Online “Imperial Harem” Games Promote Slavery & Narcissism?

Chinese woman on computer.

Chinese woman on computer.

From iFeng:

Controversial popular online game Imperial Harem accused of promoting slave mentality

“We should ask ourselves, why do they [post-90s kids] love palace dramas? Why are they addicted to the virtual world? Why do we force these kids to memorize Tang and Song poetry, and they refuse to, yet are willing to learn when playing online palace games?”

According to Xinhua Guiyang, June, 5th dispatch (reporter: Li Jinya) “Awaiting the Emperor, Thank you for your blessing”…in one palace game QQ group, whenever, the “Emperor” and “Empress” go online, voices of respect shower from all sides. After online games involving “farming”, “stealing vegetables” and “steal parking spaces” caused controversies, a game dealing with the Imperial Harem once again drew people’s attention and debate.

“Without any technical content, yet still so many people play it, this is unbelievable”

Recently, with the popularity of palace dramas such as War and Beauty and Beyond the Realm of Conscience, palace-themed online games also grew more popular by the day.

According to reports, the method players enters Imperial Harem games involves requesting invitation into a Harem QQ group, and after receiving the title of “Palace Lady”, “Beauty Girls”, or “Bodyguards” they must pay their daily respect to the Emperor, Empress and other high level officials. In addition they must participate in various “Imperial exams” organized by the palace ladies in order to be promoted to higher ranks such as “Princess” or “General”.

QQ group for Imperial Harem online game.

In a QQ group called “The Emperor’s Martial Arts Assembly”, an “Empress” level player told the reporter, her job is to manage the affairs of the Imperial Harem to alleviate the Emperor’s worries, along with the organization of the content of “Imperial exams” including personal biography, personal talents, and responding to questions.

Online, there are many QQ groups similar to “The Emperor’s Martial Arts Assembly”. After the reporter searched for “Palace groups”, he received over 500 related results, and with many groups all founded around 2009. Upon further investigation, most of the players of Imperial Harem games belonged to either the “post-80s” or “post-90’s” generation.

“Any game where one can level up are addictive. When I’m bored, I would start posting comments in the group.” A freshman from Xi’an Electronic and Science University told the reporter she has already attained the level of “Princess”. “In the past, I used to hate studying ancient poems, but in order to play this game, I memorized many Tang and Song Dynasty poems. I sound so well-spoken when making comments; it is a lot of fun.

Although many young players considered that Imperial Harem games are purely a novelty or just for wasting time, but to many older people, the obsession with this type of game is hard to comprehend.

A bunch of stranger meet online to act the part of different palace roles, just like playing house. This type of game involves no technical skills, yet so many people still play it, this is unbelievable.” Post-70s generation netizens who were now considered old fashioned criticized: “We believe this type of game where player must refer to one another as “slave” or “master” only serve to promote a slave mentality, the desire to elevate in rank only serving to satisfy ones narcissistic needs.”

Chinese Imperial Harem game cartoon.

“The higher one elevate in rank the more they will feel that they are above everyone else, creating a very satisfying experience.”

Recently, a certain website began to investigate why palace-themed games are popular, with over 80% of the respondents choosing “too much pressure, only playing to relax.”

Some media pointed out, since the TV drama Princess of Pearls became hugely popular 10 years ago, numerous Qing Dynasty, and palace-themed shows became consistently the focus for many TV series. The popularity of palace-themed games was a result of the proliferation of palace-themed dramas. Through the use of the Internet, young people can imagine and imitate the mysterious lifestyle of the Imperial Harem, which reflects their desire for wealth and power in many ways.

“Although it takes place in ancient times, many of the circumstances and drama reflect real life. I believe, the earlier I understand these things, the more it can help me in my life,” Duan Fanfang said. Palace dramas are very popular among the college crowd. “After watching [the television shows/dramas], you want to experience it, and when playing palace-themed games, the more one rises in rank, the higher up one feels above everyone else, a very satisfying experience.”

Some academics worry that the feudalistic and male slave mentality in “harem games” are not compatible with today’s social values, yet young people are tirelessly having fun playing it. Could it be their state of mind, or could their social values be altered?

“Those people born in the 80s and 90s grew up in a good environment, but at the same time experience loneliness, for them the notion of having brothers and sisters are of the past.” Huazhong Normal University psychology professor Zhang Jibo said: “They desire interaction, but at the same time fear the complex human relationships in real life, therefore online games became the portal for them to escape loneliness, a way for them to find self-confidence.”

“We should ask ourselves, why they [post-90s kids] become addicted to the world of online games?”

“I believe that connecting harem games with “slave mentality” and “narcissism” seems a bit excessive.” A “post-80s” generation white collar gamer from Guiyang said, “This is just a virtual game, we wouldn’t bring the same drama into the real world.”

Some education experts point out that social discourse on the “post-80s” and “post-90s” generations tend to be biased. Concerning this group we should treat them with acceptance and tolerance, rather than using preconceived values to judge them, or to label them.

Zhang Jibo believed, with the proliferation of “harem games” among young people, it is the society, schools, and parents that should reflect on this. “We should ask ourselves, why do they [post-90s kids] love palace dramas? Why are they addicted to the virtual world? Why do we force these kids to memorize Tang and Song poetry, and they refuse to, yet are willing to learn when playing online palace games?”

Comments on iFeng:


crycry Ignorant kids.


Ignorant plus stupid. sweat


Despise, strongly despise [these people/this trend], NC huffy


The crux of the problem is in education, in upbringing, in primary education, and in social education. It was precisely due to the lack of proper educational guidance that children become self-centered and use the methods of problem-solving in online games to solve real world problems.


Society during the course of development will inevitably have some unhealthy elements. In other words, progress will also require sacrifices. Schools not only need to have children learn knowledge but more importantly to have a holistic moral development.


Watched too many palace dramas.titter


The post-80s generation inherited the hard work and perseverance of the post-60s generation, the post-90s generation inherited the mental retardation of the post-70s generation.

Comments on QQ:


Harem games, self-made prostitutes, disgraceful, self-degrading . This type of people in the future will become the ideal candidate for escort girls.

腾讯西安市网友 众里寻你:

Even I want to be the Emperor! Think about it, how great it would be to be emperor, have fun everyday, have sex every night, even the gods cannot enjoy such luxury, [it is] good good good.

腾讯西安市网友 淘汰狼:

I think the benefit of this game outweighs the harm. China’s education system today is too dry, and lacks innovation. All the tests are full of texts, covering the whole page, which fail to gain students’ interest. If students playing this type of game is considered a tragedy then I want to ask, isn’t the Chinese education system a greater tragedy? If we could provide these students with a method of developing themselves, that is both entertaining and not in bad taste at the same time, would they still play this game? What more, I believe during the course of playing such games they can encounter more history and culture, while their thoughts and understanding will be further improved. Isn’t the power of knowledge great? Although people can sense the negative side of this game, but as a quick method to learn and be introduced to ancient poems, this game is not bad.

Moreover, what choice do students today have? Dull memorization and questions can drive anyone insane. All you guys have been students before, you should feel the same. Do students have a choice? Just like how many people who cannot afford houses, yet still work tirelessly to make money, is it because we are of wrongful birth, or is it because being poor is inherently to blame? Is there a choice? Today we have a easy and fun method to make students learn, we should support it.

腾讯西安市网友 帅:

You say that their [post-90s kids] methods are not proper, then do you have any better ideas on how to promote classic Chinese poetry?


A diverse society requires diverse developments,
why bother controlling others so much?
How can you expect out children to follow our paths??
I feel that playing such games, is not a problem.

腾讯网友 干煸豆角角:

I didn’t know there were games like this. I’m going to go play them too.


Nothing you can do, who lets those idiots shoot Qing Dynasty shows everyday, and worse, there are people who say they’re good.

China Imperial Harm game cartoon.

Imperial harem. chinaSMACK personals.


Written by Joe

Joe is a documentary producer and journalist based in Shanghai


Leave a Reply

One Ping

  1. Pingback:

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.