The standard Chinese term translated as "concubine" was qiè 妾, a term used since ancient times, which means "female slave".
Concubines resembled wives (Chinese: At first a man could have as many concubines as he could afford, however, from the Eastern Han (AD 25–220) onward, the maximal number of concubines a man could have was limited by law.
The terms concubinage and concubine are used today primarily when referring to non-marital partnerships of earlier eras.
In modern usage, a non-marital domestic relationship is commonly referred to as co-habitation (or similar terms), and the woman in such a relationship is generally referred to as a girlfriend, mistress, fiancé, lover or life partner.
Lady Yehenara, otherwise known as Empress Dowager Cixi, was arguably one of the most successful concubines in China's history.
Cixi first entered the court as a concubine to the Xianfeng Emperor, and gave birth to his only surviving son, who would become the Tongzhi Emperor.
In the Book of Rites chapter on “The Pattern of the Family” (Chinese: Besides, wives were married with dowries but concubines were not.
Concubines could be taken without any of the ceremonies used in marriages.
In contrast, their younger half-siblings by Concubine Zhao, Jia Tanchun and Jia Huan, developed distorted personalities, being children of concubine.
Tanchun insisted that the brother of her father's wife Madam Wang, instead of the brother of Concubine Zhao is her uncle, and strive to be excellent in the girls to overcome her inferiority.
During the Qing China (1644–1911), the status of concubines improved.