Keisai Eisen 渓斎英泉 (1790–1848)
News from the Bedroom: The Pillow Library
(Keichū kibun: makura bunko), vol. 3

Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1823
Woodblock-printed book; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

On the right page of this text, Keisai Eisen (1790–1848) depicts a hermaphrodite (henjō nanshi). According to the Mahayana tradition of Buddhist doctrine, a woman is prevented from attaining enlightenment by several aspects of her gender, which are known as The Five Hindrances (Sanskrit: pañca nivāraṇa; Japanese: gokai): sensory desire, ill-will, sloth-torpor, restlessness-worry, and doubt. In this context, a hermaphrodite is typically interpreted as a woman who has been reborn as a man and who is therefore one step closer to entering nirvana. Eisen does not discuss hermaphroditism in this sort of religious context. His text News from the Bedroom: The Pillow Library (Keichū kibun: makura bunko) rather explores with a mixture of humor, grotesquerie and scientific objectivity the wonders of human anatomy.

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