Prostitution in Chinese Society

From Acceptance to Persecution
  • Fang Fu Ruan
Part of the Perspectives in Sexuality book series (PISE)


References to prostitution in the ancient histories are so brief and vague that it is difficult to determine when and how the practice originated, but it is possible to speculate about the development of government-owned brothels. Some researchers believe that China’s first brothels were established in the seventh century B.C. by the famous statesman and philosopher Guan Zhong (?-645 B.C.), who used them as a means of increasing the state’s income. Guan, who was the premier of the State of Chi in the period of Duke Huan (reigning 681–643 B.C.), established seven government-owned markets with housing for 700 women in Duke Huan’s palace (Wang, 1934; Bullough & Bullough, 1987). However, it is possible that the women’s markets in Duke Huan’s palace were not public brothels, but proof of his sexual extravagance (van Gulik, 1961). Other scholars suggest that institutionalized prostitution in China began in the Western Han dynasty, when the famous Emperor Wu (reigning 140–87 B.C.) recruited female camp followers for his armies; these women were called “ying-chi” (“camp harlots”) (Chen, 1928; van Gulik, 1961). Some would place the institution of camp followers still earlier, in the Warring States period, when the King of Yue established a widows camp on a mountain to supply sexual outlets for his armies, possibly setting the precedent for Emperor Wu’s camp harlots (Chen, 1928; Wang, 1934).


Chinese Society Ching Dynasty Chinese Communist Party Warring States Period Premenstrual Tension 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fang Fu Ruan
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute for Advanced Study of Human SexualitySan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations