Confucian sages readily admitted that hunger for food and sex is a part of human nature. Nevertheless, in China, as elsewhere in the world, one can talk about food virtually without reservation, but discussing sex can make people uncomfortable, to say the least. This fact also holds true in academia, where incomparably more research on the history of Chinese food and China's culinary traditions has been published compared with that on sex and sexuality. Therefore, Y. Yvon Wang's Reinventing Licentiousness: Pornography and Modern China is a welcome addition to the relatively thin literature on the subject.

Wang's agenda is ambitious. The book investigates how pornography and sexual representations in general were perceived, used, and policed in China for about four centuries, from late imperial times to the contemporary era. Using archival materials and government documents (especially, Beijing police files) as well as novels, periodicals, newspapers, memories, nude images, and so...

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