Shunga - Erotica

Shunga is a Japanese term for erotic pictures. Translated literally, Shunga means "picture of spring" (Spring being a euphemism for sex). In the Edo period it was enjoyed by rich and poor, men and women and despite being out of favour with the Shogunate, carried very little stigma. Shunga was often made into pillow books as well as single prints and on porcelain and ceramics.

Shunga was made by all ukiyo-e artists. It was more profitable than "normal" art. Few shunga prints however bear signatures or seals. At times, they were subject to an official censorship. In practice, restrictions in producing and selling erotic shunga art, were never very strict. But most artists may have considered it wise to publish their works anonymously.

Classifying shunga as a kind of pornography can be misleading in this respect. They were used for sex education of young men and women. It was even a tradition that the bride of a daimyo - a high-standing feudal lord - brought a collection of shunga prints together with their wedding furniture.

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