The EHM often comes across historical sexual artifacts that are very rare. Either because there were few made or a specific erotica ephemera has been lost or deliberately destroyed in the ensuing centuries, we are doubly thrilled to present something not only of sexually educational value but pieces that might indeed not be seen all that often.
When it comes to Chinese Pillow Books, many a museum curator has found them hard to acquire, as many Pillow Books were destroyed in the beginning years of communist reign in China. Still, others have been broken apart, pages sold individually to art collectors. The Chinese Pillow Book, the Erotic Heritage Museum, has on display is an intact version of that very special gift a mother-in- law would present her daughter-to- be, on the new wife’s wedding day.
Our Pillow Book shows in stark relief just what exactly a couple should expect when consummating their union during their wedding night. As much artful expression as sex educational tool, the Pillow Book provides a unique glimpse into a cultural and a time far removed from most people’s everyday experiences. The large, often complex renderings, spread across multiple panels give the viewer a peek into Asian culture and sexual mores.
India, Nepal, and China are just a few of the countries where pillow books were popular. In a non-erotic content, pillow books were often created to serve as notebooks, diaries of a sort, reporting on specific periods of a person’s life. In Japan, this collection of ‘idle notes’ comes under the zuihitsu genre of writing.
Most recently, the general public was introduced to the idea of the pillow book from Peter Greenaway’s film of the same name. This 1996 movie is a modern take on authoress Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book observations of court life, completed in 1002.
What the EHM has on display is certainly a book of a different order, a ‘comment’ of life at the time it was written…albeit a sexual life.
In a world where we are charged, cajoled and baited by daily salacious Instagram pictures supposedly fixed to ‘break the net,’ the beautiful panel artwork of seduction and sexual interplay of a Chinese Pillow Book is worth considering.