The Hospital Erotic Pictures

From Hospital to face punishment for posting erotic literature (The Shanghaiist, July 28, 2006)

When we read that a certain hospital would be punished for putting up erotic literature on its website our curiosity was piqued: Were there other fans of Debbie Does Dalian out there? It turns out that the literature in question is erotic literature from the Qing dynasty, a novel by the name of Secret Lust of Spring Palace, which, this Chinese report tells us, is the racy 《春宫秘史》 (Chun Gong Mi Shi). There's no "lust" in the title, but we suppose that's whatever the opposite of being "lost in translation" is. The point of putting this up was to give couples having difficulties conceiving a little encouragement. The hospital treats all kinds of infertility problems, some of which are physical, and some of which are psychological:

He cited the example of a couple who had complained about not having a child a year into their marriage. It turned out they did not know how to have sex and that the wife was still a virgin when they came to the hospital. (emphasis ours)

In case you didn't catch that the first time around, let us repeat it: still a virgin. They must have been confused -- think about how long it took Adam and Eve before they got the hang of it. However, though we have not read any of the great erotic literature of China (the novels are mostly from the Ming and Qing dynasties), we do know that when we have come across sexual scenes in Chinese literature of that period that the wording is usually fairly literary and doesn't go into racy details. Therefore, as many opinion pieces have noted, this might not help people like the aforementioned couple, who might benefit from an instruction manual -- and we don't mean the Kama Sutra, we mean something along the lines of "INSERT HERE." 

Well, does The Shanghaiist know how influential it is?  Or is it a case of great minds thinking alike?  Because a Chongqing hospital has done just that.

(Youth Weekend via People's Daily)  Controversy over Erotic Pictures posted at Hospital Website for Sex Education.  September 21, 2006.

[in translation]

Pornography or sex education?  Recently, Chongqing media reported that a certain private hospital in Chongqing has posted erotic pictures on its website.  The news has stirred heated comments among netizens.

"By posting erotic pictures on its website, the hospital attains the goal of sex education.  This was how the ancients taught sex education."  "This is basically promoting pornography.  Why pretend to be virtuous?"  Since the news broke on September 14 up until the news deadline today, 11,955 persons have voted at an Internet forum and 55% of them supported the action of the hospital.

When interviewed by our reporter, the hospital leader said that the erotic pictures have artistic value as well sex education implications.  As long as it does not break any law, the hospital will continue to keep the pictures on its website.

During the investigation, the reporter discovered that strictly speaking, the hospital was posting "private play pictures" (秘戲圖) and not "erotic pictures" (春宮圖).  As far as sex education is concerned, the ancients did not treat "erotic pictures" as any big deal.  There is also a difference between traditional "erotic pictures" and those that are used for health and medical purposes.  The "erotic pictures" posted on the website fall into being obscene.

"We feel that these erotic pictures are fairly normal.  We cannot say that erotic pictures are obscene, because they have certain artistic values.  That is to say, from the artistic angle, we feel that the ancient erotic pictures can be enjoyed artistically and they also have implications for the sex education of modern people.  Through these pictures, we can understand how the ancients look at sex," said Mister Wu who is in charge of the website operations for this private hospital in Chongqing.

According to Mr. Wu, the hospital posted these twenty pictures on its website in September 2005.  The pictures came from a health channel in a web portal.  "This was a re-post.  If they can post such pictures, then you can't blame us for posting them too.  These erotic pictures are hand-drawn.  They are not very realistic.  The exact age of the pictures is unknown."

Did the website consider that this would create a social debate?

Mr. Wu said: "Our website is a health-related website.  Most non-adults are not interested in this type of website.  When we were producing it, we did not think too much.  We are all adults, and the netizens who visit our websites are mostly adults as opposed to non-adults.  When we drew our plan, we considered potential bad influences."

The hospital had consulted netizens before: "Before we updated the website, we asked the website forum administrators and most of them didn't think anything of it."

Mr. Wu admitted that their considerations were flawed.  After creating the social debate, the website operations department discussed the matter and decided to add the following warning: "Warning: This page contains adult content.  Minors under 18 years of age are prohibited from viewing this page!  If you entered this accidentally, you should leave immediately.  Violators are responsible for all their actions!"

Did the hospital feel opinion pressure to withdraw these pictures?

"We recently read the comments at some websites.  We observed that the majority of netizens are okay with the erotic pictures.  Personally, I think that 60% of the netizens are supportive.  The hospital is watching, and is not necessarily insistent on putting the pictures there.  If there is a problem or if it is not permitted by law, the pictures will be taken down."

According to the hospital, the erotic pictures have certain artistic values.  So how great are those artistic values?

Chinese Renmin University Sex and Society professor Pan Suiming was interviewed and he corrected the popular understanding of erotic pictures.

"Actually, the pictures in which we see naked men and women engaged in sex are known as 'private play pictures' (秘戲圖).  'Erotic pictures' (春宮圖) do not show nudity and do not present sexual activities directly.  The historical definition of 'erotic pictures' is refined and relaxed, such as a young girl dreaming of love and reading at night.  But since those kinds of pictures became rarer, the people have grouped 'erotic pictures' and 'private play pictures' together and gave them the same name of 'erotic pictures.'"

According to Professor Pan, the pictures at the Chongqinq hospital website showed naked men and women copulating and therefore, strictly speaking, these are 'private play pictures' and not 'erotic pictures.'

It is impossible to establish when 'erotic pictures' came into existence, but the peak of popularity was at the end of the Ming dynasty.  "Most of the 'erotic pictures' that can be seen today were created near the end of the Ming dynasty.  From circa AD 1500 until the Manchurians came in AD 1650, erotic pictures and private play pictures were very popular.  In 1992, there was an exhibition of ancient Chinese erotic art in Paris, and more than 2,000 pictures were chosen."

Professor Pan said, "From the historical angle, erotic pictures can present information about ancient architecture, clothing and interior design, and this is useful for archaeological studies.  There is much less of this type of information in the 'private play pictures.'"