CONCUBINES AND MISSTRESSES IN CHINA

ADULTERY AND BIGAMY IN CHINA

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Painting of Concubine Yang
Extramarital affairs by men with mistresses and prostitutes are generally tolerated while those by women are considered scandalous. In the old days, men could have many wives but women were tortured and beaten if they were discovered being unfaithful to their husbands. Today more than 60 percent of the calls that feminist hotlines receive are from wives with cheating husbands.

A survey in the 2000s revealed that 60 percent of respondents said they had an affair at some point during their marriage, compared to 15 percent in the 1980s. Many sociologist believe the number is increasing all the time as rising standards of living make it more feasible economically to have affairs.

In the Mao era even the whiff of an affair could get someone fired from their job, demoted, or sent to self-criticism sessions and even jail. In the Cultural Revolution having extramarital affairs were condemned and labeled as Male-Female-Relationship Lifestyle.

Forbes reported:“Infidelity is rife in China, due to a male-dominated culture that has traditionally (albeit quietly) tolerated concubines and prostitution. Pressure to marry young leads to fast arrangements. Obligatory marriages coupled with a lack of openness toward sex all but encourage men to seek satisfaction elsewhere. [Source: Forbes, February 8, 2013 |*|]

One of the most watched videos on the Internet in late 2007 was a clip from an Olympics promotion event to rebrand the CCTV sports channel as the “Olympics Channel.” In the video, the wife of a popular anchor on the channel crashes the event, grabs the microphone and accuses the anchor of sleeping with another woman. In January 2008, a 19-year-old female student in Yunnan filmed her boyfriend killing and dismembering her married lover.

Good Websites and Sources: Divorces in the 1990s tech.mit.edu ; Marriage and Divorce Laws in China International Family Law ; Foreigners and divorces in China china.org Concubines beijingmadeeasy.com ; China’s New Concubines pacificnews.org ; Links in this Website: MARRIAGE, LOVE AND DATING IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEDDINGS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;SEX IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; SEX AND HISTORY IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; PROSTITUTION IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MAO'S PRIVATE LIFE Factsanddetails.com/China

Polygamy and Concubines in China

Polygamy still exists in some forms among upper class members of some minorities. Some polyandry exists among Tibetans, Naxi and Pumi minorities (See Tibet, Minorities). Simplified marriage procedures have led to a rise in bigamy.

In the old days, it was not uncommon for wealthy Chinese men to be married to three or four women at the same time. The various wives had different duties and often shared responsibilities raising the different children. The first wife traditionally had the right to order the secondary wives around and her children were given precedence over the other children. As part of an effort to stamp out bigamy the government plans to publish the nationwide marriage registry online so wives can look up their husbands and make sure they are not married to someone else. The system is expected to be operational by 2010.

A concubine is a mistress, traditionally of a rich and powerful man. Concubinage has a long history and was common through the early 20th century. Emperors and warlords often had numerous concubines as well as wives. Their successors were often not the first son from their first wife but sometimes their most able son from a concubine. Wives sometimes even gave their husband's concubines, a practice referred to as "going to eat vinegar." In Imperial times, concubines were symbols of status and wealth to the men that possessed them. Their own status was less than that of a wife and their children legally belonged to their master's wife not themselves. Because only the wealthiest men could afford them, concubines weren’t expected to do much work. As a rule concubinage was more the custom than multiple wives.

Mistresses and concubines are sometimes called “little wives.” In the old days it was not common for men to have their mistresses come over to the house and have an “accounting” lesson behind closed doors while the wife prepared food for them. Under the Communists concubines became symbols of corruption and decadence. Concubinage was abolished by the Communist after 1949. During the Maoist period people didn't dare have extramarital affairs with a concubine or anyone out of fear of getting caught and being harshky punished. Concubinage has made a come back in recent years. The young women that become concubines often do it for the money and approach it a business deal: sex for a comfortable life. The smart ones save their money and invest it or start businesses. Some blow all their money on clothes and luxuries.

Adultery, Literature and the Communist Party in China

In book Bound Feet and Western Dress, the author Pang-Mei Natasha Chang is told by her great aunt, "You always ask me if I loved Hsu Chih-mo [her unfaithful husband], and you know I can't answer this. It confuses me, this question, because everyone always tells me that I did so much for Hsu Chih-mo, I must have loved him. In my entire life, I have never said to anyone, 'I love you.' If caring for Hsu Chih-mo and his family was love, then maybe I loved him. Out of all the women in his life, I loved him the most."

Alan Wong of the New York Times wrote: “The Communist Party regularly employs a variety of muffled euphemisms for sexual misdeeds: moral corruption, dissolute lifestyle and the like. But in a rare display of lucidity, China’s top antigraft body actually used the Chinese word for adultery — tongjian — while announcing the expulsion of a party member. The departure from normal party parlance drew a flurry of comments and speculation online. “If adultery alone were enough to expel a party member, I doubt how many of the 80 million members would be qualified to stay,” said a post on NetEase Weibo. “It gives the impression that” the expulsion “was not because of his adultery, but who he committed it with.” [Source: Alan Wong, Sinosphere Blog, New York Times, June 9, 2014 +/+]

“All of which prompted the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to issue a response: In a statement titled “Through a Buzzword: Looking at Party Rules Being Stricter Than National Laws” posted on the commission’s website, adultery is defined as “voluntary sexual behavior between a married person and a person of the opposite sex apart from his or her spouse, a behavior in violation of socialist morality.” The statement explains that while adultery is not prosecutable under Chinese law, it is punishable under Communist Party rules, and that “party members and cadres must not only obey national laws, but also — even more so — party rules.” +/+

“The commission had said that Dai Chunning, a former senior executive of a state-owned insurance company, was expelled from the party for corruption and adultery. The state news agency Xinhua noted that the word “tongjian” had last been used two years previously, in the expulsion of Mao Xiaoping (yes, an amalgam of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping), a deputy party secretary in the eastern province of Jiangsu. +/+

“It remains to be seen whether “adultery” will show up again soon or whether party pronouncements will revert to more familiar phrases. Regardless, in April, The Beijing News deciphered some of the euphemisms most often used to describe the sexual indiscretions of targets of corruption investigations. They included: Moral corruption, or “daode baihuai”: Means involved in prolonged, improper relationships with multiple women, relationships with prostitutes or adultery. Examples: Liu Zhijun, former railways minister; Guo Yongxiang, former aide to Zhou Yongkang, the fallen security czar. Dissolute lifestyle, or “shenghuo fuhua”: Means keeping mistresses who are also involved in corruption or other unlawful activities. Example: Liu Zhihua, former deputy mayor of Beijing.

“The newspaper also noted prominent exceptions. Neither Bo Xilai, the disgraced Communist Party aristocrat, nor Wang Lijun, his former police chief in the city of Chongqing, were given any of the above labels, even though both were said to have had improper sexual relationships with multiple women. +/+

Big-Spending Mistresses and Cheating Husbands in China

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Concubine Yang miniseries
The Chinese writer Lijia Zhang wrote in The Guardian, Back in the early 1980s, when I worked at a rocket factory in Nanjing, one of my colleagues, a married man, was caught having an affair with an unmarried woman. He was given a three-year sentence in a labour camp and the girl was disgraced. In today's society, having extramarital affairs or keeping anernai---second wife or concubine---is as common as "cow hair", as the Chinese would say. [Source: Lijia Zhang, The Guardian, October 22, 2011]

A “little third” is a modern colloquial term for a mistress. A successful Chinese businesswoman told the New York Times, said, are expected to tolerate a husband’s multiple mistresses. Concubinage, outlawed by the Communists after they took power in 1949, has re-emerged. “Most women just assume that sooner or later it will happen,” she said. “Men have power. Women are weak, and they have too much to lose. But I want to be happy. I could not accept that.”

One study of extramarital affairs in China, published in the United States in 2005, said 20 percent of 1,240 married men surveyed in urban China and 3.9 percent of 1,275 married women admitted to having had an affair in the past 12 months. [Ibid]

The details of some secret romances have found their way online before a captivated public. In one of the most recent cases a county official in the central province of Hubei was detained last month on suspicion of killing his mistress, who was pregnant with twins, after she reportedly asked him to marry her or give her 2 million yuan (£193,000). [Ibid]

Sharon Lafraniere wrote in the New York Times, ‘some scholars say that philandering is growing in tandem with China’s economic and social opportunities, helping drive up the divorce rate. Few statistics exist on affairs, but Chinese women frequently complain that men regard a woman on the side as a perquisite of marriage. One study by the All-China Women’s Federation, widely cited in 2001, found 30 percent of wives who divorced had been unfaithful. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, February 16, 2011]

The Chinese news media cite a growing phenomenon of young women willing to take on a rich married lovers for an apartment or a car. “On one hand, men who have attained a higher social status want more than one woman,” Lei Mingguang, a law professor at China Minzu University in Beijing, told the New York Times. “On the other, young girls see a chance to exchange their youth and beauty for a better life, even if it means hurting someone else’s marriage.”

Forbes reported: Infidelity is universal, but mistresses with Chinese characteristics are unique wherein they cost more than their counterparts elsewhere. For many young Chinese women, love isn’t worth much without the cash and/or luxury products to back it up. Today, mistresses are an undeniable source of demand for high-end apartments, expensive cars, Louis Vuitton bags and other logo-emblazoned luxury products.| According to HSBC, about one-quarter of global sales for LV and Gucci came from the Chinese mainland, as well as one-third of annual revenues for Prada and Richemont, the owner of Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels– huge figures, given that China ranked approximately 90th globally in terms of per capita income, just on par with Jamaica. [Source: Forbes, February 8, 2013 |*|]

Mainland Mistresses for Hong Kong Men

Shenzhen is filled with young women who are mistresses for relatively affluent men in Hong Kong. Many women come from poor villages across China to Shenzhen not find jobs at factories but specifically to find sugar daddies. Others start as prostitutes before making "the move from retail to wholesale."

The wife of Hong Kong man with a mistress in Shenzhen told the New York Times, "These mainland women have beautiful skin and pretty faces. They know how to please another woman's husband. They do it for economic stability.”

Many of the young women have children. By one count Hong Kong businessmen have fathered more than a half million illegitimate children. One Shenzhen law professor told Reuter, "These women have babies to make sure their men stay with them. They would never let this bargaining chip go to Hong Kong without them."

See Hong Kong Residency Rules

Concubine Villages in China

In Shenzhen there are "concubine villages," such as the one in Huizou, where hundreds perhaps thousands of young mainland women live in spacious apartments, paid for by their lovers, in high-rise complexes close enough to the border that the men can take off early from work, visit their lovers, and be home in time for dinner with their wives.

A typical mistress in a concubine village lives in a US$200-a-month apartment and receives a $600 a month stipend from her lover, who she says visits her once to several times a week. Most of these mistresses have no other job. They spend their time watching television and hanging out and playing mah-jong with other mistresses. In some cases they only see their lovers only once or twice a month.

The rail line between Hong Kong and Guangdong is sometimes called the “Concubine Express.” Guidebooks are available in Hong Kong that give men tips on the best places to find good-looking, potential, mistresses. Some men who want some variety engages in concubine “sharing” with their friends.

Mistresses and Corruption in China

In China, sex, corruption and money are often intertwined. Many money scandals have a sexual element. One Chinese expression goes: Where there is corruption, there’s sex. And where there’s sex, there’s corruption. A wife who was dumped for a mistress said, “Mistresses are always lurking in shadows of corruption cases. If you don’t have money, you can’t hold on to your mistress.”

Corrupt officials often have mistresses and ‘second wives,” who are often blamed for driving officials to take bribes or embezzle money. One survey found that 95 percent of Chinese officials convicted of corruption had mistresses. Most of the officials were involved in “trading power for sex,” gambling, money laundering, and involvement in shady land deals. Another survey found that nearly 2,000 officials in Hunan Province were found to have broken the one-child policy. Many had second, third and forth children with their mistresses.

How to deal with corrupt officials who have mistresses is a continuing theme. The country’s top prosecutorial agency said in 2009 that 90 percent of provincial- or ministerial-level officials found guilty of corruption in the past seven years had engaged in affairs, according to China Daily, the government-run English language newspaper. Meishan, a city in Sichuan Province, decided that year to issue a direct edict ordering officials to remain faithful to their spouses. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, February 16, 2011]

In 2000, the head of Jiangsu Construction Bureau, Xu Qiyai, was caught up in a corruption scandal and found to have had relations with over 100 women, including a mother and daughter. Lin Longfei, the former Communist Party secretary of Zhiunding County, in Fujian Province kept 22 mistresses at the same time and held a banquet for all of them in May 2002.

In some cases officials have turned to corruption and bribe-taking to support multiple mistresses. In other cases concubines are blamed for leading their lovers astray. Experts on the matter say that sex is an element of corruption but not a cause. One Chinese sociologist told Newsweek, ‘sex is not the reason why officials are corrupt. In their eyes concubines and mistresses are commodities, like a Mercedes-Benz or a villa...Corruption arises out of greed, not lust.”

Mistresses and Corrupt Chinese Officials

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “The corruption and decadence entwined with Communist Party rule here have fueled the phenomenon of the ernai, or second wife, and xiao san, literally the “little third,” or mistress. Party officials commonly have a mistress or multiple mistresses, showering them with luxury gifts and renting them plush apartments, all financed by the spoils of corruption. Research by scholars at Renmin University of China in 2012 found that 95 percent of officials under investigation for corruption were cheating on their wives.[Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 10, 2015 ]

Forbes reported: “Where officials have power to allocate contracts, corruption is never far behind. A Chongqing sex scandal, which led to the firing of 11 officials so far, shows precisely how this works. Property developers paid women to have sex with local officials in return for lucrative real estate contracts. The women secretly filmed the trysts, and the developers used the tapes to extort more contracts – until they were leaked to higher authorities. Among officials, mistresses are now a de rigueur accessory. Like wearing a flashy Omega watch, having an educated, good looking mistress draped in Prada – or 47 of them, as in the recent case of a Guangdong deputy chief – is an effective and expected way for Chinese officials to assert their status. [Source: Forbes, February 8, 2013 |*|]

Relationship Between Corrupt Chinese Official and His Mistress

Jia Lynn Yang wrote in the Washington Post, A mistress named Ji Yingnan said she met her lover “at a restaurant on Ji’s birthday in June 2009, when she turned 22 and Fan was 37. He wasn’t like the men her age, she said. He had manners. When they talked, they seemed to share the same values. Fan told her that he worked in information technology, she said. From the start, it was obvious he had money. The first time they went shopping, Ji said, the couple went to Prada and paid $10,000 for a skirt, a purse and a scarf. A month after they met, Fan rented an apartment for them that cost $1,500 a month and spent more than $16,000 on bedsheets, home appliances, an Apple desktop and a laptop, according to Ji. Then he bought her a silver Audi A5, priced in the United States at about $40,000, she said.” [Source: Jia Lynn Yang, Washington Post, July 25, 2013 |+|]

“There were trips to beach resorts in Hainan, a beautiful island off the southern coast of China. On another trip to Prada, Fan spent more than $33,000 on his fiancee and her sister, according to Ji. “He put cash into my purse every day,” said Ji in a letter to the Communist Party complaining about Fan’s behavior. It was for “daily use, buying clothes and going out for fun.” Click here to subscribe. Ji said she spent her days cleaning their home, folding her boyfriend’s socks and waiting for him to come home. He was home with her at least five or six nights a week, Ji said. When he didn’t come back at night, he said he was working late and needed to sleep in the office, she said. |+|

“A year after they met, Ji found Fan’s work ID card while sorting his clothes. That’s when, she says, she learned that he worked for the central government. “I didn’t know exactly what his job was,” Ji said. “He told me his position was confidential.” The source of the money was clear, though: three businessmen who spent time with Ji and Fan and who would sometimes directly route money to Ji’s bank account, she said. It was not clear what the men may have hoped to gain from Fan; Ji said he didn’t discuss work matters with her. The businessmen, whom Ji identified as Jin Zhong, Chen Guiyang and Ye Zhenbo, could not be reached to comment, although Ji has records of text messages from one of the men since the scandal broke, demanding that she return all the money that was spent. |+|

“After the couple had been engaged for more than a year, Ji began pressing her fiance on why they weren’t planning a wedding, she said. In China, it’s traditional for couples to purchase real estate before getting married. Fan resisted buying a home for them, she said. Finally, at the end of last year, he confessed to having a family, Ji said. “I felt I was a princess living in a fairy tale. But now, I don’t believe anyone,” said Ji, wearing a simple white top, cropped jeans and a pair of pink and white Crocs. (She says she no longer wants to wear the luxury clothes the couple bought together.)

Impact of Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign on Mistresses

In February 2013, Forbes reported: The private back rooms of Beijing restaurants, usually so boisterous before the Spring Festival, are strangely quiet this year. The government scaled back the elaborate banquets it typically holds in the run-up to Chinese New Year and canceled some outright. Austerity is the new word for the Chinese government. Since taking office in November 2012 Xi Jinping launched an aggressive anti-corruption campaign. The policy is a fast, low-risk way to ease anxiety and earn goodwill among the Chinese people, who can now instantly take to social media to vent their disgust with government misbehavior. The crackdown has also hurt a unique group of high-end retail consumers: mistresses, who are defined by both their consumption by men as well as their own need to consume.[Source: Forbes, February 8, 2013]

Jia Lynn Yang wrote in the Washington Post, “After years in which Communist Party officials were considered untouchable, evidence of their foibles now regularly spills onto the Internet. Government censors often try to stamp out the news, but officials plagued by sex scandals — usually at lower levels of the party — are also being pushed out as the country’s new leaders try to prove they’re serious about punishing misconduct. [Source: Jia Lynn Yang, Washington Post, July 25, 2013 |+|]

“Political scandals centered on mistresses have become so common that the party’s official daily newspaper ran an editorial in May saying the country cannot rely on spurned lovers alone to expose its corruption problems. “Some people have said that the anti-corruption departments at all levels perform worse than the mistresses,” said the editorial in the People’s Daily. “Although it’s a joke, it reflects a serious question: Whom should the anti-corruption effort depend on?” |+|

“The question has taken on a new urgency as Xi, who took power in March, has vowed to root out crooked officials both powerful and lowly, or as he put it, “tigers” and “flies.” “Every country has sex scandals. Just look at the United States and Bill Clinton,” said Deng Xiaogang, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “But this is different because of China’s political environment. [The officials] are using public money.” |+|

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “The woman from Xi’an said Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has given her hope that things might improve. Officials who used to spend their evenings at lavish banquets and in marathon drinking sessions at karaoke bars — with business associates and prostitutes — now worry about being exposed. “People say Xi has saved many families, because officials now have to come home directly after work,” she said. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 10, 2015 ><]

Jilted Mistresses Expose Chinese Officials’ Corruption

Jia Lynn Yang wrote in the Washington Post, As President Xi Jinping pledges to clean up government corruption in China, an unlikely group of self-styled whistleblowers has emerged: jilted mistresses. A powerful energy official, Liu Tienan, lost his job in May after his former mistress told a journalist that Liu had defrauded banks out of $200 million. Last year, a sex video showing a Chongqing district party chief with a woman who was not his wife was leaked online, forcing the official, Lei Zhengfu, to step down. [Source: Jia Lynn Yang, Washington Post, July 25, 2013 |+|]

“The latest is a 26-year-old named Ji Yingnan, who says she discovered at the end of last year that her fiance, a powerful Communist Party official in Beijing, had been married with a teenage son the entire time they were together.” In the summer of 2013, Ji “released hundreds of photos online that offer a rare window into the life of a Chinese central government official who — despite his modest salary — was apparently able to lavish his mistress with luxury cars, go on shopping sprees at Prada and tuck more than $1,000 in cash into Ji’s purse every day when they first met.” “I never imagined that the one I loved so much, the one I gave so much love to, the one who lived four years with me, would become my enemy one day,” said Ji on a recent evening at a KFC near her apartment, where she says she stays holed up for days at a time. Ji put her head in her hands. “It is terrifying to experience this kind of relationship,” she said. |+|

“Ji has perhaps gone further than any of the spurned mistresses. She has made dozens of CDs containing photos and videos of her relationship, handing them out at the front gates of Zhongnanhai, central headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party. The photos, now plastered all over the Internet in China, look like ordinary mementos from a happy relationship. But they also capture the extravagant lifestyle of the ruling elite in a country with rampant income inequality. For example: Shopping sprees with Ji posing in blue fur and pearls as Fan shows off a receipt for their big purchases. A birthday celebration where he proposed marriage to Ji, who is wearing a gold crown and sequined dress. The couple standing on the bow of a ship with arms outstretched, re-creating the scene from the movie “Titanic.”|+|

“Ji identified her former lover as Fan Yue, a deputy director at the State Administration of Archives. He is now under investigation, according to a staffer there who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We don’t have further information to release,” the staffer said. “We will make an announcement when there is a resolution.” A well-known Chinese blogger who has posted Ji’s photos and videos on his Web site said he spoke with Fan last month. Fan told the blogger that he didn’t spend as much money as Ji claims, saying it was less than $1.7 million but more than $500,000. “This woman is not good. She is too greedy,” the blogger, Zhu Ruifeng, said Fan told him. “I couldn’t handle her. So I had to leave her.” |+|

“Fan Yue’s case is very unique,” said Zhu, the blogger. “Everyone knows the corrupted officials have mistresses, but few of the mistresses will pop up in front of the public.” Ji, who spoke with fierce determination, said all she wants is for Fan to apologize to her in person — and for her experience to cause the government to crack down harder on corruption. “People’s awareness is becoming stronger,” she added. “People won’t believe what they’re told as easily. In the era of the Internet, the government cannot hide things from people.” |+|

Cracking Down on Mistresses in China

Forbes reported: ““Corruption in the form of sexual misconduct isn’t new in China, where relationships have always driven business dealings. What is new is that social media platforms like Sina Weibo and Tencent Weixin now instantly expose the gritty details. Mistresses of local officials or state company bosses cannot resist posting photos of themselves with luxury handbags, a new car, or on a spa vacation. In most cases, they get the attention they crave: internet onlookers are just as quick to call for a human head hunt to harass said flaunters. [Source: Forbes, February 8, 2013 |*|]

“Lifestyle” problems, as the Chinese media terms sex scandals, triggered nearly 50 percent of the exposed corruption cases since the leadership transition in November 2012.And yet the official Chinese media too often intentionally omits out stories of official corruption, and as such has taken a back seat to individual, unofficial “reporting.”What the state-run media leaves out, the unofficial, anonymous bloggers fill in (and embellish). In short, corruptioncan no longer be kept beneath the surface.

Worried both by declining morality and the consequences of the residency rules, authorities in Guangdong have made long-term cohabitation by unmarried couples a crime, with a sentence of up to two years in a labor camp. Few arrests and prosecutions have been made. Police only act if a complaint is formally made. Charges are hard to prove.

All across China, private detectives that investigate cheating wives and husbands have more work than they can handle. The detectives, who charge a $1,000 as a starting fee, spend much of their time staking out love hotels hoping to photograph a couple in act of making love in room when the curtains are blown open by a wind.

On the Internet a Chinese businessman advertised for stand-on mistress to be beat up by his wife so the wife could let out her aggression and the businessman could protect his real mistress. Ten women applied for the job. The one who was selected was paid $400 for 10 minutes of work.

Bigamy is illegal in China. Corruption inspectors with the ruling Communist party have used the law to crack down on several officials, including the former head of the National Bureau of Statistics, Qiu Xiaohua, who was called a "vile social and political influence" and expelled from the party in 2007. [Source: AP, The Guardian, January 11, 2011]

In January 2011, AP reported: “China's exploding wealth has created a culture of secret mistresses and second wives. Now officials are putting marriage records online so lovers and spouses can check for cheats. State media has said Beijing and Shanghai will be among the first places to put marriage databases online this year. The plan is to have records for all of China online by 2015.” [Source: AP, The Guardian, January 11, 2011]

Abandoned Wives: Victims of Cheating Chinese Husbands

Zhang Yu Fen---a wife who was dumped by her husband for a mistress---formed a “guerilla squad for attacking mistresses” made up of similarly dumped wives.”Unless mistresses are completely wiped out, we won’t be able to achieve a harmonious society and will only be left with the menace” mistresses present, Zhang said. “We, the socially vulnerable, have to get together to eradicate the existence of mistresses..Our organization’s aim is to punish these husbands and claim the assets we are entitled to.”

Zhang’s group collects information for lawsuits against husbands and mistresses and follows their targets around. Dubbed by the local media as “mistress killers,” they have physically assaulted some mistresses. Zhang, who lives in Xian and carries a stun gun when she leaves her house, was dumped by her husband in 1997. She filed law suits against him and was finally granted a divorce in 2007 but all she received as a settlement was a small house without heating.

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, ““When Zhang Yufen’s husband finally admitted to having an affair and left her to live with his mistress, clearing out his possessions and emptying their joint bank account, she felt as though the sky had fallen on her head. But after a week in which she barely ate or slept, her pain and anger were channeled into a new determination: to find out who his mistress was, where they were living and why he had turned his back on 16 years of marriage — and to force him to provide proper financial support for her and their young son. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 10, 2015 ><]

The wives of husbands with misstresses “are often pushed aside, neglected and forgotten. Divorce carries stigma for a woman, although not for a man, and divorce law and the courts are often stacked in the husband’s favor. Zhang said: “There is no protection for wronged wives. In most cases they are left with no money, no house and no guarantees.I understand why a lot of women don’t want a divorce. In smaller places, people gossip. They often laugh at the wife, but they don’t necessarily judge the husband. She often feels shame and loss of face.” ><

Female Chinese Detective Helps Wronged Wives

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, Yang decided there was only one way to seek justice against her cheating husband was “good old-fashioned detective work — and only one person to do it, and that was her. In the search for her husband and his mistress, and in her long court battle with them, Zhang embarked on a journey that led her to establish what could be China’s only women’s detective agency, working on behalf of wronged wives. Her methods are low-tech, labor-intensive and painstaking: While speaking, she showed off two hand-held tape recorders, two pairs of binoculars, a cheap camera and a notebook. She talks of hiding behind trees and electricity poles, of long stakeouts and of following her quarry in taxis and on foot. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 10, 2015 ><]

“In the course of investigating officials throughout China’s civil service, Zhang says she has been threatened with violence and arrest; her evidence has been thrown out of court by judges who are sympathetic to the husbands or in collusion with them. But she has had successes. In 2009, she was approached by the wife of a senior railway official, she says, and discovered that he was having an affair with a local television anchor. “I told the wife to go there, and she caught them in bed together,” she said. “She grabbed her husband’s phones and found pictures of many women, and their phone numbers.” Zhang said she found that he had 17 mistresses in the different cities where he worked. He was promoting his relatives inside the railway system and raking in huge kickbacks from construction contracts. His wife got the divorce, Zhang said, but the evidence of corruption was never admitted in court or acted on by his superiors. ><

“In another case, Zhang helped a woman from Xi’an whose husband had divorced her. Despite his cheating, the judge had awarded him the family land. Subsequently, and with Zhang’s help, the woman — who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared her remarks would be taken as criticism of the Communist Party — said she followed her husband for two years before finally tracking down where he lived, breaking in and gathering evidence of infidelity and corruption. “It was really difficult because he had a car, and we had to move on foot and by taxi,” she said. “But Zhang and the other wronged wives stood up for me. Come heavy snow or scorching sun, they followed him, they never gave up.” ><

“Zhang’s husband worked in the district taxation bureau in the city of Xi’an. She says she spent five years following him and his mistress, who turned out to be her best friend. She tried unsuccessfully to sue him for bigamy. She finally won a divorce and received a payout in 2007. Later, she confronted her former husband and asked him why he had broken their marriage. “He said: ‘Everyone in the taxation bureau had a mistress. I would have lost face if I didn’t have one.’ ” ><

Chinese Detective Agency Specializes in Wronged Wives

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “Inspired by her own experience, Zhang in 1997 gradually started taking other people’s cases. Word of her work soon spread: She remembers being approached early on for help by an elderly woman whose daughter had drunk pesticide because her husband was cheating on her. “I asked her why they didn’t take the husband to court, and she said they didn’t have the evidence.”To gather the evidence, Zhang established the Fire Phoenix agency in 2003 with nine friends, but she says she charged only for basic expenses, and a lack of finance eventually forced it to close. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 10, 2015 ><]

“These days, Zhang, 57, works alone from her small apartment outside Beijing, running the Alliance Against Mistresses, an organization that combines detective work with advice and advocacy for wronged wives. She still only charges for expenses. Some have nicknamed this lively, talkative woman the ernai shashou, or “mistress killer.” Over the years, she says, thousands of women have come to her for the evidence they need to prove their husbands were cheating — and to force them to pay compensation. But not all want to go to court. ><

“Zhang says her efforts to expose official corruption often run into brick walls. One court mysteriously “lost” the evidence she had presented, while another, she alleges, warned the husband, who had time to empty a bank account of savings well beyond his earnings. Sometimes she presents evidence of corruption to an official’s boss, and the boss won’t want to listen, probably because he is corrupt himself, she says. ><

“The profession of private detective was officially banned in 1993, although the business flourished, largely underground. Zhu Ruifeng, a “citizen reporter” who runs a Web site aimed at exposing corruption, said many people hire private detectives — mostly men — in marital cases. “Often it’s the officials’ wives who want to protect their interests in case of a divorce; or to hold the evidence of infidelity as a card to secure the marriage; or sometimes mistresses have private detectives get evidence just in case,” he said. In recent years, the work has become more dangerous. Even while President Xi Jinping wages a campaign against official corruption, the government has cracked down hard on freelance private eyes.“It shows Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is highly selective, and aimed at clearing out those not on his side,” Zhu said.

Chinese Court Considers Marriage Law Revision to Deal with Mistress Problem

Sharon Lafraniere wrote in the New York Times: “Under a draft interpretation of China’s marriage law, expected to be issued in coming weeks, mistresses would not be allowed to sue their married lovers for reneging on promises of money, property or goods, said legal experts who have reviewed the language. Nor would wayward husbands be allowed to seek the courts’ help in retrieving money or goods that they bestowed upon mistresses. But wives could sue to recover money or property that ended up in the hands...a mistress. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, February 16, 2011]

The top court, the Supreme People’s Court, decided to clarify the marriage law after a spate of lawsuits over the exchange of goods, money or property during extramarital affairs, Yang Xiaoxin, a marriage law specialist in Beijing, told the New York Times. The draft envisions that either spouse might be unfaithful. But most lawsuits involve a wife’s claim to recover apartments, cars or money from a mistress, a trend that has quickened as the Chinese become more sophisticated about their legal rights, he and others said. “The local courts have received many cases concerning the mistress settlement fee, but the provisions of the marriage law only state general principles,” he said. ‘similar cases are yielding different verdicts. So the Supreme Court realized it is time to issue an interpretation.” [Ibid]

Typically courts rule in favor of the wives, said Lei Mingguang, a law professor at China Minzu University in Beijing. In a 2009 case in the central province of Henan, for instance, a mistress was ordered to return 330,000 renminbi, more than $50,000, that she had received during a three-year affair. The man’s wife discovered the payments after she and her husband reconciled and filed suit---together---against the mistress. The court found that that the payments were illegal because marriage law requires couples to jointly decide how to spend their common property, The Peninsular Morning Post, a local newspaper, reported. [Ibid]

But some courts have split disputed property between the wife and the mistress, especially in cases when the husband pretended to the mistress that he was single. Liu Sen, a lawyer with the DHH law firm in Beijing, told the New York Times the high court’s main goal was to head off suits between unfaithful spouses and their lovers, while reaffirming the other spouse’s right to recover misspent common property. [Ibid]

Some 20 different provisions cover myriad issues, including how the value of houses or apartments should be split between couples in a divorce. But the adultery provision has grabbed the public’s attention and provided fresh grist for the debate about whether materialism is eroding traditional values.

The new interpretation of the marriage law has been in the works for more than two years. In November, the Chinese news media rushed to refute rumors that the high court planned to allow the authorities to criminally charge mistresses and force them to pay compensation to their lovers’ wives. Lawyers promised nothing so dramatic was in store. “The court is trying to protect the stability of marriage and the family,” he said. “Basically the court is saying adultery is wrong and nobody should benefit from it.”

Women Who Fool Around in China

A number of rich women have also taken lovers. Some like to hang out at nightclubs in Shanghai and pick the men they sleep with by the easy way they dance on the dance floor. One sociologist told Time, “even a decade ago, women didn’t have the money to buy everything, including sex. It’s really no different than being a man.”

According to a study by the All-China Women’s Federation, female infidelity contributes to 30 percent of divorces. One woman who pays the men she sleeps with told Time, “I know my husband does the same thing when he’s traveling on business.”...so why can’t I.” One young women in Beijing has made plans to marry her boyfriend but says she plans to continue her relationship with her secret lover---an older married man.

One of the most popular American books in China was The Bridges of Madison County, a story by Robert James Waller about a married Iowa woman who has an affair with a National Geographic photographer. It sold over 500,000 copies. One Chinese told Newsweek a "Bridges" affair is "the biggest fantasy with middle-aged, middle-class Chinese women." Some 1.29 million tickets for the movie of book were sold on the first weekend of its release.

Image Sources: 1) Concubine Yang, Guifei; 2) Divorce, China Daily

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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