Why are harems (polygamy) so common and accepted in Chinese fantasy novels?

49 thoughts on “Why are harems (polygamy) so common and accepted in Chinese fantasy novels?

  1. I really dislike harem, to the point where I just won't read anything with the harem tag. I'm sure that it can be done tastefully but most of the time it's just the MC collecting a bunch of "jade beauties". I enjoy romance, which is a shame because in this genre finding a nice romantic side story without harem is pretty difficult. I'd say the majority of the popular novels on NU are harem, so it's clear that most people enjoy it, but I'd rather no romance at all than romance with harem included.

    As someone else said in the comments, these are often wish fulfilment stories so it comes down to what people want. Some people would choose polygamy if they had the opportunity to, while others like myself would choose monogamy.

  2. The problem with a lot of stories is that even though there's only one love Interest, they keeping adding more potential love Interests in. Sometimes the potential love Interest is even more interesting and has more character than the real love Interest.

  3. I don’t mind harem as long as everyone understands where they stand and the MC doesn’t give some bullsh!t reason about not hurting new girls feelings by rejecting her

  4. This explains why in Extraordinary Genius the Mc basically had three wives and his main wife’s only stand on it was she never wanted to see them

  5. My problem with harems in story's is that there often used as a way to keep people reading a sub par book and thus I will often see harems in badly written story's. But so long as it is in a well written story I don't mind.

  6. I'm not too big on novels with a harem. I tolerate it if the story is good (ex: A Will Eternal). I prefer novels with monogamy instead. In harem novels, I feel like each previous girl is only relevant for a while in the story until they are buried within the harem and serve little to no purpose in the story. Readers such as myself can't help but forget their names and who they are after they disappeared into the harem. And sometimes i feel that girls are put into the story as a power or social boost for the male mc. It's kinda sad.

  7. I don't generally like harem novels, but it can be done well. I'm binging A Will Eternal at the moment and I really like the way it's done there – basically the women fall for BXC, but all he sees is danger. He might be somewhat open to the idea of one or two of them, but every time it happens he tries to reject them, trying to protect his little life.

    I've read a few novels that really turned me off because they'd build up this really nice romantic tension with one love interest, and then just suddenly add three or four more. Done like that, it just kills the romantic tension.

  8. it simple tho don't see really the bad side of having alot of wife as long as u love them tho it's not bad for woman

  9. The authors don't put much thought in the harem and most of the relationships are forced. I especially HATE plots where the mc always defies all odds to win, while falling prey to aphrodisiac. He impregnates someone and that person is added to the harem.

  10. I got into chinese novels/dramas cause all the main Male lead are seen as so loyal that they wouldn't even look at another women even if the Female lead was "dead" or gone for a while etc.

    I don't like a lot of harem stories, not because of the whole playboy aspect but because of the inherent jealousy between the wives that leads to the children being abused and everyone being unhappy. This makes the Male lead seem stupid and uncaring, not worthy of the title male lead. If all of the harem loved each other and were close enough to look out for each other it may be even be sort of nice but if everyone is jealous and unhappy what kind of life is that to live…

    In male harems however, though the males fight for the female, the female always picks the one guy so it has a more of a 'second lead syndrome' vibe to it.

  11. That ain’t it lol, dude in the first movie was only going back to family. The dude in part 2 was accused to have one but didn’t

  12. I'm pretty sure I've only ever written one 'harem' webnovel, but it was more like a poly-amorous and complex relationship. I started with the male lead as the main protagonist, however, it eventually got to the point where all seven characters within the 'relationship' were all MCs. It becomes difficult to balance the characters properly, and simply keep track of all the random little details and nuances in the relationships. However, I can honestly say that it's one of my favorite and definitely most popular stories. Of course, when you name a series "Hardcore OP-ness", it's implied that it's gonna have a lot of comedy elements.

  13. I personally think it's alright, as long as the characters are all given depth and personality, I don't particularly like it when the females are just dolls for all intents and purposes, but also people with individual dreams and desires, especially when that personality is very deep. On the other hand I can even dislike a monogamous story if the female in the story is basically just a sex object for the main character, I wholeheartedly prefer deep and well written characters is basically what I'm saying, as long as it's that, and not just objects and plot devices, then it's fine.

  14. Western culture seems to shape their interpretation of religion more than religion shapes their culture. You see this in islam also, which is why the Islam of the middle east is synonymous with oppression and terrorism but here in the West its the religion of peace.

    In the Ancient near and far east as you mentioned harems were common for anyone wealthy enough to either have multiple wives or at least concubines. And that land is the origin of the judeo-christian values.

  15. I think that harem stories (especially within an imperial harem / concubinage setting) are so common for a few different reasons. The imperial harem was a source of major political intrigue and conflict. Lots of potential for story making here. Harem's were basically also the only major female educational establishment, the women in the harem would have been amongst the most educated women in the world. They learned literature, poetry, decorum, music, dance, all kinds of things. Again lots of potential for storytelling here. As in other places, there were instances in China where women from the Harem rose to positions of extreme power.

    The reality is that polygamy and concubinage are ancient institutions, even within Christendom (both only died out as institutions in Christendom when the Eastern Roman Emprie went down). Many men in East Asia, as you said, still have multiple women and all this. Lots of potential for conflict, so lots of potential for writing good stories.

  16. I usually dislike them because the connections emotionally and the relationships are usually pretty shallow other than a kind of one-sided love an exception for this is a Japanese anime called Tenchi Muyo where all the girls have different relationships but all are very real to the main character in the main character towards them plus a lot of them come from cultures having more than one wife is accepted in this series. Uline

  17. I do like harem stories but like other people have said in the comment, I dont like when they are treated as object to collect and unfortunately, this situation is often seen. So I prefer when the main character has a single love interest, like Meng Hao and Xu Qing.

  18. Let's be honest here, in most Chinese LN protagonists have over thousands of years of lifespan, at the end of the novel they are either immortal or very close to that.
    A man will get tired of their women after a few decades so let's not even mention hundreds/thousands of years. So I do kinda of approve of Harem in CNL because of the enormous amount of lifespan that people have.

  19. I have mixed feelings on harems. I usually like the standard western love story, one couple. But sometimes Wuxia does it right.

    In Martial World, all of Lin’s wives are fleshed out. We see their characters and fall in love with them just as much as Lin does.

    But say we have Against the Gods. I don’t like this harem because he never gets the chance to really bond with any of his wives. It’s more like this girl is beautiful, and he can charm them. So eventually he marries them.

    I love a developed romance, one that stretches among the whole Webnovel. One of the most important things to me is relatable characters who are HUMAN. It helps me “blend into” the book. To immerse myself in the world.

    That’s why I LOVE ISSTH. It has a romance that transcends the boundaries of life and death. He loves her so much, even though they frequently say she isn’t that beautiful. It’s an amazing love story from his younger years. His first and last love because that is all he needs.

    You don’t need a harem to have a good love story, but sometimes a good harem makes a great love story. It all depends on the character developement, timing, actions and like ability of the characters.

  20. i've read a lot of novels and every time we get a haram relationship, it's because the author is shit at romances or female character design. Harems are just fillers for a badass-mc relationship. I'd rather have a good female partner for the mc where one would care for and not something like MGA where the harem is gone for like 1200 chapters and get's mentioned once in a while.

  21. (Male-)Harem stories are actually pretty interesting as a setup for stories with female leads, since they certainly provide a lot of friction for anything to happen; since nobody needs to be secretive about it. The whole concubine(s) and such.

  22. I'm a mixed opinion on harem stories. I like them occasionally but sometimes I just want to be a western romantic and have a pair of lovers who fall for each other. My biggest problem with harem stories though is how often I've seen the romances be unearned, forgotten, or the females treated as not even real characters. Why should I care if the MC falls in love with what could be the equivalent of a cardboard box for all the personality that character has.

    Still, I think my biggest problem with harem is how essentially unimpactful more than a few of the romances feel. They feel like VERY short subplots that don't seem to add to the story or the main character. They don't change how the MC acts, thinks, or even affect the plot in any meaningful way than if they were just a loyal follower, if they actually help rather than simply disappear into the background until we need to mention the many lovers of the MC.

  23. Polygamy is the actual marriage system in ancient China. When the story of the novel takes place in a social context similar to that of ancient China, the existence of polygamy should not be overlooked. It is not advisable to measure an ancient Chinese person with the moral standards of modern Westerners. In fact, in ancient China, there was also the existence of monogamy, polyandry, and same-sex marriage. Therefore, the protagonist of the novel should have several marriage partners, which ultimately depends on the taste of the author.

  24. After years of research, I’ve concluded that there are two kinds of males: those who are into harem and fagots. If you’re a male and you don’t like harem then you are most likely a fagot.

  25. Ironically the Wuxia has The warrior couple or the warrior girl as a trope, long before the current feminism, even one of the 5 elders with Pai Mei and is the inventor of the Wing Chung and because every culture had polygamy because of the low birth rate , Game of Thrones and Vikings is based on

    ''Give me a son''.

    Although of course the wives of Fatty in ISSTH is exaggerated, but everything is exaggerated in the Xianxia XD

  26. It's okay, after all they are not living in our modern age but in some fantasy world. If it's normal there then why not 🙂

  27. I do not mind harem.But I am put off by repeated "beautiful enough to ruin kingdoms", "every man" and chapters wholly dedicated to the single thought: "the girl is beatiful".Most harems i read overdeliver on all three of those.If AWE was a harem story (and still like AWE now, just without BXC backing away at the last moment each time) it would neither gain nor lose much in my eyes.

  28. I don't approve of harems in real life, but in the context of a fictional story I'm willing to set my personal views aside.

  29. Something these discussions always forget (and this is no shame on Jeremy) is that the real historical reason for Harems was math.

    Let's say you're a wealthy guy in human history who wants a male heir to take over your business in a time when the nutrition, health care, and hygiene sucks.

    Well, let's put the chances of a miscarriage at about 50% (although this might be low), so you need to have 2 wives to produce one successful pregnancy.
    And the chance of a wife dying in childbirth is around 50% (or higher), so you need 4 wives, to produce a successful pregnancy.
    And the chances of the child being a girl are around 50%, so that doubles again to 8 wives.

    Eight wives, just to produce one successful pregnancy with a male heir during a year, and that's not even including the actual chances of fertilization, or that the wife might die of the flu or other disease anytime. (And so might the husband, which is why time is of the essence.) This is also why even in places like the UK where Polygamy wasn't common thanks to Christianity, you can find historical figures who had many wives, just not at the same time. Their wives kept dying in childbirth and other circumstances, forcing the men to remarry multiple times because they could only have one wife at a time.

    Fun bonus fact- (removed due to lack of evidence, apparently the effects of sex on men's health is still up for debate.)

  30. I think the term 小三little third is more of a contemporary thing and it has a more negative meaning to it. 妾is more appropriate 🤓

  31. I generally like the harem stories, so long as they don't go overboard and don't treat the women as collectibles who don't have any real role, personality, or point in the story. cough Against the Gods, Martial God Asura, and others. cough

  32. Harem for life! Lol but seriously if I am going to read a fantasy wish fulfillment type of story why not have everything you could ever want.

  33. I think it's kinda forced in the ones that I have read.. Not usually interesting enough to drive the plot but there nonetheless because fanservice

  34. I've mostly soured on harem stories because of Japanese novels. I don't prefer them in Chinese ones either. In the male lead stories it's basically all about appearance, the girls seldom seem to have anything going for them aside from a cliche personality trait and/or "talent". Don't mind it so much in female lead novels. Then again that's mostly dealing with the harems of high officials and the backbiting that happens in there, much more interesting in my opinion.

  35. Bai Xiochun keeps screwing up his chances for a harem, which I joke about to myself. Like how only 2 of the people under him are women currently.

  36. To be honest I do like myself some harem in my novels however, not to the point where every girl that is mentioned just becomes part of it for no reason. MGA takes the harem to far and so does ATG.

  37. I think in novels multiple lovers/wives (etc) can be a useful plot device, as it allows the protagonist to show his in-depth thoughts too a variety of different characters, with different viewpoints on them. For example one wife maybe very kind and angelic, whereas the other might be arrogant and demonic.

  38. The level of acceptance you described I think is definitely a little bit too exaggerated. It’s definitely against morality.

  39. Duke of Deer Mountain! I loved that novel. The harem wasn't necessary, but the main character was interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *