Eros in Asia showcases The Kinsey Institute's extensive collection of erotic artwork from across the Asian continent. Many pieces arrived at the Institute in the s and s, when Dr. Alfred Kinsey was collecting visual materials from around the world for his study of human sexual behavior. In the years since, the institute has continued to acquire paintings, woodblock prints, illustrated books, sculptures, and objects from Asian countries—each of which has unique artistic traditions and genres for the visual representation of sexuality. The majority of the artworks were produced in China, with India, Iran, and Japan, Turkey, and Mongolia also represented in the exhibit. Please contact our collections team if you'd like more detailed information about this collection or are interested in sponsoring a traveling exhibit.
Most shunga are a type of ukiyo-e , usually executed in woodblock print format. While rare, there are extant erotic painted handscrolls which predate ukiyo-e. Following the aesthetics of everyday life, Edo-period shunga varied widely in its depictions of sexuality.
Erotic art — in letters and in pictures — is an eminent part of the cultural heritage of ancient China, and was already flourishing in pre-Imperial times. With its peak during the late-Ming period, this art remained a fixed feature in Chinese literature and visual arts until well into the 20 th century. At its best, Chinese erotic art is a search for beauty in all its manifestations, for not only does it offer stimulation, it provides a source of great aesthetic pleasure. It never presents sex in a crude or pornographic way, but within a framework of beauty and harmony, enhanced with details of a profound or symbolic nature. Yet it was precisely this kind of art, which was strictly prohibited and banned after upheavals of different governments.