Envisioning the inner body during the Edo period in Japan: Inshoku yojo kagami (Rules of Dietary Life) and Boji yojo kagami (Rules of Sexual Life)

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Abstract

There are two ukiyoe, Japanese woodblock prints, that were produced around 1850 and give a good picture of the images of the insides of the human body that were widely accepted among the common people in the Edo period. The Inshoku yojo kagami (Rules of Dietary Life) shows a man drinking sake. The Boji yojo kagami (Rules of Sexual Life) shows a woman, apparently a courtesan. The purpose of the two ukiyoe was to educate viewers about the functions of the principal inner organs in the traditional East Asian concept of the body and to admonish them against excessive eating, drinking and sexual intercourse. The contrivance of the two ukiyoe lies in their fusion of two formats. One is the format of a see-through body displaying the internal organs. The other is that of explaining the functions of the various internal organs in the form of familiar scenes from the living space of cities and households. Miniature sketches can be seen in the prints of people at work, performing the tasks believed to be that of each organ. However, the scheme of the two ukiyoe was not an innovation of the author of the ukioye. Already in the kibyoshi (Yellow Cover booklets), the scheme of likening the interior of the body to a living space had been adopted. After entering the 18th century, Chinese medical knowledge and anatomical drawings became available. As sex manuals, Yellow Cover booklets, and ukiyoe publications, incorporated and disseminated the newly acquired medical knowledge and the medical concept of the body gradually became the common sense view among people in the street.

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