Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Female bodyguards latest accessory for China's rich

By Feng Ke and Katie Hunt, CNN
updated 8:26 PM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
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
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Despite the Chinese leadership's austerity measures the country's biggest car show opened to much buzz.
updated 5:30 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief, Jaime FlorCruz, remembers when a phone call from a student alerted him to the Tiananmen Square protest
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 2:01 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
CNN's Brian Stelter talks with CCTV correspondent Jim Spellman on how the Chinese media has covered MH370's mystery.
China's economy has bested many others in just the past 10 years.
updated 2:02 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
In China, users of the "Life Black Box" website can set up final farewells to their friends in case they suddenly die.
updated 1:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
A recent university study claims Chinese micro-blogging activity might not be as vibrant as expected.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chinese art has been fetching some serious cash -- here's how we can elbow into the market
updated 10:51 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
A Shanghainese collector paid $36 million for this tiny cup decorated with chickens.
updated 2:57 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Ben Richardson on corruption in China: a veil of secrecy shrouds the links between power and wealth.
China's economy is slowing and growth in 2014 could fall short of the government's official target, according to a CNNMoney survey of economists.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is the first foreigner to visit the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
updated 9:26 PM EDT, Sun April 6, 2014
If the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 caused a rift in China-Malaysia relations, the two countries appear to have put it behind them.
updated 1:17 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
Martin Jacques argues that in the twenty-first century, China will challenge our perception of what it is to be modern.
A new survey of university students in China shows where they most want to work. What are the dream employers for Chinese students?
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
What are President Xi Jinping's greatest goals as he visits the EU headquarters in Brussels?
Last year, thousands of Chinese tourists flocked to Yellowstone National Park to view the mountains, the buffalo and Old Faithful.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
A senior Bloomberg News journalist quit his role earlier this month, saying the "mishandling" by his bosses of a story critical of China was behind his departure.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
"The aim is to let [families of MH370 passengers] express anger while keeping them restrained," says a Chinese official.
updated 9:58 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama's secret weapon in China? Michelle.
ADVERTISEMENT