Reading Chinese: Reproductive Organs 生殖器

Sex education public advertisement Source:
Public notice in front of a school admonishing students not to masturbate too much

Reproductive Organs

Simplified/Traditional: 生殖器

Pinyin: shēngzhíqì


Sex education has recently become a trendy topic across China, and though school teachers and the education officials they answer to get an ‘A’ for effort, their application of the program seems to miss the mark. A photo essay in WantChinaTimes outlines the adventurous approach that has been chosen: a class of four-year-olds in Zhengzhou, Henan are shown happily examining and fiddling around with the genitalia of stuffed human-like dolls as if it were an accessory to an action figure.

Child rearing in China (and select parts of the Far East) has generally followed a dependably consistent formula which propagates a sweeping naïveté in the bedroom commonly misunderstood as simple shyness and modesty. During the adolescent years and into early adulthood, the average mainland Chinese is strictly governed by their parents (think Tiger Mom) in all aspects of life. Dating is subject to approval and careful monitoring. Sex education in the home is scant — if not all together avoided. Then their is a turning point around the age of 24. Parents make a jarring flip-flop and start applying immense pressure to their children to start exploring previously taboo territory. Time is “up” almost immediately; on come the increasingly frequent nudges to find a suitable partner, get married and start making babies.

These state of affairs can leave one bewildered. Today I spotted a picture (shown above) on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform popular in China, that left me equally perplexed. Shot with the background of what appears to be a grade school, the wall message urges: “Proper knowledge of a common (tree has blocked character) phenomenon — ejaculating: every month ejaculating once or slightly more is no problem, [but] do not play with your genitalia often.” OK, teacher. So when is this homework due?


生殖器, the word genitalia in Chinese, can be literally translated as “birth breeding organ.” It’s a unisex term just like the word in Chinese for oral sex — colloquially, a differentiation with the sexes is not made. This underlying commonality may give way to some unspoken equality, but it does add a confusing dimension to sex education.

The word for utensil, 器, is translated here as organ. Given this background, it can draw a slightly different interpretation. If nothing else, “器 safety” could prove to be quite an appealing take on the taboo task.

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