Ancient Jade and Copper Sex Toys and Drinking Vessels Reveal Randy Chinese Royals
You might call ancient Chinese royalty of the Han Dynasty jaded. Some aristocrats of around 2,000 years ago enjoyed a lusty sex life that included bronze dildos and jade butt plugs. And the presence of these erotic objects in Han Dynasty tombs, plus wine drinking vessels, reveals an intent to continue their sybaritic ways in the afterlife.
The butt plugs may have served a double purpose: giving pleasure and preventing precious fluids and enigmatic life energy called chi from leaking out of the bodies of the living and the dead.
IFL Science online has published an article about a planned exhibition revealing 160 Han tomb treasures from February 17 through May 28 at the Asian Art Museum in the U.S. city of San Francisco.
Archaeologists have unearthed a wealth of other artifacts in the tombs that date back an estimated 2,000 years before the present in Jiangsu province near Shanghai. Some of the objects found during excavations undertaken from 1995 to 2011 include loofahs, vessels, ceramics, and urinals.
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The Asian Art Museum says on its website:
“Emulating their grand palaces, Han royals built lavishly furnished tombs so that, in the afterlife, no need would go unmet. Daily utensils, kitchen vessels, royal symbols, weaponry and even toiletries were all accounted for. And the nobility spared no expense preserving the tools of earthly pleasures — food, music, wine, sex — in anticipation of an afterlife to surpass this world.
On view for the first time in the U.S., 160 rare selections from recent excavations — including a jade coffin, rare bronze bells, elaborate crafts and much more — share the extravagance, artistry and elegance of Han royal clans.”
Example of a jade dragon from the Chinese Western Han Dynasty King of Chu's tomb. ( CC BY SA 2.5 )
Fan Zhang, curator of the museum, told IFL Science that ancient Han people also had mouth seals to retain chi, including a beautiful seal shaped like a cicada that is in the exhibition.
Chinese researchers think the hand-crafted dildos and butt plugs were meant for use and were actually used. The presence of wine vessels plus the sex toys point to an enjoyment of the pleasures of the flesh in ancient China—home of the spiritual, theological, and philosophical systems of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
Curator Zhang told IFL Science that bronze dildos in elite tombs are rarely found but not unheard of. The two bronze dildos that will be on display in San Francisco might have been kept in place on the body with silk or leather thong laces. It is not known if they were meant for men or women to wear, but the one with the ring on the bottom of it was probably for a man as it was unearthed from the tomb of a king.
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Experts don’t know if the dildos were meant for use by men or women, but both of the ones in the exhibition were designed for use in life as well as the afterlife. ( Yizheng Museum photo )
On Monday Ancient Origins reported on other interesting finds from Chinese tombs dating as far back as 771 BC: jade body suits for dead kings that were meant as protection against decomposition and as symbols of wealth. Natalia Klimczak wrote:
“Perceptions of the afterlife have inspired thousands of weird ideas for burial rituals around the world. One example comes in form of the remarkably beautiful and fascinating ceremonial suits created with jade pieces during the reign of the Han dynasty in China.
The cold and smooth jade stones put in the incredibly beautiful mosaic symbolizing the wealth of the Han Dynasty covered the remains of royal family members. Their ceremonial suits made of polished pieces of jade are one of the most surprising elements of ancient Chinese burial traditions.”
Chinese jade burial suit. (Flickr - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
The Han people of China are not the only ancient culture to have sex toys. A Google search would quickly show you that dildos have been common all over the world, even as far back as an estimated 28,000 years. Little showed up about sex toys in tombs, though drinking vessels are common in ancient tombs worldwide.