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

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,040
Portugal
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).
Good post! Among your best. I understand what you mean here!

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.
That is your perspective. So it is true at your eyes. It is not the perspective, or the truth of the societies that you are mentioning.
 
Sep 2016
600
天下
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).
The troublemakers could always be stripped of titles, exiled or forced to drink poison.
 
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
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.
I think the Palace provided an opportunity for low born girls to climb the social ladder. They were willing to sacrifice some personal dignity to please the emperor in exchange for a better life.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,756
Australia
I think the Palace provided an opportunity for low born girls to climb the social ladder. They were willing to sacrifice some personal dignity to please the emperor in exchange for a better life.
Concubinage was not seen as sacrificing personal dignity, but as a high status position that could lead to great influence for the girl and her family.
 
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
Concubinage was not seen as sacrificing personal dignity, but as a high status position that could lead to great influence for the girl and her family.
By "sacrificing personal dignity", I mean being subservient and serving an overly powerful man. In contrast, a girl from a rich and powerful family could have the luxury of choosing a man below her station, a man she could totally control.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,382
T'Republic of Yorkshire
By "sacrificing personal dignity", I mean being subservient and serving an overly powerful man. In contrast, a girl from a rich and powerful family could have the luxury of choosing a man below her station, a man she could totally control.
No, she couldn't. No matter how rich or powerful the family, women were not free to marry whomever they chose. especially not in East Asian aristocratic societies. Her mariage would be arranged by her parents and family.
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,543
I doubt even the emperor gets that much of a choice. Here's a picture comparing Qing concubines and the modern actresses who played them:



Even judging by the standards of beauty for the time, they're not exactly the type of faces that men would crawl through a mile of broken glass for. The emperor couldn't just sleep with anyone he feels like at any given day, there's a regimented rotation system in place for that. This leads me to suspect that the rigorous concubine election process had a lot of backroom dealings that the emperor either wasn't aware of, or was aware of but had no power to change.
 
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May 2018
895
Michigan
Wrong question: why wouldn't any rich, nation-ruling man have a lot of mistresses? Nearly every wealthy, successful man in history has had at least one mistress. When I become rich, I on partaking in this time-honored tradition.
 
Jan 2019
220
London, United Kingdom
Wrong question: why wouldn't any rich, nation-ruling man have a lot of mistresses? Nearly every wealthy, successful man in history has had at least one mistress. When I become rich, I on partaking in this time-honored tradition.
As I explained in previous posts, too many women brings problems and chaos, and the man ended up being hated by most of his mistresses.
 
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May 2018
895
Michigan
As I explained in previous posts, too many women brings problems and chaos, and the man ended up being hated by most of his mistresses.
From Helen of Troy and Paris to Mark Antony and Cleopatra, irrational emotions regarding women have been the fall of many great men.
 
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