31 January 2013
The Japanese word Shunga means “Image of Spring,” which is a nicer common way of saying sex. The word Shunga is a contraction of, shunkyu-higi-ga, and the Japanese pronunciation for Chinese sets of the twelve sexual acts that the crowned prince had to conduct as an expression of yin yang. But Shunga, as it is more commonly known, is really a word for Japanese works of art, specifically Japanese erotic paintings that were made from the 16th and 18th centuries, by the famous painters of the Ukiyo-e period (floating world). Shunga lacked realism in its erotic paintings. The characters sketched in Shunga are often shown in impossible positions with overly exaggerated genitals. Graphics and characters vary from men, women, teenagers, older adults, and even animals such as the octopi. Artists tend to exaggerate these to increase clarity of the sexually explicit content, artistic enthusiasm, and psychological impact. The male genital is interpreted as a “second face,” conveying the primal passions that the everyday face are required by giri (Japanese Values) to conceal. Painted hand scrolls and illustrated erotic books, also known as enpon(pillow books), often presented an irrelevant sequence of sexual graphics, rather than an organized story. Artists exposed the human anatomy in full detail, without any concern for discretion or modesty. However, these paintings were always made with care and in good taste.
Shunga were mostly known to be heterosexual, but many illustrated gay paintings. The imgae of sexuality differed, in Tokugawa Japan from that in the modern world, and people were less likely to associate with one particular sexual preference. Many sexual pairings characterized were a matter of producing as much variety as possible. The past of Shunga prints are found in accompanying dialogue in the picture itself, and in props. Symbols are also featured widely, such as the plum blossoms to represent virginity or tissues to...