempted to synthesize Taoist techniques for achieving immortality and teachings of the occult I Ching (Book of Change).

Later, the Perfect Realization School itself became divided into two major branches: the Northern Branch, which for centuries had its headquarters at Beijing's White Cloud Monastery and recognized Wang Chongyang (1112-1170 A.D.) as its founder; and the Southern Branch, which recognized Zhang Baiduan (Ziyang Zhenren) (984-1082) as its Original Master (hence, it was also called Ziyang Branch). The difference between the Northern and Southern branches, in a word, is that the Northern Branch denied fang zhong (sexual intercourse techniques) and the Southern Branch favored fang zhong as the way to achieve longevity and immortality. Zhang Baiduan wrote Wu Chen Phien (Poetical Essay on Realizing the Necessity of Regenerating the Primary Vitalities) before the division of Northern and Southern branches, and it is the basic book of Taoist sexual regimen.

Art of the Bedchamber

Joshua Wickerham wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”:“Taoists also practiced an "inner alchemy, " or sexual science, that produced libraries of sex manuals, the first of which are now lost to history. The Historic Records of the Western Han Dynasty (221 B.C.-220 A.D.) listed eight such sex manuals under the category fang zhong, or "Art of the Bedchamber." This list is apparently only the first record of what already had a long history. Also referred to as the "School of Yin and Yang" or the "Way of the Yin, " these first eight texts are all ascribed to ancient sage kings of old or the somewhat mythical founder of Taoism, Lao Zi (Lao Tzu). They seem to have been widely circulated and, at their earliest stages, were concerned with longevity and immortality through sex acts. [Source: Joshua Wickerham, “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Fang-fu Ruan wrote in “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”: Pan Ku (Ban Gu, 32-92 A.D.), one of China's greatest historians, included in his Han Shu (The History of the Former Han Dynasty) a special heading for fang zhong (literally "inside the bedchamber, " and usually translated as "the art of the bedchamber, " "the art of the bedroom, " or sometimes as "the sexual techniques"), immediately after his medical works.[Source: Fang-fu Ruan“Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”, Haeberle, Erwin J., Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, eds., sexarchive.info]

Pan Ku concluded his list of fang zhong with a commentary which is the earliest extant essay on Chinese sexology: The Art of the Bedchamber constitutes the climax of human emotions, it encompasses the Super Tao. Therefore the Saint Kings of antiquity regulated man's outer pleasures in order to restrain his inner passions and made detailed rules for sexual intercourse. A familiar quotation says: "The ancient Kings created sexual pleasure thereby to regulate all human affairs." If one regulates his sexual pleasure he will feel at peace and attain a high age. If, on the other hand, one abandons himself to its pleasure, disregarding the rules set forth in the above-mentioned treatises, one will fall ill and harm one's very life. [Translated by R.H. van Gulik.]

Pan Ku's work demonstrates that more than 2,000 years ago, sexology was not only a well-developed academic field, but a respected subject of inquiry. Unfortunately, the books Pan Ku listed were all lost in the many wars and repeated book-burnings which mar China's history.

Ancient Chinese Sex Manuals

In different periods from the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 M.E.) until the end of the Tang dynasty (618-907 M.E.), more than 20 sex handbooks were produced and circulated. Some of them are still available including:
Su Nu Ching (Canon of the Immaculate Girl)
Su Nu Fang (Prescriptions of the Immaculate Girl)
Yu Fang Chih Yao (Important Matters of the Jade Chamber)
Yu Fang Pi Chueh (Secret Instructions concerning the Jade Chamber)
Tung Hsuan Tzu (Book of the Mystery-Penetrating Master)
These manuals offer detailed advice on the selection of sexual partners, flirting, and every aspect of coitus, including foreplay, orgasm, and resolution. [Source: Fang-fu Ruan“Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”, Haeberle, Erwin J., Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, eds., sexarchive.info]

Joshua Wickerham wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”: “By the Sui Dynasty (581-618), these sexology texts were omitted from the historical record. Instead, a new category of sex manuals emerged under "medical books." These handbooks recount the story of the sexual initiation of the legendary Yellow Emperor, a descendant of the fabled sage kings of remote antiquity, who founded China's first dynasty, the Xia, two thousands years bce. He had three immortal sex education teachers, the Dark Girl, the Plain Girl, and Peng Zu, who initiated him into the entirety of sexual knowledge. These girls instructed later emperors and other males about the "jade stalk, " which "rises at her yin influence" for penetration of the "jade gate." These secrets, so the story goes, had been transmitted from woman to woman since the Han Dynasty. These girls taught the Yellow Emperor everything from the reason for different penis sizes to the importance of preserving ones vital essence and collecting the essence of others. [Source: Joshua Wickerham, “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“In later dynasties, these sexual manuals would all but disappear from circulation, being replaced by sexual literature and art. When sex manuals were listed as medical texts in later imperial histories, they concerned methods of producing offspring, not immortality.

Tao and Sex and Traditional Sexual Symbols

According to Taoism sex and spirituality are linked through the union of the cosmic forces of ying and yang. Taoist believe that ying and yang exist within each individual and "having sex, especially in the wilderness, was a way to cultivate oneself and prolong life."

In the Taoist sex manual, “The Plain Girl's Secret Way”, men were told to have a lot of sex but not come very often. That way their yang (the male essence, the source of masculine strength, power and longevity) would remain within their bodies. Life-extending Taoist sexual practices also encouraged men to have a lot of sex because the waters of the yin (vaginal secretions) helped strengthen a declining yang.

These beliefs live on in “shenkui”, a mental disorder found in China and Taiwan characterized by extreme feelings of panic and anxiety associated with complaints attributed to perceived death caused by loss of semen.

In China the dragon sometimes symbolizes a penis, and a lotus flower, a vagina. The vagina also is sometimes referred to as the jade gate and jade generally has sexual connotations in China. Some Chinese believe that jade is the petrified semen of a dragon. The Imperial sex handbook described "Jade Girl Playing the Flute" (oral sex) and Fish Interlocking Their Scales (woman on top).

Taoist Ideas About Yin, Yang Sex and Health


Gregory Smits, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, wrote: “Daoists thought that sexual intercourse could nourish life by strengthening the forces of yin-yang. Specifically, proper sexual training could cure disease, make the body lighter, make the senses more acute, and increase one's store of healthy, vital qi. Daoists tended to regard men as being in greater danger of suffering from a weakening of their yang energies than were women from a weakening of their yin energies. Therefore, for men to have sex with women was a primary way of recharging their yang energies via contact with female yin energy. Sexual union with men would also be beneficial for women, enhancing their yin energies, though women were generally considered to be much stronger than men when it came to retaining their vital energies. So, in this way of thinking, men needed women more than women needed men. [Source: “Topics in Premodern Chinese History”, Chapter Seven: Later Daoism by Gregory Smits]

According to the “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”: “Yin-Yang is a major philosophical concept developed during the Zhou dynasty (1027-221 B.C.). The concepts of Yin and Yang may be found in the majority of important Chinese classics, including such a major classic of Confucianism as the I-Ching, and such a Taoist classic as the Tao-te-ching. Thus, the Yin-Yang philosophy is among the most important unifying concepts of Chinese culture. According to the Yin-Yang philosophy, all objects and events are the products of two elements, forces, or principles: Yin, which is negative, passive, weak, and destructive; and Yang, which is positive, active, strong, and constructive. It was very natural for the Yin-Yang doctrine to become the basis of Chinese sexual philosophy. The Chinese have used the words Yin and Yang to refer to sexual organs and sexual behavior for several thousand years. Thus Yin Fu, “the door of Yin” means vulva, Yin Dao, “the passageway of Yin” means vagina, and Yang Ju, “the organ of Yang” means penis. The combination of these words into the phrases Huo Yin Yang or Yin Yang Huo He - ”the union or combination of Yin and Yang” - describes the act of sexual intercourse. [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality hu-berlin.de/sexology */]

In the context of sexuality, yang is identified with semen or seminal essence (jing, yin), which is why Daoists are encouraged to have intercourse often but without ejaculating. The aim is to build up jing but retain yang through not ejaculating, but at the same time enabling the woman to reach orgasm and give off her yin essence, which additionally strengthens the man. Another Daoist practice is to get a young man and woman together and to gather up their sexual secretions and swallow them - a practice that is believed to prolong life for the Daoist. Jacobus X. (1898) reported that it was still very common at the end of the 1800s, although he did put it strongly as a “strange freak of eroticism” : “The old Celadon is accompanied by a servant or strong coolie, who copulates with a woman in his presence, and then retires ... When once the agent is retired, well and duly paid, the old debauchee is left alone with the woman, who is still resting upon the field of battle. Then the man approaches, and eagerly receives in bucca sua, the liquid which runs ex vulva feminae. */

Taoist Ideas About Male Acquisition of the Female Jing

Joshua Wickerham wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”:“For early Taoists, yin and yang were only the beginning of their sexual vocabulary. The underlying energy is qi (chi), which circulates in the body, and is available to the Taoist sexual adept in the refined form, called jing (ching). In males, jing is semen. In females, jing is produced as vaginal secretions. Semen was seen as a man's most important possession and was limited. Female qi, produced during orgasm, was unlimited. Therefore, these texts go into detail about how to best pleasure female partners and thus collect their life essence. Male masturbation was frowned upon because it led to loss of yang qi without being replaced by yin qi. Cunnilingus and fellatio were both sanctioned because they left the practitioner with no net gain or loss in qi. According to texts, males could die because of loss of qi, but both males and females could reach immortality by absorbing the qi of their partners. [Source: Joshua Wickerham, “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“In early Taoist sex manuals, written by males for the benefit of males, the main goal was the collection of female essence, which was called "plucking qi" by the Tang Dynasty's (618-907) influential court physician Sun Simo. Qi, like oil in a lamp, he theorized, could be used up. For these practitioners, one girl was not enough. To "cultivate one's nature" (yang xing), a man must have sex with as many young girls as possible (preferably eight or more per night, if his harem was sufficient). These young girls should be virgins and ignorant in the sexual arts. For the sake of stamina and because of the preciousness of semen (jing essence), ejaculation was to be avoided as long as possible. Sex was a "flowery battle, " and "victory" was achieved through exacting methods. The man should first excite her through foreplay "until the [woman's] nose is damp." He should then penetrate hard. After the woman reaches climax, he is to relax inside her and absorb her jing essence and allow his semen to return to nourish his brain along the "yellow river" of cerebro-spinal fluid.

“Despite the view that Taoists were more "feminist" than Confucianists because they held the "female" in such high esteem, where sex is concerned, women were seen as little more than containers of life essence, available for male pleasure and longevity. These Taoist theories influenced the Indian Tantric tradition, which entered China in the eighth century. Along with Tibetan (Mahayana) Buddhism, Tantric practices gained some favor with Mongol emperors of the Yuan Dynasty (1264? — 1368). Mahayana Buddhism generally gave few prescriptions for sex, except to avoid sensual indulgences, and the occasional tract against homosexuality, which did nothing to impede the male-male sexual tradition of imperial China.

Taoist Sexual Route to Immortality: Virgins, Teenage Girls and Multiple Partners

Fang-fu Ruan wrote in the “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”: The major Taoist sexual belief is that longevity or immortality are attainable by sexual activity. One way for men to achieve this is by having intercourse with virgins, particularly young virgins. In Taoist sexual books, the woman sexual partner is called ding, originally an ancient cooking vessel with two loop handles and three or four legs, used in the practice of alchemy. [Source: Fang-fu Ruan, “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”, Haeberle, Erwin J., Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, eds., sexarchive.info]

The Taoist sexual books, such as the Hsuan wei Hshin (Mental Images of the Mysteries and Subtleties of Sexual Techniques') and San Feng Tan Cheueh (Zhang Sanfeng's Instructions in the Physiological Alchemy), written, respectively, by Zhao Liang Pi and Zhang San Feng, state that the most desirable ding is a girl about 14, 15, or 16 years old just before or after menarche. Zhang Sanfeng went further and divided ding into three ranks: the lowest rank, 21- to 25-year-old women; the middle rank, 16- to 20-year-old menstruating virgin girls; and the highest rank, 14-year-old premenarche virgin girls.

There was also a belief in the desirability of multiple sexual partners. For example, Sun Simiao, in his Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold, wrote that the art of the bedchamber was for a man to copulate on one night with ten different women without emitting semen a single time. Ability to control ejaculation was a key for both men and women. For men, it was called cai Yin pu Yang (gathering a woman's yin to nourish a man's yang) and for women cai Yang pu Yin (gathering a man's yang to nourish a woman's yin). The technique was a secret and a learned one, since it was most desirable to have one's partner reach orgasm without having orgasm oneself. This was particularly important for the male, because by practicing coitus reservatus it was believed that the semen found its way to the brain, huan jing pu lau (making the seminal essence return to nourish the brain). Thus, at the point of orgasm, the male prevents or interrupts ejaculation by pressing the "point" at the base of the penis. Taoist belief further emphasizes that sexual satisfaction may be derived from coitus without ejaculation.

Taoist Sexual Training

Fang-fu Ruan wrote in the “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”: Taoist sexual techniques were developed on the basis of the fang shu, also called fang zhong, or fang zhong shu. The meaning of these three Chinese words for sexual intercourse techniques are exactly the same, literally "inside the bedchamber" or "the art in bedroom." Fang-shu was created by a combination of experts: fang-shih (alchemists or prescription writers), fang-zhong-jia (experts on sexual techniques or ancient sexologists), and physicians in or before the Han dynasty (206 B.C. — 220 A.D.); mainly it belonged to the medical field. For descriptive and analytic purposes, the entire Taoist sexual system may be divided into two categories: (1) beliefs or myths, and (2) methods or techniques. [Source: Fang-fu Ruan, “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”, Haeberle, Erwin J., Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, eds., sexarchive.info]

Gregory Smits, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, wrote: “Be aware that such training was rigorous and bore little resemblance to modern recreational sex. Indeed such sexual training was more like a battle in which men and women sought to obtain each other's bodily fluids and essences. In this battle, to attain orgasm was to go down to defeat (mainly for men; in this view, women suffered little if any from orgasms). Insofar as people today might regard sexual activities as an aid to good health, the physical and psychological release of orgasm is usually a major beneficial component. In Daoist sexual training, precisely the opposite was the case. Especially for men, ejaculation was the road to a feeble and short life. [Source: “Topics in Premodern Chinese History”, Chapter Seven: Later Daoism by Gregory Smits; “Koshoku to Chugoku bunka: Chugoku no rekishi wa yoru ni tsukurareta [Lust and Chinese culture: Chinese history was created at night],” (Kawaguchi-shi, Japan: Nihon kyohosha, 2004), pp. 129-134 ==]

“Stepping back and taking a broader view of tradition Chinese concerns with male sexual activity and health (not necessarily from a strictly Daoist point of view), the situation was quite complicated. Ruth Rogaski wrote: “Unlike other aspects of qi within the body, jing is difficult to nurture or augment through breathing or the ingestion of food and drugs. Indeed, much like the Original qi bestowed before birth, jing exists within the body in finite quantities. Jing is essential for life and health, but one only has so much of it. Once it is spent, it is gone. It seems that one should avoid losing jing at all costs, and yet there were obvious forces working against that option. Many medical experts held that sexual abstinence resulted in blockages and infirmities, and thus consoled moderate sexual activities as part of a healthy life. Even Confucius recognized that sexual desire (along with a desire for food) was at the root of human nature, and thus impossible to avoid. Another one of Confucius' dictums held that there was nothing more unfilial than leaving this life without having fathered descendants. Nevertheless, the anxiety over the loss of seminal essence remained. In the words of the seventeenth-century physician and alchemist Sun Simiao, "When jing is reduced, illness results, when jing is used up, death results. One cannot help but be worried; one cannot help but be cautious." One of the crueler paradoxes of male existence, therefore, was the fact that the activity of sex and procreation, so vital to the survival of humankind, inevitably resulted in a loss of that which maintained individual human life. [Source: Ruth Rogaski, “Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 38-39. |=|]

“This paradox fostered an approach to sex and health that can best be described as an economy. Certainly jing was something that needed to be "economized," carefully invested and not carelessly spent. But this "sexual economy" also meant that a careful calculus of inputs and outputs, of benefits and drawbacks, would determine how much sexual activity could be tolerated while still allowing for the maintenance of overall health. . . . the gravest advice warns against entering the bedchamber in a state of intoxication (zui yi ru fang). Sex was a serious business, and one needed a clear mind to keep track of its accounts.” |=|

“Obviously, Daoist notions of sexual training are at variance with most of today's prevailing views of sexuality, relations between men and women, and related topics. Jin Wenxue, a scholar of cultural studies, is rather critical of Daoist notions of sexual training, particularly the idea of diverted semen nourishing a man's brain, which he calls an "absurd theory." However, he points out one aspect of the historical significance of Daoist sexual training that is often overlooked: it produced and codified a wide variety of sexual techniques that contributed to the broader sexual culture of China.” ==

Taoist Sexual Techniques

Gregory Smits of Pennsylvania State University wrote: “The actual details of the techniques varied, but the basic idea was for men to engage in sexual intercourses with one or more women (one text recommends 10 per day) and attain a high degree of excitement without ejaculation. This process cultivates sexual energy (jing ?) as a man absorbs as much yin as possible without relinquishing any of his yang. The additional yin strengthens him by further enhancing his store of yang vitality. A slight variation might involve a man having sexual intercourse with one woman such that she has a succession of orgasms but he has none. Suppose that such a couple were to start this process and not stop, orgasm after orgasm (for her only). There would be no long-term effect on the woman. For the man, however — according to one training manual — the following benefits would accrue from his partner's orgasms 1-9: 1) his voice becomes clear; 2) his skin is clarified; 3) his eyes and ears become acute; 4) his bones and connective tissues are strengthened; 5) his buttocks and groin becomes tight; 6) the vessels carrying blood and qi open up; 7) life-long diseases are cured; 8) his lifespan is extended; 9) he attains immortality. Good luck guys — and remember not to ejaculate!” ==

“In another variation of this basic idea, a man could indeed ejaculate, at least by contemporary understandings of this action. Suppose that a couple begins a training session and the man continues for a very long time without orgasm. But then, the moment of his climax approaches and his partner presses hard on his urethra between the scrotum and the anus just at the moment of ejaculation. This pressing will divert the seminal fluid into the bladder. Although the fluid thus diverted would eventually leave the body through urination, Daoists regarded it has having been "conserved." The entire process was thought to circulate vital essence, via jing, throughout a man's body, eventually nourishing his brain. (For those interested in the technical term for this practice, it is huanjing bunao shuo, which literally means something like "the theory of the circulation of jing enhancing the brain".) ==

“What about women? Could any of these techniques lead them closer to immortality? Yes, women could enhance their strength by contact with male yang energy generated via sexual intercourse and by absorbing male energy via a partner's ejaculation. Generally, the ideal conditions for a woman would be the converse of those described above for men. In other words, she would have sexual intercourse for a long time with one or more men, and they would attain orgasms and she would not. In this way, she would maximally absorb their vital essence, thereby strengthening hers. Obviously there is the quality of a zero-sum game in this situation, with benefit for women coming at the expense of harm to the men who give up their vital essence. Indeed, in Chinese literature is full of accounts of men being seduced by beautiful women (sometimes they are really foxes). Often these men become thinner, paler, weaker, and sometimes dead as a result of her draining him of his vitality. Such accounts are undoubtedly part of a male fear of female sexuality that seems to be found in all human cultures. ==

Descriptions of Taoist Sexual Training Techniques

What were Taoist sexual training techniques like. To prepare, according to one description: “The celebrants, not to exceed twenty in number, first bathe, burn incense, and offer salutations to the officiating priest . . . and invocations to the gods. The participants now begin meditative visualizations based on colored [qi] (white, yellow, red, green, and black) corresponding to the five directions and five organs. The couples kneel facing each other and carry out more . . . visualizations and petitions to the deities for health and salvation. Following this, the priest helps the supplicants remove their garments and loosen their hair. Now the couples interlace their hands in various ritual patterns and recite formulas, followed by a series of gestures with hands and feet relating to the eight trigrams, twelve Earthly Branches, and organs. [Source: Douglas Wile, Art of the Bedchamber: The Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics Including Women's Solo Meditation Texts [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992], pp. 25-26).

On the main activities a sixth-century text reads: “ Raising his hand and inhaling living [qi] through his nose, he swallows yang according to the numbers 3, 5, 7, and 9, and recites: "May the [dao] of heaven be set in motion." The second partner now recites: "May the [dao] of earth be set in motion." Following this he enters the "gate of birth" to a depth of half the head, while reciting: "Oh celestial deities and immortals, I would shake heaven and move earth that the 'five lords' . . . might hear my plea." Now the second partner recites: "Oh, celestial deities and '[dantian] palace' . . . I would move earth and shake heaven that the five deities of the body might each be strong." He then penetrates to the greatest depth, closes his mouth and inhales living [qi] through his nose and exhales through his mouth three times. Gnashing his teeth, he recites: "May none and one be born in the midst." Now he withdraws and returns to a depth of half a head. (Quoted in Wile, Art of the Bedchamber, p. 26).

Smits wrote: “And the process continues as long as possible — no ejaculations please! Incidentally, Daoist training also featured other, ways of conditioning the body with respect to sexual energies that did not involve sexual intercourse. One of these techniques for men — apparently popular enough even today to generate some commercial activity — was "iron crotch training" [tiedang gong and other names]. It was designed to, quite literally, strengthen the genitals in a manner much like a weight lifter or body builder might develop other parts of the body. Another Daoist meditation technique took the opposite approach — it allegedly shrank the penis and testicles to a very small size to prevent vital energy leaking from them. For some reason, this shrinking technique seems to have less appeal today than the iron crotch approach.” [Source: “Topics in Premodern Chinese History”, Chapter Seven: Later Daoism by Gregory Smits; “Koshoku to Chugoku bunka: Chugoku no rekishi wa yoru ni tsukurareta [Lust and Chinese culture: Chinese history was created at night],” (Kawaguchi-shi, Japan: Nihon kyohosha, 2004), pp. 129-134 ==]

True Manual of the "Perfected Equalization"

Fang-fu Ruan wrote in the “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”: The major Taoist sexual techniques include teaching how to master the differences of sexual arousal of male and female, harmonizing the sexual will and desire, and liberating and activating the female while relaxing the male. [Source: Fang-fu Ruan, “Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia”, Haeberle, Erwin J., Bullough, Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, eds., sexarchive.info]

The Taoist sex handbook True Manual of the "Perfected Equalization" states: In the Taoist master's sexual "battle" (to give the woman an orgasm while avoiding ejaculation), his enemy is the woman. He should begin by touching her vulva, kissing her lips and tongue, and touching her breasts, making her highly aroused. But he should keep himself under control, his mind as detached as if it were floating in the azure sky, his body sunk into nothingness. He must close his eyes, avoid looking at the woman, and maintain an utter nonchalance so that his own passion is not roused. When she makes sexual movements, the man must remain still rather than take any action. When her hand actively touches the penis, the man avoids her caress. The man can employ stillness and relaxation, to overcome the woman's excitement and movement.

It is important for the male to understand the female sexual responses so he can penetrate her at the appropriate time, use the correct sexual postures, positions and movements that include controlled breathing, preventing ejaculation by stopping and pressing the base of the penis and achieving sexual satisfaction by coitus without ejaculation. Interestingly though, women also had their own techniques that are not discussed in the manuals that were written for men. These techniques remained women's secrets. Still the use of the male technique can be used to prolong the sexual act and contribute to the pleasure of both partners. Many modern sex therapists have adapted the Taoist sexual teachings as a way to treat premature ejaculation and other sexual dysfunctions.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Hermit: daoist wandering blog; hermit hut: View of China.

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2021

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