These women, often from rural areas, are regularly kept in apartments that their lovers buy for them in urban centers.
Keeping a mistress is a normal part of life for successful Chinese businessmen and government officials, and in some ways they have become more visible in recent years, playing roles in corruption scandals and even, sometimes, turning in their lovers.
In a colorful article today London-based magazine Aeon, one "ernai" or "second woman" living in a $400,000 Beijing apartment explains:
Local estate agents target provincial officials and businessmen looking to put their money into Beijing’s property bubble, and the men fill up the apartments, bought as investments, with their women. ‘Half of the apartments are empty,’ she explained. ‘And the other half are full of girls.'
Quantifying how many apartments there are housing mistresses in China is close to impossible, but the practice of having, and "keeping" a mistress is widespread among the wealthy. About 90 percent of the top officials brought down by corruption scandals had mistresses, a government report from 2007 found. One had 18, it suggested. "Keeping a mistress is just like playing golf," one real estate developer who spent $6,100 a month to support a 20-year-old art major told The New York Times in 2011. "Both are expensive hobbies."
Since then, home prices have only gone way, way up.
This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.