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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Illustrations: erotic papyrus of Turin, composite animal

No one will deny today that the art of storytelling comes from the Orient, the Far and the Near East. The primeval story of the Orient is undoubtedly the tale, or should I say tales, of The Thousand and One Nights, but that The Nights, as the work is also briefly known, are essentially a collection of highly erotic stories, is rarely appreciated. Admittedly, its most popular stories, Aladdin and the magic lamp, Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves are more adventurous than sexual. For hundreds of years however, the erotic reputation of The Nights was so widespread that the stories were associated with sultry nights, dark princes, eunuchs, harems and white slaves, rather than with flying carpets, magic lamps and distant voyages.

In the West, there is an idea that the art of love in the East is more sophisticated than ours. Whether this is true, cannot be said with certainty. After all, what is sophisticated and how can we look into the bedrooms of countless couples who make love every night in the East? Do they make love like we do or is their business conducted in a more tantric way? Hard to ascertain, difficult to refute. We owe the image of the supposed oriental sexual sophistication to the Kama Sutra, a work that was written in the third century in India in Sanskrit and which shows similarities with the aforementioned Ars amatoria of Ovid, but is much more common and better-known. The Kama Sutra discusses in great detail every conceivable subject in the field of eroticism and teaches a husband to please his wife and so win her love.

The forty chapters of the Kama Sutra are collected in seven volumes. They instruct on love in general and on its place in life, the division into types of women, sexual union, on various sexual position and techniques, on courtship and marriage, on the wife and the wives of others, on prostitutes and finally on how to make yourself attractive. For 21st-century man, the Kama Sutra rings synonymous with complex sexual positions. The book will only be legally available in the sixties of the previous century.

This page Jahsonic/AHE/The East/The scent of musk and the sultry East, part of the AHE project is copyright Jan Willem Geerinck and may only be cited as per the fair use doctrine. The images mentioned in the text can be found here and the translation notes here.

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