Shunga: A Lost Ancient Erotic Art or Medieval Porn?
My first introduction to the art of shunga was totally by accident. I have been a long time aficionado of Japanese culture, and I am a big fan of manga and anime. Once, I was in a shopping trip on eBay to find a spicier branch of anime (hentai) when I stumbled upon an eBay seller who offers medieval Japanese picture books called shunga. Intrigued by it, I placed several bids and won, and two weeks later, I received my books shipped from Japan. I was enthralled.
The picture books weren't like anything I had seen before. Even though I can't read the poems written in kanji that accompanied each work, I was amazed by the vivid, frank, and lush artworks depicting human lovemaking. It got me thinking that the medieval Japanese people beat Playboy by almost a millennia.
So, what is the art of shunga? Shunga is a Japanese term for erotic pictures. Translated literally, the word shunga means picture of spring, which is a euphemism for sex. Mostly executed in the form of ukiyo-e and screen paintings and accompanied by poetic narratives, the art of shunga flourished in Japan during the Heian period (794-1185), where they were only reserved for members of the elite society. But by the 16th century, shunga was enjoyed by all castes, including chonin and peasants. During the Tokugawa period (1603-1867), the Shogunate issued edicts to ban shunga and similar erotic books such as kōshokubon.
Inspired by the art of shunga, I continued to collect many books about the Japanese history and shunga books through auction sites and eBay, and last year I was finally compelled to write a series featuring the art of shunga. In my series Shunga Chronicles, I attempted to capture the splendor of this ancient erotic art by combining the famous Japanese folklore, lush setting, and classic love story formula, and retelling them in western-friendly prose.
Changeling Press published Lady of the Snow, the first of the series. My debut ménage M/M/F novella features a tale of Shizuka, a yuki-onna - a snow maiden - who is allured, tamed, and mastered by Lord Hiraoka Ichizo and his second-in-command, Tenshin Satoru, the very enemies she is supposed to kill in order to bring peace to her homeland.
After Lady of the Snow, Prince and the Assassin followed. In this story, I unravel the secret world of ninja, about the story of Midori-no-Murakami, an assassin for Lord Buntaro, the most powerful overlord in the land. Midori-no-Murakami is torn between her sacred oath and her newly found love when her master orders her to assassinate the prince, who she is secretly seeing.
When I wrote the finale of the series, Flight of Heron, I wanted to go with a bit of kink. This historical fantasy book features some BDSM elements like shibari (Japanese bondage art) and nyotaimori (human presentation/platter), which follows the escapades of Lady Yukiko Kinshiro, who seeks revenge for her sister's death, but helplessly falls in love with the daimyo who is allegedly responsible for the murder.
Since the banning by the Bakufu (the military government during the Tokugawa era), the art of shunga went underground, but became more popular than ever until the introduction of photography in the Meiji era (1868-1912), where shunga gradually became a relic of the by-gone era. This is quite a shame since I think shunga is the most earnest expression of human sexuality ever forged in woodblock printings. Nowadays, the original shunga prints are highly sought after by art collectors and often auctioned at eye-popping prices. But sometimes, you can get them at decent price on eBay and online auction houses, depending on the artists, era, and quality. Dunno about you, but I just love that medieval porn! (g)
About the author:
I write. I doodle. I play guitar. Not necessarily in that order. I'm an incurable chatterbox, heavy metal aficionado, bookworm, and a night owl, since most of my stories were done in the wee hours of the morning because of my caffeine-induced insomnia. I'm a big South Park fan, I'm fluent in Cartman speak, and I'm working on mastering my Kennynese. Cookies and donuts are my main diet and I currently owe a fortune to the swear jar. Visit my site: www.ilizzie.com to see my complete list of titles, read exclusive excerpts and hot erotic shorts, or watch the trailers of my books. Friend me, too, on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. I won't bite, I promise.