BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- At first glance, it is a traditional Chinese
ink painting of breathtaking scenery of steep peaks standing on the banks of the
Li River in south China's Guilin.
But take a closer look. You'll find the painting is not the work of brush
and paper, but a mosaic of some 60,000 condoms painted in different colors.
The unique "condom painting", 18 meters long and 3.5 meters wide, is the
top attraction at an exhibition of sex and "reproductive health technology" and
products under way in the Chinese capital.
"We want to arouse interest, to show the public that sex can be beautiful
and healthy, not a taboo not openly talked about in China before," said Tao Ran,
manager of the Guilin Latex Factory, a leading condom producer in the world's
most populous country.
Tao said Saturday the "condom painting" was the factory's latest effort to
persuade the Chinese to use condoms for the purpose of contraception and disease
"It (a condom) is not mysterious. It's just a conventional method to avoid
unwanted pregnancy or HIV/AIDS," said Tao. "But sadly, some conservative Chinese
still believe it is unsightly and even obscene."
Chinese are now much more open about sex now in the wake of three decades
of sweeping economic and social reforms. But health experts said many were still
uninformed about contraception such as condom use.
Wu Shangchun, an official with the National Population and Family Planning
Commission, said last week that gaps in sex education and the lack of use of
contraception might well be blamed for the 13 million abortions performed in
China every year, according to national newspaper China Daily.
"We want the public to view the condom as a common thing and use it
correctly," Tao said.
Many are heeding his call. Free condoms, sex toys, and pamphlets on safe
pregnancy and a healthy sex life have been "hotly pursued" at the Fifth
Reproduction Health Technology and Products Exhibition at the Beijing Exhibition
Center, organizers said.
Eighty thousand free admission tickets for the three-day event, which
closes on Sunday, have been given out.
At the exhibition, artists have used colorful condoms to make gowns and
other articles, attracting camera-wielding visitors from all over the country.
A booklet even explains humorous and "unique" functions of the condom, such
as its use as an emergency water container during outdoor adventures.
"This is really funny. You can see people feel quite comfortable with
talking about sex. We're more open-minded, aren't we?" said one middle-aged man
who only gave his surname, Zhang.
But Wang Dagang, a chauffeur working for a government agency, said some
displays had gone "too far".
He pointed to an ash tray in the shape of a penis, saying: "I find this
rather offensive. I'd definitely not use it in public."
Despite the different views, the biennial exhibition has become China's
largest event showcasing the latest technology and products to improve
contraception and health during pregnancy, for venereal disease prevention, and
to improve one's sex life.
"Chinese people are now paying more attention to the quality of life as
their living conditions improve. This requires better products and services in
the field of reproduction," said Zhang Weiqing, chairman of the China
Association for Reproduction Health Industry.
"It also means a huge market potential for the industry," he said.
State statistics show the market value for products related to reproduction
health, including contraception and tonics, reached 48.7 billion yuan (7.13
billion U.S. dollars) in 2007, rising by five percent from 2005.
The annual rate of expenditure on those products and services has grown
more than 15 percent in each of the past two years, higher than the 13 percent
of developed countries, Zhang said.
The Guilin Latex Factory produces 900 million condoms each year, with an
output value of 220 million yuan. But currently only 40 percent of their
products are sold on the domestic market, Tao said.