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Painting of Concubine Yang

Concubine in China have traditionally been mistresses of rich and powerful men. 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.

George P. Monger wrote in “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “A concubine is a woman who cohabits with a man and is not his legal wife; in polygynous societies, a concubine may be a woman who is part of a man’s household and a sexual partner, but not a legal wife. King Solomon in the Bible was said to have had “seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” (1 Kings 11.3). In China, a man was almost expected to have a concubine as part of the household. By law, a Chinese man was not allowed to take a second wife during the lifetime of the first wife, so there was a form of legalized concubinage practiced. Again, the wife had power and authority over the concubines — they had to request her permission to sit with her, and she could refer to her marriage partner with the term that corresponded to the word “husband, ” but the concubines referred to him as “master.” [Source: “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons” by George P. Monger, 2004]

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.

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.

Websites and Sources: Marriage: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chinatown ConnectionChinatown Connection ; Travel China Guide ; Agate Travel : Dating Chinatown Connection Chinatown Connection ; Wedding Wedding Customs ; Divorce: Divorces in the 1990s ; Marriage and Divorce Laws in China International Family Law ; Foreigners and divorces in 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.

George P. Monger wrote in “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that a concubine may be a secondary wife; however this is a Eurocentric view, since a secondary wife in polygynous societies may be properly married to the man, according to the customs of that society. However, secondary wives were often of a lower class than the husband and were of a lower standing in the household than the first wife, who had authority over them. Most commonly, a concubine is considered to be a regular consort of a man. Among the ancient Romans, concubines were the companions of the priests. [Source: “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons” by George P. Monger, 2004 ^]

“In general, in societies where there is free choice of partner and usually a period of courtship followed by an engagement period, once married it is difficult to undo the contract. But in societies where marriage is arranged between two families, and perhaps there is not such a possessive exclusiveness, there tends to be divorce by consent and a more permissive attitude toward adultery, concubinage, and polygamy. ^

Concubines in 19th Century China

In 1899, Arthur Henderson Smith wrote in “Village Life in China”: “It is a natural sequence to the Chinese doctrine of the necessity of having male children that, in case this becomes unlikely, a secondary wife, or concubine, should be taken, with that end in view. As a matter of fact this practice is confined to a comparatively small number of families, mainly those in fairly good circumstances, for no others could afford the expense. The evils of this expedient are well recognized, and it is fortunate for Chinese society that resort is not had to it on a much greater scale than appears to be the case. The practical turn of the Chinese mind has suggested to them a much simpler method of arriving at the intended results, by a much less objectionable method. This is the well-known adoption of children from collateral branches of the family, already mentioned, so as to keep the line of succession intact, and prevent the extinction of any particular branch. [Source: “Village Life in China” by Arthur Henderson Smith, Fleming H. Revell Company,1899, The Project Gutenberg. Smith (1845 -1932) was an American missionary who spent 54 years in China. In the 1920s, “Chinese Characteristics” was still the most widely read book on China among foreign residents there. He spent much of his time in Pangzhuang, a village in Shandong.]

“But whatever its attendant evils, which are undoubtedly many and great, the Chinese plan of adoption is always incomparably preferable to that of bringing into the yard a “little wife.” It is by no means singular that the Chinese have given to the relations between the real wife and the supplementary one, the significant name of “sipping vinegar.” We happen to have been personally acquainted with several families in which a concubine had been introduced. In two of them, the secondary wives had been bought because they were to be had at a cheap rate in a year of famine. One of these poor creatures came one day running into the yard of a Chinese family with whom the writer was living, screaming and dishevelled, as the result of “vinegar sipping.” The man who had taken her openly reviled his mother in the most shameless way, upon her remonstrance at the act.

“In a second instance, a man past middle-life thought by this means to make sure of a son, but was greatly disappointed in the result. He was in the habit of inviting elderly Chinese women of his acquaintance to go to his house, and “exhort” his wives to stop “sipping vinegar,” a labour which was attended with very negative results. When he died, the last wife was driven out to return to her relatives, although for a country villager her husband was reputed to be a fairly rich man. In cases where the concubine has a son, in the event of her husband’s death, if affairs are properly managed, she has a portion of land set apart for her like any other wife.

“In a third case a neighbour of the writer, a man in middle-life, had a wife about forty years of age, two others having died, one of them leaving a daughter now twenty years of age. The father was absent from home much of the time, engaged in business in Peking. With Chinese thus situated, it often appears to be a particularly happy solution of a difficulty to have two wives, the legal wife at home, and the “small one” at the place where the husband spends most of his time. When the man returned to his home, he brought this secondary wife with him, an act very well adapted to promote “vinegar sipping.” This additional wife was a mere child much younger than the daughter of her husband.

Poor Treatment of Concubines in 19th Century China

Arthur Henderson Smith wrote in “Chinese Characteristics”: ““The lot of Chinese concubines is one of exceeding bitterness. The homes in which they are to be found — happily relatively few in number — are the scenes of incessant bickerings, and open warfare. One of the recent periodicals which has come to hand contains an article by a resident of China of wide experience containing the following passage: “The magistrate of the city in which I live was a wealthy man, a great scholar, a doctor of literature, an able administrator, well acquainted with all the good teachings in the classics; but he would lie, and curse, and rob, and torture people to any extent to gratify his evil passions. One of his concubines ran away; she was captured, brought back, stripped, hung up to a beam by her feet, and cruelly and severely beaten." [Source:“Chinese Characteristics” by Arthur Henderson Smith,1894]

“In speaking of the absence of sympathy, reference was made to the bitter lot of Chinese concubines. The term used to denote the relation between wives and concubines is that most expressive phrase, "sipping vinegar." This is proverbially a "thing to be avoided," and from this association, that phrase has come to be employed as a euphemism for vinegar, as when a waiter enquires of a guest at an inn what he wishes for his meal, he asks, " Do you want the ' thing-to-be-avoided ' "? But the certainty of trouble in the family is by no means confined to the occasions when principal and secondary wives are to be found living in the same establishment. The Chinese believe that the graves of successive wives should be placed at a due distance from each other, until their common husband has died, when the bodies are to be taken up, and, may be placed on each side of him. The theory is that "e'en in their ashes live their wonted fires," and that the ghosts of wives so buried as to be adjacent to one another, with no intervening husband as peace-maker, would be certain to maintain a war which would render the lives of surviving members of the family scarcely worth living. At first sight this may appear merely a curious superstition, with no especial bearing on practical affairs, but it is in reality a most serious matter, and One which enters into the marrow of one's existence.

“The writer is acquainted with a Chinese who ignored this superstition, and buried his second wife alongside the first. The neighbours of the mother of the second wife, filled her ears with the prophecies of the most deadly disaster, if this state of, things were to be tolerated. She and her friends came to the village where the husband of the deceased woman lived, expostulated, threatened and besought him by turns, to move the corpse of his late, wife away from the fury of the former one. They assured him that his late wife's ghost was constantly seen in her native village, and that trouble was most imminent. Irritated by their clamour, and being naturally of an obstinate disposition, the husband refused to comply with their request, but at last consented to accompany them to their village, and witness the alleged outbreak of the spirit, which he promised to quell. He remained two days, during which time all was perfectly quiet, but he had not gone a quarter of a mile on his way home, than he was sent after in haste, on the alleged ground that his late wife's ghost had broken loose again-. As no external evidence was offered to him of the supposed trouble, he positively refused to move the body, and the matter was allowed to drop.

“A foreign physician living in an interior province was called in to aid in bringing to life a concubine of a wealthy man, by whom she had been abused. By prompt and continued measures the life of the woman was saved, and soon after the grateful husband sent to the dispensary with much ado a present of two taels in silver. A relative of his, who was the teacher of the foreigner, was much disgusted at the insignificance of the donation, observing that if the concubine had died, it would have cost her husband not less than two thousand taels!

Preference of a Concubine Over Wife Prompts Village Battle

Smith wrote in “Village Life in China”:“At the next New Year it was reported that the man would not allow his proper wife to go to the ancestral graves, but insisted upon taking his young concubine to do the sacrificing. Other injurious reports, true or false, were circulated in regard to his behaviour toward his proper wife, and his intentions in the future to abandon or divorce her, and these soon reached the village of which she was a native. The result was a deputation of a considerable number of elderly men from that village to the one in which the husband lived. This deputation instituted proceedings by summoning the head of the husband’s clan to meet them. But a large number of young men from that same village, having heard of the affair, could not wait for the elders to adjust the matter by slow Chinese diplomacy, but came in a body to the house of the husband, and without any ceremony made an attack upon it, breaking down the barred door and throwing themselves with violence upon the defenceless husband. [Source: “Village Life in China” by Arthur Henderson Smith, Fleming H. Revell Company,1899, The Project Gutenberg]

“The attacking party had armed themselves with awls, but not, according to their own account, with knives. It was late at night when the onslaught was made, and it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe. The husband was at once over-powered, and was subsequently found to have seventeen awl-stabs on his chest, and two savage knife-cuts on his back, penetrating to the lungs. It was alleged by the attacking party that the latter wounds must have been made by some of the man’s immediate neighbours who were personal enemies, and who, hearing the outcry, rushed in only to find that their enemy was defenceless and open to their attack (which could not be proved against them), a circumstance of which they took care to avail themselves. The attacking party having thus placed themselves in the wrong, were obliged, upon being prosecuted at law, to get an influential company of intermediaries to help them out of the difficulty. This was at last accomplished according to the usual Chinese method — a great deal of head knocking and a great many feasts for the injured party.

“Notwithstanding such instructive object-lessons as these, with which all parts of China must to a greater or less extent abound, many of those who think that they can afford to do so continue to repeat the experiment, although the adage says: “If your wife is against it, do not take a concubine.” If this advice were to be adopted, it is not improbable that the practice of concubinage in China would become practically extinct.

Pictorial Album of the Eight Beauties of the Ch'in-huai River

“Pictorial Album of the Eight Beauties of the Ch'in-huai River” is an illustrated book in the National Palace Museum, Taipei collection with text written by Chang Ching-chi of Ch'ien-t'ang County. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Ch'in-huai Pa-yen referred to the late Ming and early Qing dynasty singing courtesans of Ch'in-huai River. The names of Ch'in-huai River's eight beautiful singing courtesans were Ma Shou-chen, Pien Sai, Li Hsiang-chun, Liu Ju-shih, Tung Hsiao-wan, Ku Mei, K'ou Mei, and Ch'eng Yuan-yuan. In the Eight Beauties, each illustration is followed by text. In the ending chapters of the book are literati scholars' written commentaries about the eight courtesans. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, ]

“Starting from the late Ming dynasty, it became common practice for literati scholars to paint the figures of beautiful courtesans and women. For instance, the Ming publications Poems from Courtesan House and Ladies-in-waiting of Affection as well as the early Qing publications Hundred Beauties from Soochow and Pictorial Album of Hundred Beauties are all books that feature these types of illustrations of beautiful courtesans and women. While the Eight Beauties was printed during the late Qing dynasty when the art of printing saw a decline, it can be said that the book is still an exquisite publication.

High-Living Mistresses in Modern China

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Concubine Yang miniseries

The Chinese writer Lijia Zhang wrote in The Guardian, 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). [Source: Lijia Zhang, The Guardian, October 22, 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]

Migration Mistresses in China

According to the “International Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “Mass migration and economic dislocation have made mistresses a major problem across the country wher ever rural poverty meets the affluence of the new free market’s restrained capitalist economy. For a modest $200 monthly rent in a village of mistresses, a moderately affluent married business man can enjoy the comfort of an attractive devoted second wife. Second wives are easy to find on farms just outside cities. There is also a flourishing business of gobetweens who recruit young women happy to trade the hard life on a poor farm in some distant province for the luxury of a two-bed room apartment with some modern conveniences in the bustling suburb of a modern city. [Source: Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M. P. Lau, M.D.,”International Encyclopedia of Sexuality”, edited by Robert T. Francoeur, Ph.d., and Raymond J. Noonan, PhD., Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, online at the Kinsey Institute \^/]

“The government tries to combat migration from the farms to the cities by issuing every adult a work permit allowing that person to work legally only within a certain distance of their birthplace. permits to migrate to a city are strictly limited. In becoming a mistress, a young woman can leave her rural home without a work permit and be supported by a “husband.” A law introduced in 2000 in Shenzhe provides a prison sentence of 10 months for “factual bigamy”; a single act of adultery is still not a crime. under a new law in Guangdong province, which includes both Shenzhen and Dongguan, long-term co habitation by an unmarried couple is now a crime and can bring a two-year sentence to a labor camp. However, the police face a near in sur mount able obstacle proving long-term co habitation when a monthly lease or no lease en ables a man to move his second wife to a new apartment on very short notice.\^/

“The current separate legal jurisdictions of Hong Kong, Macao, and China also make prosecution very difficult. If a Hong Kong woman wants to take her bigamist husband into a Chinese court, she must first make sure that the Chinese police can prove that the husband is living with his mistress some where in one of the populous mainland villages of mistresses.

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."

Under British rule (1841 to 1997), mistresss were legal in Hong Kong. According to the “International Encyclopedia of Sexuality” in the early 2000s. In the past generation, enough Hong Kong men have led the double life to father an estimated 520,000 children. In 1999, a local Hong Kong court exercised its separate legal ju ris diction to grant Hong Kong res i dency to the half-million children born to the second wives of Hong Kong men. That decision would have added significantly to Hong Kong’s 6.5 million people packed into a very limited 416 square miles (1,077 km2 ). It also created some serious legal consequences for the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. Not surprisingly, a mainland Chinese court overturned the local decree.[Source: Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M. P. Lau, M.D.,”International Encyclopedia of Sexuality”, edited by Robert T. Francoeur, Ph.d., and Raymond J. Noonan, PhD., Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, online at the Kinsey Institute \^/]

See Hong Kong Residency Rules

Concubine Villages in China

Hong Kong and Macao are now under mainland Chinese rule and the borders between them are very porous. The number of second wives and mistresss has expanded in small cities and suburbs within commuting distance of Hong Kong and Macao and along the main rail lines from Hong Kong and Macao to Guangzhou, as well as across southeast China.[Source: Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M. P. Lau, M.D.,”International Encyclopedia of Sexuality”, edited by Robert T. Francoeur, Ph.d., and Raymond J. Noonan, PhD., Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, online at the Kinsey Institute \^/]

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

Jessica Meyers wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Dalliances in China underwent a resurgence as the country opened up. The keeping of mistresses began to confer status on businessmen and government officials. At least 95 percent of the officials detained for corruption in 2012 had mistresses, according to a study by People’s University in Beijing. [Source: Jessica Meyers, Los Angeles Times, November, 25, 2017]

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]

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Last updated September 2021

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