Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Female bodyguards latest accessory for China's rich

By Feng Ke and Katie Hunt, CNN
January 17, 2014 -- Updated 0126 GMT (0926 HKT)
A female recruit during training at the Tianjiao International Security Academy in Beijing. A female recruit during training at the Tianjiao International Security Academy in Beijing.
HIDE CAPTION
Female bodyguards find a niche in China
body guards in training
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Number of female recruits training to be bodyguards on the rise
  • Female bodyguards are in demand among China's elite
  • Women said to blend in better than male bodyguards
  • The training is extremely tough and some students quit

Beijing (CNN) -- Yang Donglan has had an unusual career trajectory.

The 22-year-old once made a living selling cosmetics, but a year ago she switched her make-up brushes for nunchucks, undergoing a grueling training program to become a bodyguard.

"I can go out with the bosses and see a lot of things. It's eye-opening," she told CNN.

Yang completed a course at Tianjiao International Security Academy, a Beijing-based training camp founded in 2008 to train bodyguards capable of serving the growing numbers of China's elite.

China plans full-size 'Titanic' replica
Director fined over one-child policy
Yao Ming fights ivory trade in China

She had to crawl through mud in the freezing winter cold, learn to handle a firearm and stay awake for 24 hours in what she refers to as "devil training."

"I didn't do a lot of exercise before and when I first started, I had trouble breathing while running but I eventually caught up," she said.

Booming market

Chen Yongqing, the academy's founder and former bodyguard, said he spotted an opening and decided to jump on what has become a booming market.

In 2013, China had 317 billionaires (in U.S. dollars), second only to the United States, according to a ranking compiled by the Hurun Report, a Chinese version of Forbes' rich list.

"We not only give our bodyguards physical training, they are also provided training on things like wine tasting so that they can communicate effectively with their bosses," he said.

"They not only serve as bodyguards, but sometimes as a boss' personal assistant."

Chen says that the number of female students is on the rise, adding that woman bodyguards have an advantage over their male counterparts, particularly as the number of female millionaires and billionaires increases.

"Female bodyguards are more appealing to female employers or family members of male employers," he said.

Yang says that employers prefer female bodyguards because they don't stand out.

"It's easier for us to hide. People don't realize we are bodyguards," she says.

"Some guys are really tall; you can easily tell that he is a bodyguard. Also, girls tend to be better at taking care of people."

She is reluctant to divulge any details about her own boss, saying "loyalty is everything" in her job.

The training, which last for three weeks and costs up to 12,800 yuan ($2,100), is not for the faint-hearted and attracts women from different backgrounds.

Brutal training

Recent graduates Xu Si and Zhang Min both aspired to join the military when they were younger, but worked in sales and teaching before they became bodyguards.

Xu describes the training as brutal. In the first few days, she had to crawl through mud and jump into freezing water.

"I was trembling, and an 18-year boy quit in the middle," said Xu, adding that the other female recruits were her biggest encouragement.

Others enroll simply for the experience.

Dong, a white-collar professional who only gave her family name, told CNN that she hasn't decided whether she wants to be a bodyguard, but she believes the experience was valuable, allowing her to learn to be tough and persistent.

Chen said that many factors had led to the increase of female bodyguards -- a low employment rate, good payment rates, and the chance to meet VIPs and have other eye-opening experiences -- but the most important, Chen said, was the growing confidence of women in China today.

"Women today are more confident in taking careers that are usually perceived as male-dominated," Chen said.

Contrary to popular belief, Chen says that fewer women quit the course than men.

"Most of our girls stick it out to the end," he said.

Yang has been working as a bodyguard for almost a year and says she has no plans to change to a different career despite the risks involved.

"It's my duty to protect and act fast," Yang said. "I think I would stick to the job no matter what. It's a journey."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0551 GMT (1351 HKT)
David McKenzie meets some American teenagers who are spending a year in China to be fully immersed in the culture.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
The Chinese government pledges to protect a boy with HIV, who was shunned by his entire village in Sichuan, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons for Beijing.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, security chief Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite a high-profile anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past year.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour bookstore in Taipei is a popular hangout for both hipsters and bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees and defectors face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT