Bronze Dildos And Jade Butt Plugs Show Life And Death In Ancient China

Bronze phallus, unearthed from Lianying site, Jiangsu. Western Han period, 2nd century BCE. © Yizheng Museum.

Outside of the realm of death, the elite of the Han dynasty were far from stuffy old aristocrats, either. The excavations also revealed two hollow bronze phallus-shaped objects that are believed to have been worn and used during sex to enhance the experience. They also found a trove of wine vessels, giving a further indication that indulgence in the body’s desires and pleasure often played a central role in this highly spiritual culture.

"Useable bronze dildos are still relatively rare finds, though far from unheard of, and they are occasionally found in elite tombs," Zhang added. "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."

These artifacts had been lying untouched for some 2,000 years, but now the discoveries will go on display for the first time outside of China in the upcoming "Tomb Treasures" exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which will run from February 17 until May 28, 2017. 

The jade body suit. Yizheng Museum. Photograph © Yizheng Museum.

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