The reform era in China has been marked by a growing interest in aphrodisiacs, which has often been misunderstood by foreign observers in terms of a purely instrumentalist notion of sexual stimulation. ‘Adult health shops’, selling birth control supplies, sexual aids and a variety of sexual stimulants, are now common in urban areas. Restaurants, featuring deer antler wine, animal male genitalia or other dishes to stimulate (usually male) sexual desire are not hard to find. And a new discipline of Chinese medicine, Nanke or Men’s Medicine, that explicitly treats male sexual disorders, was officially established in the 1980s. Although there is a decidedly male bias to the current interest in sexual stimulants, it is also important to recognize its deep historical links with Chinese conceptions of health.
The ancient practitioners of China’s bedchamber arts (fangzhongshu) were as much interested in prolonging life as they were in exploring sexual pleasures. Ancient predecessors of today’s Chinese medicine Nanke doctors treated sexual disorders by redressing imbalances in the body and not by directly stimulating sexual desire. Pfizer’s revolutionary new drug, Viagra, has yet to shake this more holistic understanding of sexual function. Chinese medicine Nanke doctors have incorporated Viagra into their regimen of male impotency treatments. But many impotency patients see it as merely temporary relief and believe that Chinese herbal remedies still offer the best hope for achieving a permanent solution to their debilitating condition.
Farquhar, Judith (2002). Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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