bao ernai


bao ernai
[Cant. bau yi lai] (‘keeping a second wife’)
Monogamy has been the sole legal form of marriage in China since 1950 and in Hong Kong (HK) since 1971. Monogamy has been widely accepted by women as they believe it to be to their advantage. However, men have been considerably more reluctant to change the habits and prerogatives of thousands of years and rich men in HK routinely keep and exchange mistresses. Ordinary men have more usually been constrained by the lack of financial resources to keep to the bonds of matrimony.
However, since the relocation of HK’s manufacturing base to Guangdong province managers, technicians, supervisors and truck drivers from HK have been using the opportunity to establish yi lai relationships. Young female migrant workers from rural Guangdong and neighbouring provinces are preferred workers in the factories because they are cheap, malleable and easy to train, creating a gender imbalance. Men from HK, while not highly desirable in HK, acquire greater exchange value in Guangdong because their salaries look larger and they can offer lifestyle and financial benefits otherwise unavailable to the young women who are consequently willing to enter into liaisons even without marriage. The phrase yi lai has entered HK slang to describe an easy-pull opening on a can of herbal drink.
The publicity in HK given to yi lai relationships has created a great sense of unease among wives whose husbands work in China. In 1998, a woman killed her two sons and then herself when she discovered her husband had a mistress in China. An HK legislator suggested making adultery a criminal offence, and the Guangdong Women’s Federation lobbied vigorously and successfully to have the definition of bigamy expanded to cover yi lai liaisons.
The phenomenon is also prevalent on the mainland, though the phrase, ‘keeping a second wife’ (bao ernai) can also refer to the less stable practice of booking or keeping a mistress, in which case it is also sometimes associated with the phrase ‘Miss Three Accompanies’ (Sanpeinü), which refers to escorts. In either case, the keeping of mistresses, concubines or second and even third wives (bao sannai) is common, and the high-ranking officials who were prosecuted for corruption—Chen Xitong, Wang Baosen, Hu Changqing or Cheng Kejie—all had at least one.
De Mente, B.L. (1996). NTC’s Dictionary of China’s Cultural Code Words. Lincolnwood: National Textbook Company.
Lang, Graeme and Smart, Josephine (2002). ‘Migration and the “Second Wife” in South China: Toward Cross-Border Polygyny’. International Migration Review 36 (Summer):546–69.
VERONICA PEARSON

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • xiaomi — (keeping a female secretary cum lover) Probably originating in Beijing in the 1980s, the term xiaomi refers to a young female secretary hired by a male boss in a private company more for her looks and sexual companionship than for her skills as a …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • adultery — Rejecting the polygamous sexual double standard of pre socialist China, the Maoist state sought to prohibit adultery by both sexes. An adulterer might be forced to make a public self criticism, or be demoted or even dismissed from a work unit.… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • Marriage Law of the PRC (1 January 1981) and revisions (2001) — One of the major steps the PRC took to counter age old forces that undermine women’s status is the Marriage Law of 1950. It outlawed arranged marriages, concubinage, footbinding and child marriages, and provided greater access to divorce for… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • sexual attitudes — The erotic has always held much ambivalence for Chinese writers and commoners alike. Sexuality was regarded as a natural, pleasurable act, while also deemed a dangerous and potentially contaminating activity. From a naturalistic point of view,… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • women (the condition of) — Socially, the PRC government has promulgated a series of statutes to promote women’s status and gender equality. The Marriage Law of 1950 backed by Mao prohibited arranged marriages, concubinage, foot binding and child marriages. The Marriage Law …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.