By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Semen has been associated with various cultural beliefs and practices from ancient times.
Semen in Chinese history
Qigong and Chinese medicine have a special place for semen. They believe in a form of energy called pinyin. It is believed to be “essence” that a person attempts to accumulate in life.
"Jing" is sexual energy and this reduces each time a person has an ejaculation and is thus called an "energy suicide". The Qigong theory suggests that there are many pathways that transfer the energy into the sexual organs and an ejaculation leads to loss of this energy.
The earliest records of Qigong come from the jin wen (writings on bronzes) from the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1100 —221 BC).
Semen in Ancient Greece
In Ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote on the importance of semen. He said that there existed a connection between blood and semen. He believed that semen was produced from blood using body heat.
Aristotle said semen can be ejaculated by the male alone since the males alone have the body heat that converts semen from blood. He also suggested a direct connection between food and sperm and semen. He believed that too early initiation of sexual activity may mean loss of semen and a loss of valuable and much-needed nourishment. He suggested that sexual activity in males should start when there is no longer abundant growth.
Aristotle added that the region round the eyes was the region that carried the best seeds or sperm. Pythagoreans believed that semen is actually a drop of the brain.
In Papua New Guinea some communities believe that semen provides sexual maturation to the younger men of the tribe. The tribes believe the semen of older men can bestow manliness and wisdom to the younger men and for this the men need to fellate their elders to receive their authority and powers.
In ancient eastern cultures gemstones are believed to be drops of divine semen. Chinese believe jade is the dried semen of the celestial dragon.
Semen has long been revered by Buddhist and Daoist traditions as well. Dew was once thought to be a sort of rain that fertilized the earth and, in time, became a metaphor for semen.
In traditional Russian medicine and the Vital Force theory of Herbert Nowell, semen is considered to be a product of a complex interaction between a man and a woman rather than man alone.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)