"Our lives would be so filled with toil and worry as to leave no room for pleasure, had not the Sage who separated Heaven from Earth created in us the desire for sexual intercourse to alleviate out toil and worry and save us from despair." So begins this seminal exploration of the erotic heart of Asia. Penned in seventeenth century China, Li Yu's The Carnal Prayer Mat is recognized as a hallmark of erotic literature.
Since the birth of the People's Republic in 1949, the novel has been banned in its country of origin -- but you can read it here, complete and unabridged. The story centers upon Scholar Vesperus, a handsome orphan and student of Zen. Before taking his monastic vows, Vesperus embarks on a career of licentiousness, wherein he gains "enlightenment on the carnal prayer mat." His adventures as a "hero of the boudoir, a champion of sex" take both comic and calamitous turns, making The Carnal Prayer Mat a true ancestor of Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterly's Lover, and other bellwether novels of erotica.