One of the issues that the new shunga exhibition Tongue in Cheek: Erotic Art in 19th-Century Japan looks at is the influx of foreigners in Japan. In this work by Keisai Eisen, the caption reads: “Herr Brau saying goodbye to his prostitute as he heads back home to Holland.” The image is accompanied by a short story, in which the red-haired Dutchman is compared to an exotic, golden mandarin duck:
The Dutchman Herr Brau lived in China, where he was known as Yani Yan (literally, “Mandarin Duck”). In Japan, he was known as Enō, the Japanese equivalent of that Chinese name. This Dutchman came to Nagasaki by ship, and in the Maruyama brothel district there, he met a courtesan with whom he produced some medicine.
The mixture was three parts beef, two parts Schisandra chinensis (a vine native to northern China), and three drops of musk. He ground these three ingredients up into a powder, and when he reached inside his loincloth and applied the powder to his penis, his penis grew to a length of two feet and turned black in color.
Just like they were making zongzi (sticky rice dumpling) for the May Dragon Boat Festival, mochi for New Year’s Day, or rice balls for a wedding, they pounded the mixture and produced 49 cakes.
The man put on his golden cloak, gave the woman 47 cakes to eat, put the remaining two in his pocket, and said goodbye. The woman searched long and far for many years, but she never saw the man again. She never forgot him, and she pledged her love to him.
I heard this story while staying in Nagasaki, and I am recording it here for the sake of posterity.
The story seems relatively innocuous until we consider what the couple must have used instead of a mallet and large pestle to pound the powdered medicine into cakes.—Stephen Salel, Robert F. Lange Foundation Research Associate for Japanese Art
Keisai Eisen (1790–1848)
News from the Bedroom: The Pillow Library
(Keichū kibun: makura bunko), vol. 1, part 2 of 2
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1822
Woodblock-printed book; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003