Why did Emperors of India and China have so many mistresses?

Mar 2019
20
Toronto
A man in ancient China could only have one wife, but many concubines. He could also have mistresses. Unlike in Western societies, a concubine was considered to have higher social status than a mistress because she was considered part of the family and her children legitimate children who bear their father's family name. In contrast, a child by a mistress was considered a bastard and an outsider (like in most Western societies).

Concubinage was prevalent among the elite and middle class. Concubines are generally ruled by the only wife in the household, but there are a lot of exceptions. If a wife has no living son, while a concubine has a son who is favored by his father, or a daughter who becomes the concubine of a man more power than her father, that concubine could attain a very high status in family. Sometimes even the wife fears her if she has truly great children who are considered to have brought honor to the family.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,523
Sydney
there were some extreme
the Brother of Louis XIV , Phillipe d'Orleans was a raving homosexual ,
he hated his wife Henrietta of England , the feeling was totally reciprocated
out of spite , Phillipe pushed aside his disgust to get her pregnant as often as he could because that was driving her into rage
she consoled herself of her beastly husband in the tender arms of her lover ,a princess of Monaco
 
Mar 2019
20
Toronto
Ancient China was an absolute monarch with a highly centralized government. It was not a feudal system in which a King rules indirectly through regional lords who pledge loyalty to him. The Emperor of China ruled every corner of his country through government officials appointed by himself. He had absolute power to appoint, remove, promote, demote, elevate or punish these officials. Therefore the Emperor of China was much more powerful than a Western King. The power and status gap between the Emperor and his Prime Minister is much larger than that between a Western King and a Duke.

The Emperor's mother, the Empress Dowager has the highest social status among all women, followed by the Emperor's official wife, the Empress, and followed by his concubines. A concubine of the Emperor is superior to the wife of any government official, including the Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister's wife meets the Emperor's concubine, the former shall kneel before the latter and touch the ground with her forehead to show utmost respect and submission. It is not uncommon for a high-level official's wife to speak to an Emperor's concubine in a kneeling or standing position while the latter is sitting.
 
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Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
When the Prime Minister's wife meets the Emperor's concubine, the former shall kneel before the latter and touch the ground with her forehead to show utmost respect and submission. It is not uncommon for a high-level official's wife to speak to an Emperor's concubine in a kneeling or standing position while the latter is sitting.
That's unbelievable. What if she refused to bent her knees?
 
May 2013
1,721
The abode of the lord of the north
So the king only need to impregnate her and his duty is done? That's way too easy.
Mostly. Because remember even though king has 100 wives, that doesn't mean he has 100 queens. There is only one queen. Others are just his wives, and of lesser importance. So the wife of the most powerful ally you marry from, you make her your queen. As long as she is happy, your other father-in-laws won't get triggered easily. It all depends on her relation with her father. If she is one among his 20-30 children, he won't care much would he?
 
Unless she was mentally ill or had a death wish she probably wouldn't even think of refusing in the first place. Besides, kneeling and bowing were part of everyday life, so it wasn't considered some great humiliation to bow to certain people, especially people who ranked higher than you.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,108
That's unbelievable. What if she refused to bent her knees?
The official could be fired or executed by the emperor, so it was a good idea for the official's wife to show respect to someone who might have influence with the emperor. She might not be executed for refusing to kneel before a concubine, but it wasn't a good idea. At least it might hurt her husband's career.

In Britain it was different with the class system. The official's wife was probably of much nicer family than the concubine. Also British monarchs have famously been not been that powerful at least since 1688.

Famously, the British ambassador, Lord Macartney, refused to kowtow to the emperor in 1793. The meeting did not go well. Britain considered itself the greater power and was sending a message to the Chinese.

He could get away with it, but a Chinese person who showed disrespect for the emperor would probably be executed. In Japan, children bow to their parents and the wife bows to her husband. This also gives you some idea of the relationship in marriage as well as the hierarchical relationships in society.

It is sort of interesting that countries with absolute monarchs, Russia and China, became Communist, where the state was all powerful. Whereas, the systems of constitutional monarchy or democracy in western Europe and the US are perhaps more derived from the feudal system, where the power was in more in the hands of local nobles. This led to rule by the aristocracy, which gradually became more democratic.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,108
So the king only need to impregnate her and his duty is done? That's way too easy.
It was better for her than if she did not have a child, which was possible with so many concubines. These women were almost prisoners and there was no way for them to be involved with a man other than the emperor.