Erotic Art from Ancient China on Display in Hong Kong

Sotheby’s Hong Kong gallery is hosting “Gardens of Pleasure: Sex in Ancient China, An Exhibition of the Ferdinand M. Bertholet Collection” through May 3, 2014.

Good article about the show: “Erotic art offers glimpse of China’s ‘lost’ sexual philosophy” by Aaron Tam for AFP.

Dutch art collecter Bertholet has been collecting these pieces since his student days in the 1970s. He provides some background on classical Chinese erotic art:

Such explicitness should not be considered crude or pornographic, instead representing harmony with the Taoist philosophy that thrived in China before the communists took power and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

“Chinese art is so different in its expression than other erotic expressions because it has a philosophical background,” said the 61-year-old, adding that Taoism sees sex as a path to happiness and longevity.

Many paintings are set in gardens, representing the Taoist aspect of being at one with nature, the collector said.

The Sotheby’s media guide (PDF) to the Bertholet exhibition has photos of several pieces. Proving that prudishness comes in many varieties, the guide actually pixellates out the naughty bits in some reproductions.


Wow, that sure looks like one woman doing another woman with a strap-on. There really is nothing new under the sun.

More images from the Gardens of Pleasure exhibition:

ASEAN China Centre: 10 photos
China Daily: 8 photos
AFP: 90-second video