New Profession For Women in China, Ernai Are a Modern Version of Concubines

China’s economic boom has turned the ancient role of the concubine into a lucrative career option. There is An online Chinese second-wife ‘contract’, posted at and which I found these words very disturbing, what this world is turning into, the contract read,

dream of a concubine by vanessa

The master primarily wants the second wife to provide him with sex and face. The second wife primarily wants the master to provide her with a luxurious lifestyle. Both sides have an obligation to behave with decorum toward each other in public places, so as to win the respect of other people.

Sometimes the ernai’s clothing should be extremely provocative sexually, and sometimes it should be refined and elegant, in order to make other men jealous of the master. The ernai must wear high-class, well-known designer clothing and shoes. She is not permitted to use fake luxury goods.

The ernai will provide the master all varieties of sex. The ernai agrees to have intercourse three times a day, or two hours of enjoyment in bed. Whether they kiss is up to the ernai. No ernai should ever employ any behavior that would damage a man’s self-esteem, such as suggesting he ‘does not cut it’.

It’s very common in Thailand and Laos for men to have a second wife, or ‘mear noy’, but just didn’t expect to hear about it in China of all places, but then again it might make sense because there’s fewer women than men, according to economic point of view, then it’s the law of supply and demand. According to this article, having a second wife is a status symbol and it explains,

But everyone who has ever lived in China knows the expression for “second wife”. And most people know at least one ernai personally. Ernai are a modern version of concubines, as common as colds. They are women kept in luxury apartments and goods by married lovers – mostly overseas businessmen and officials but, increasingly, by men at every level of society. The most successful kept women represent entrepreneurs of a sort, floating in a sink-or-swim economy and providing enticing models for what the new China can offer: genuine Prada stilettos, diamonds, iPods and sprawling villas. They work out in the swankiest health clubs, drive Minis, BMWs and Audis, and carry lapdogs in Gucci handbags. They have role models more glamorous than those of most aspiring careerists: from Mao Zedong’s fourth wife, Madame Jiang Qing, to the actress Gong Li’s gorgeous fourth-wife character in Zhang Yimou’s movie Raise the Red Lantern.

And yet, like women everywhere who trade sex for money, ernai are vulnerable to abuse, unprotected by degrees, careers, or backup plans, and often deserted in their thirties. An increasing number of notable ernai now lead lives complicated by corruption and scandal. They are forbidden by law but flaunted in practice, socially both celebrated and condemned, just as concubines have always been.

In the US, a mistress should be a well-kept secret. In most of Europe, she should be kept with discretion. In China, the keepers of ernai get not only the service but also the face (maintaining face, or an unchallenged public persona, is seen as hugely significant). In a second wife’s lifestyle is a reflection of her master’s capacity to spend. Her beauty is a testament to his taste, her role both public and private.

In other words, ernai are both the objects of free-choice attraction, and yet are still engaged in a transactional relationship. If a woman gets only gifts, she may just be a mistress, but if those gifts are given immediately after service, she’s halfway to being an ernai. If actual cash changes hands, she’s formally an ernai. Perhaps predictably, the lines are not always clearly drawn. Some women, Huang says, do it just for money, others for love, and most for a combination of the two.

I know there are mistress ‘second wife’ in China or anywhere in the world but didn’t expect that it’d be something to be proud of by both party. It’d be too long to post the rest of the article, but if you’re interested in reading the rest of ‘Wife Sentence’, here is the LINK, the rest of the article is very interesting.


  1. I remember reading about this subject from the Toronto Sun newspaper a couple of years ago. It was shocking at first, they called them “caged bird” ladies. People would do anything for money these days. The saddest part is being tossed out after turning 30, like another disposable object. The funniest part is that some of the end up working at the Poodle parlor for the new “Ernai” replacing them. Could be nice if you love to make dogs more beautiful. Kidding.

    • So many Asian marragies are for economic benefit. Love is not a factor. So the married man goes outside to find sex that means something. Often the emotional attachment that is wanted is found with the mistress on some level albeit not the same level as if his marriage had been because of love and not economic status. Some men and only the lucky ones end up being emotionally loved by their wives.

      At least when their mistress gives them sex the mistress does a good job of pretending and making the man feel loved on some level.

      This is also very true in the USA with many Asian and Asian American mixed marriages.
      Unless the wife married for love the sex can frequently make the man feel as if …ok you got your sex now wait until Next week before you get some more.

      So the man here in the usa goes and gets a mistress.

  2. I think trying to keep up with the Jones is one of the driven factors for these women to do this, unlike where you hear in Thailand and Laos where poverty is the main driven factor, and many are forced and sold into prostitution. I think these Ernai might cover themselves with brand name clothing articles from head to toe, but I’m sure somewhere inside, there has to be some emotional scar there even if most don’t want to admit.

    I also read about the Poodle parlor and thought about posting that because most people have a misconception that all Chinese people eat dog, but there’s one article that I came across that said that being a dog in China is better than being a human because they get the royal treatment. They have all kinds of entertaining business catering to these dogs, very interesting article to read.

  3. Such an interesting article!It reminded me of a special I saw on T.V. about Japanese business women hiring “escorts” or gigalos for the evening. I guess they are too busy to have a real relationship and some of them said they didn’t have time for one so it was much easier to hire the “escorts”. I know in Lao community, some men would go off and have affairs and their wives would not mind as long as they did not flaunt it where it would shame the family.

  4. Hi Karmadiva, It’d be hard for me to imagine that the wife doesn’t mind if her husband were to go off and has an affair, flaunting or not; in situation like that I think that they’d lose respect for each other, some mainly stay together for the sake of the children. 😐 I’m sure that what you’ve said holds true for the Lao community; I think it’s a bit sad that it’s that way, and the Lao community is seeing this as the norm.

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