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to the prac­tice of bind­ing women’s feet to make them look cuter, while lock-bear­ing un­der­pants are pre­sented as the chastity belt of the an­cient Ori­ent.

He also owns a knife that was used to cas­trate men in the Chi­nese im­pe­rial court, when eu­nuchs were trusted above oth­ers.

How­ever, such relics of China’s sex­ual cul­tural her­itage were con­sid­ered ob­scene, or at least un­suit­able for public con­sump­tion, and omit­ted from many of­fi­cial mu­seum dis­plays in mod­ern times, Liu said.

“So many ob­jects were de­stroyed through time — by wars, rev­o­lu­tions and cam­paigns against pornog­ra­phy,” he said.

Liu was once con­sulted by the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice over a batch of items. He was able to pho­to­graph them be­fore they were burned in public.

Most of his pieces were pur­chased with his own sav­ings. In fact, he in­vested so much over the years that he said he lost track of where all the money went.

“Look­ing back, I can’t help but won­der how I man­aged to buy so many,” he said. He bought from an­tique deal­ers, vis­ited sex shops and red-light zones abroad. He also re­ceived dona­tions from peo­ple who be­lieved in his cause. His col­lec­tion now to­tals more than 4,000 pieces.

“There are still plenty of good knick­knacks out there, even though prices have risen sig­nif­i­cantly. But I don’t have the fi­nan­cial strength to keep buy­ing them,” Liu said, adding that his col­lec­tion is al­ready quite com­pre­hen­sive.

In the last 10 years he has been ap­proached by many com­pa­nies that have ex­pressed in­ter­est in open­ing sex-themed mu­se­ums, he said.

One at­tempt in Haikou of trop­i­cal Hainan prov­ince failed af­ter a ty­phoon swept the roof off the build­ing and dam­aged much of the col­lec­tion. Sev­eral pro­pos­als from lo­cal gov­ern­ments were aborted when they failed to gain the sup­port of se­nior­rank­ing of­fi­cials.

So far, only one mu­seum show­cas­ing Liu’s col­lec­tion is still open. It was es­tab­lished about a decade ago by Huang Yongjie, an en­tre­pre­neur in Wuhan. It is now sub­si­dized by the gov­ern­ment, a ges­ture of recog­ni­tion from the city.

When Liu be­gan his sex sur­vey 30 years ago, he was sur­prised to dis­cover just how many Chi­nese peo­ple were ig­no­rant and naive about the sub­ject.

He gave the story of one well-ed­u­cated cou­ple who con­sulted doc­tors af­ter years of mar­riage about their fail­ure to con­ceive. As it turned out, they be­lieved that ly­ing side by side in bed was suffi to pro­duce ba­bies.

Now the sit­u­a­tion has changed con­sid­er­ably.

“Young peo­ple to­day are of­ten way ahead of their par­ents in terms of sex knowl­edge. No­body is happy with the sta­tus quo of sex ed­u­ca­tion in China. Young peo­ple need to act re­spon­si­bly and un­der­stand that there are con­se­quences to hav­ing sex. It’s an ur­gent is­sue.”


Liu Dalin,

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