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Product Details

  • Paperback: 195 pages
  • Publisher: Earnshaw Books (September 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9881998328
  • ISBN-13: 978-9881998323
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I would pay to read any of Richard Burger's insights and interpretations of modern China. To have him explore China through its sexual history, practices, hang-ups, and business ambitions is a particular treat. His writing has been distinguished by its combination of empathy and edge, two traits that come through very clearly in this book."  —James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, author, China Airborne


"A wonderful book. A rich exploration of the intimacies, physical and emotional, that have bound Chinese together over millennia of history."  —James Palmer, author, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes and The Bloody White Baron


"In telling a great story of the history of sex in China, Richard Burger peels back the curtain on the private lives of the world's most populous nation."  —John Pomfret, Beijing correspondent for The Washington Post, author, Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and The Story of the New China


"With a topic like Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, you might expect a work that is prurient or, the opposite: a dry, academic tome. Instead Richard Burger draws on his years of experience living in and writing about China to craft an informative, enlightening and entertaining survey on this fundamental yet utterly complex topic. Highly recommended for those with an interest in Chinese culture or in how human sexuality shapes and is shaped by a society. Burger's book would be equally at home on the shelves of travelers or expats wanting to learn more about the place they are visiting and professors needing an engaging book for their undergraduate classes." —Lisa Brackmann, author, Rock Paper Tiger


"A wonderfully salacious and thoroughly entertaining guided tour through the five thousand years of Chinese history that you are not going to read about in standard accounts of the subject. The book will be an especially useful supplement to traditional textbooks for students of Chinese history."  —Peter Vernezze, author, Socrates in Sichuan


"A complex and fascinating story in a surprisingly engrossing way. Detailed descriptions of intimacy are handled in a sensitive yet matter-of-fact manner, never vulgar and always thoughtful. The reader is treated to an engaging, readable progression - providing a window into the history of and attitudes to sex in China from China's earliest written chronicles to the astonishing cultural changes of the past 40 years."  —Jan Ziff, news host for CBS, former State Department correspondent for the BBC


"In this humane, lively, and fluent exploration of a vast topic, it is astonishing how much ground Burger covers: the long shadow of Confucius, a taxonomy of mistresses, the zero-sum premise of ancient Daoist sex manuals, the etiquette of 21st-century dating; and the varying effects, sometimes subtle and often conscious, which authoritarian power has exerted on the Chinese pursuit of Eros."  —A.E. Clark, translator, Tibet's True Heart


"Incisive, funny and courageous, Richard Burger's writing provides a unique look at Chinese society."  —Mei Fong, former Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent at The Wall Street Journal Beijing bureau

About the Author

Richard Burger has more than 23 years of combined journalism and corporate communications experience. He worked as an editor for the Chinese newspaper The Global Times in Beijing and was a correspondent for the Fairchild News Syndicate and a contributor to the Baltimore Sun. He worked as a communications specialist for eight years in Greater China, with nearly four years spent in Beijing. His blog, The Peking Duck, was started in 2002 and was one of the first blogs in China.

More About the Author

Richard Burger has more than 23 years of combined journalism and corporate communications experience and holds a Master's degree in Journalism from New York University. Along with working as an editor for the Chinese newspaper The Global Times in Beijing, he was a copywriter for Prentice-Hall books, a correspondent for the Fairchild News Syndicate and The Enterprise newspaper in Maryland, and was a contributor to the Baltimore Sun. He worked as a communications specialist for more than eight years in Greater China, with nearly four years spent in Beijing, and played a key role promoting the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.


His blog, The Peking Duck, was started in 2002 and was one of the first blogs in China. For ten years Burger has blogged about social, political and cultural issues in China and has a wide audience of readers around the world.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Highly recommended for those with an interest in Chinese culture or in how human sexuality shapes and is shaped by a society.
Lisa Brackmann
Furthermore, Richard's style, which has been honed over his years of blogging, reads very well, despite the amount of information crammed into every page.
seeingredinchina
Have not finished the book at this point (after 3 months) as I lost interest; find it highly repetitive with little/few interesting insights.
Teunis D. Baas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Carter on September 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Among the many misimpressions westerners tend to have of China, sex as some kind of "taboo" topic here seems to be the most common, if not clichéd. Forgetting for a moment that, owing to a population of 1.3 billion, somebody must be doing it, what most of us don't seem to know is that, at several points throughout the millennia, China has been a society of extreme sexual openness.

And now, according to author Richard Burger's new book Behind the Red Door, the Chinese are once again on the verge of a sexual revolution.

Best know for his knives-out commentary on The Peking Duck, one of China's longest-running expat blogs, Burger takes a similar approach to surveying the subject of sex among the Sinae, leaving no explicit ivory carving unexamined, no raunchy ancient poetry unrecited, and *ahem* no miniskirt unturned.

Opening (metaphorically and literally) with an introduction about hymen restoration surgery, Burger delves dàndàn-deep into the olden days of Daoism, those prurient practitioners of free love who encouraged multiple sex partners as "the ultimate co-joining of Yin and Yang." Promiscuity, along with prostitution, flourished during the Tang Dynasty - recognized as China's cultural zenith - which Burger's research surmises is no mere coincidence.

Enter the Yuan Dynasty, and its conservative customs of Confucianism, whereby sex became regarded only "for the purpose of producing heirs." As much as we love to hate him, Mao Zedong is credited as single-handedly wiping out all those nasty neo-Confucius doctrines, including eliminating foot binding, forbidding spousal abuse, allowing divorce, banning prostitution (except, of course, for Party parties), and encouraging women to work.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Clark on September 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This work of sympathetic understanding often glints with indignation, humor, or pathos, but it is above all factual. Supported by careful research and a good journalist's eye for the telling detail, _Behind the Red Door_ sets forth how the Chinese understand and live their sexuality. Millennia of history as well as the diversity of more than a billion individuals alive today are expertly marshaled in focused chapters that cover everything from the far-reaching impact of the One-Child Policy to fashions in plastic surgery and the complex etiquette of dating.

Highly readable and extremely informative.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph C. on October 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, well researched and, most importantly, very well written. It manages to take arcane material, including what could become boring statistical data, and make it flow, keeping the reader engrossed. The author has created a narrative that spans thousands of years, and it reads like a very well written magazine article, fast-paced and filled with anecdotes and human characters that give the book a human feel. It is a fast and satisfying read. It is to the author's credit that he was able to secure interviews with prostitutes and pimps and ordinary people to humanize the material.

My one gripe is that he tells us quite sensibly in the introduction that it is impossible to draw neat and tidy conclusions about China's sexual revolution and where it is headed. Then, in the afterward, that is exactly what he tries to do, somewhat awkwardly. It's obvious he is trying to wrap it all up and come to an optimistic conclusion, but this seems forced, as though the author isn't sure himself whether he believes his own predictions. It's the one issue I had with the book. But that's a minor criticism, though I found it enough to lower my rating from 5 to 4 stars. The book is solid, and as far as I know there is no other book like it. Well worth the low price.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Brackmann on September 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With a topic like "Sex in China," you might expect a work that is prurient or, the opposite: a dry, academic tome. Instead Richard Burger draws on his years of experience living in and writing about China to craft an informative, enlightening and entertaining survey on this fundamental yet utterly complex topic. Highly recommended for those with an interest in Chinese culture or in how human sexuality shapes and is shaped by a society. Burger's book would be equally at home on the shelves of travelers or expats wanting to learn more about the place they are visiting and professors needing an engaging book for their undergraduate classes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By seeingredinchina on October 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
When I heard that Richard Burger, of The Peking Duck, had written a book about sex in China, I expected it to be a somewhat scandalous introduction to the topic (he had told me that it wasn't meant for China experts). However, I found Behind the Red Door: Sex in China to be an incredibly thorough exploration of sex and sexuality in China. He covers almost every aspect- dating, marriage, prostitution, concubines, homosexuality, pornography, sex shops - and each in a way that considers the past and present and avoids easy answers.

The only gripe I had with the book was when Burger chastised the missionaries of the past for bringing their close minded western views on homosexuality.

He highlights a passage from a Jesuit writing in 1610:

"That which shows the misery of these people is that no less than the natural lusts they practice unnatural ones that reverse the order of things: and this is neither forbidden by law or thought to be illicit, or even a cause of shame. It is spoken of in public and practiced everywhere, without there being anyone to prevent it..."

Richard uses this to prove his broader point that homosexuality is condemned in the West based on religious views, but in China was practiced freely until missionaries interfered saying, "Chinese passing by on the street would most likely have viewed the male prostitutes as providing entertainment that harmed no one." However Richard writes just a few pages later to say that of the male prostitutes "the most prized were those between 12 and 14 years of age," and that, "unlike concubines who were often treated as family members, catamites (male prostitutes) were often discarded like an old shoe, and many became beggars who took on the most menial jobs and died in poverty.
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