Historically only the wealthiest Chinese men could afford legions of mistresses and concubines. Cultural attitudes towards cheating husbands were permissive — if he’s successful enough to afford two women, he deserves them both, popular thinking dictated. Emperors, noblemen and the most prestigious businessmen were renowned for their harems.
Literature and the arts conjured fairy-tale images of joining an alpha-male’s harem: the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber tells the story of a Qing dynasty concubine who collects so much money that her entire family becomes fabulously wealthy. Thanks to her earnings, her brothers are even able to afford their own concubines, according to a write-up in TIME Magazine.
The modern-day economic boom is creating a resurgence of mistresses and concubines in China, the article says:
They have this traditional idea that having more women equates to being more successful,” says Li (Yinhe, a researcher at the Institute of Sociology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences).
And many women share the same sentiment:
“I’d rather cry in the back seat of a BMW than smile on a back of a bike,” is the common attitude of a certain segment of young girls when they are looking for wealthy partners.
Even China’s online dating websites cater to it:
… women cannot search for potential mates by common interests or hobbies, but they can select whether they require their prospective partner to have a house and a car, as well as the minimum salary level they would find acceptable.
Although the TIME story detailing this is entitled Can Education Curb a Mistress Epidemic?, the most desirable women are beautiful ladies with the best academic track record — the Chinese equivalent of a Barbie with a Harvard degree:
A recent online exposé revealed a (mistress) agency in Shanghai that provided a menu of potential college-student mistresses … The annual maintenance fees ranged from just $3,000 for students in less renowned schools to about $26,000 for students from the best campuses.
That’s right, ladies. Study hard, get good grades, so that you can become … a high-class mistress. I wonder what kind of grades you need to get promoted to “wife?” (Insert sarcasm here.)
Let’s hear from the readers — what do you think of the mistress epidemic? Is it a sign that women’s rights haven’t progressed as far in China as they have in the U.S. — or are the Chinese simply more open and accepting of the “golddigger” reality?
Source: Can China Curb a Mistress Epidemic?, May 18, 2011, TIME Magazine