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

Aug 2014
4,587
Australia
#12
Having a harem is no different to owning slaves - the more you have, the greater your social status. It also lends to the myth of the ruler's virility. It also produces more children to perpetuate the dynasty. It also gives the ruler a lot of hostages to guarantee good behaviour from his estate holders.
 
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
#13
Having a harem is no different to owning slaves - the more you have, the greater your social status. It also lends to the myth of the ruler's virility. It also produces more children to perpetuate the dynasty. It also gives the ruler a lot of hostages to guarantee good behaviour from his estate holders.
Well, I think you certainly cannot treat noblewomen like slaves, if you do not want their families to rebel against your reign. Also, the more women you have, the more trouble you have, the more money you spend. As I said more than 1 is good, more than 10 is stupid. The same with the number of children. Having a few children ensures succession, having too many children would only ensure wars of succession.
 
Aug 2014
4,587
Australia
#14
How do you think slaves were treated? Some slaves were highly prized and treated like family. Spending more money is good, it was the whole point of being rich. Conspicuous consumption was the goal, not to accumulate riches. Social status relied on one's ability to throw money around. To buy something hideously expensive, use it once, and get rid of it. The ruler never had anything to do with running the harem. There was a head wife and a few eunuchs who maintained discipline. The ruler's interaction with the harem was little more than, "Meet my new wife; she will be joining the rest of you." and "I want wife number four tonight." Children weren't just about succession. He also needed blood relatives to put in positions of power including generals, high priests, castle senechals, foreign ambassadors, and so on.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
#15
How do you think slaves were treated? Some slaves were highly prized and treated like family. Spending more money is good, it was the whole point of being rich. Conspicuous consumption was the goal, not to accumulate riches. Social status relied on one's ability to throw money around. To buy something hideously expensive, use it once, and get rid of it. The ruler never had anything to do with running the harem. There was a head wife and a few eunuchs who maintained discipline. The ruler's interaction with the harem was little more than, "Meet my new wife; she will be joining the rest of you." and "I want wife number four tonight."
So you mean the emperor just wanted to show off his wealth? These noble ladies and their families would feed utterly humiliated when they found out his true intention.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2016
544
天下
#17
So you mean the emperor just wanted to show off his wealth? These noble ladies and their families would feed utterly humiliated when they found out his true intention.
They very well knew what were the Emperor's intentions. Being a concubine assured a high standard of life and also was an oppurtunity to become a new Empress or give a birth to a crown prince.
Also, the more women you have, the more trouble you have, the more money you spend.
And so there were times when officials urged Emperors to limit the number of concubines when there were budgetary issues.
Having a few children ensures succession, having too many children would only ensure wars of succession.
Succession laws were created for the very reason of stopping successiob wars.
 
May 2009
1,307
#18
A lot of imperial Chinese concubines started out as female workers in the palace. The Palace Women's Service Organization was an all-female branch of the government that tended to many of the daily affairs of the palace (food preparation, sewing, etc), and this was also where most concubines were recruited from. Concubines lived in the "inner palace", the most private section of the imperial compound (although they were free to have visits from friends and family so they weren't totally cut off from the outside world). There were different ranks for concubines too. During the Zhou dynasty an emperor had his empress, his consorts, his concubines, his mistresses, and his paramours. Later dynasties ranked concubines in a similar way that officials were ranked.
 
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
#19
And so there were times when officials urged Emperors to limit the number of concubines when there were budgetary issues.
It's not only financial burden. If you have ever lived in a female dormitory, or been in a university sorority, you would know how difficult it is to maintain peace among a group of young women (even when they don't share a boyfriend).
 
Likes: macon
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
#20
In Christian Europe kings could not have more than one wife at a time, but could have unofficial mistresses. In some countries there were multiple wives, in others official concubines.
Even purely from the male's perspective, it really makes more sense to just have mistresses (free women) than concubines (kept women). A man and his mistress could part way once they grew tired of each other and start new relationship. He did not have to be married to a woman he no longer liked for life. Europeans kings and emperors were much more clever in this regard.