Writing on sex became an essential part of the Taoist religion: a large number of manuals, collectively called the fang chung, “inside the bedchamber”, or fang-chung-shu, “the art of the bedchamber”, were composed.

The oldest surviving manual, dating from the second century B.C.E., was discovered in 1973 in the tomb of a Han Dynasty emperor, among medical books. The art of the bedchamber was an important academic field within medicine. Often these sex manuals were graphically illustrated, as evidenced by a poems by Chang-Hen in the second century of the modern era. In his poem, T’ung-shen-ko, a bride talks to her husband about sex on their wedding night and how they can use the illustrations in Art of the Bedchamber.


I have swept clean the pillow and the bedmat,
And I have filled the burner with rare incense.
Let us now lock the double door with its golden lock,
And light the lamp to fill our room with its brilliance.
I will shed my robes and remove my paint and powder,
And roll out the picture scroll by the pillow’s side.
I shall take the Plain Girl as my instructor,
And we can practice all the pictured positions,
Those that an ordinary husband has but rarely seen,
Such as those taught by T’ien-lao to the Yellow Emperor.
No joy shall equal the delights of this first night.