Bronze Dildos & Ancient Butt Plugs in China

What did the ancient China’s Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE) appear to know about sexuality?

Quite a lot, actually, considering that is where the jade egg practice that I teach in my pelvic floor fitness classes originated from.

But they didn’t just use jade eggs to enhance their vitality and longevity…

Recently discovered during a series of excavations between 1995 and 2011, around the Jiangsu province (near present-day Shanghai), were the tombs of 2000 year old aristocrats, wealthy elites, and royalty.

Among the findings was a wealth of art and objects detailing their everyday existence, from vessels and ceramics, urinals and loofahs, to bronze dildos and jade butt plugs.

Needless to say, the elite of the Han dynasty were far from stuffy old aristocrats.  The excavations revealed two hollow bronze phallus-shaped objects that are believed to have been worn and used during sex to enhance pleasure.  Also found were a trove of wine vessels that indicate the indulgence of the body’s desires and the need for pleasure played a central role in this highly spiritual culture.

Jade was a revered material at the time, valued more so than gold and called the “stone of the heavens.”  It was virtually priceless in its value.  Its purity and beauty were believed to ward off spiritual and bodily decay, leading to immortality.

Did you know that embalmers also used the jade butt plugs to prevent “the loss of vital essences” from the body, which is a philosophy that is still believed to be true in many yogic communities today?

“The jade plugs are used to seal the body and keep in vital essences that can leak out during life and death,”exhibition curator Fan Zhang explained in an emailed statement to IFLScience.

“Basically, it is to maintain the chi. The most important orifice was the mouth, and we have a beautiful example of a mouth seal in the shape of a cicada in the exhibition.”

Furthermore, Zhang added, “Useable bronze dildos are still relatively rare finds, though far from unheard of, and they are occasionally found in elite tombs, They were all definitely made for use, and we can speculate based on their various bases how they were worn. They’re all bespoke, and the ones we have here might have been laced into place with leather or silk thongs, though it’s not clear if they were designed for men or women — they’re not heavy at all — though the phallus without the ring form was likely for a man since it was found in a king’s tomb.”

What’s also interesting is that jade was used to create “death-suits” for the bodies of the super-rich, made up of hundreds of tiles sewn together with golden threads.

Jade suit, Unearthed from Tomb 2, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu. Western Han period (206 BCE–9 CE), 2nd century BCE. Jade and gold. Nanjing Museum. Photograph © Nanjing Museum.

These artifacts will be on exhibit for the first time outside of China at the “Tomb Treasures” exhibition in San Francisco between February 17 – May 28, 2017.

Does it ever make you wonder where, why, and how this ancient wisdom got lost, or rather buried, over the years, and we’ve become such a sex-negative society where even the word sex or vagina makes people uncomfortable?

What would your life look like if you embraced this ancient knowledge and embraced your sexuality?