BEIJING - For most of the year, Mr Sui Wei makes his living as an actor. But come special occasions such as Chinese New Year or Valentine's Day, he puts his skills to use as a fake boyfriend for hire.
Since 2008, the Beijing-based thespian, 28, has been moonlighting as a temporary partner for single women tired of being alone or berated by their parents for being unmarried.
It began when he responded to an online post by a single woman who wanted her parents to stop nagging her. He didn't charge any money back then, though all his expenses were paid for.
"Then, it was out of fun. Now, I see it as a money-making venture," said Mr Sui, who told The Sunday Times that he has since had seven clients and now charges 500 yuan (S$99) daily.
Now, the phenomenon is spreading in China. More and more men like Mr Sui are offering to be fake partners for anyone willing to pay.
A search for "rental partners" on the Taobao online marketplace yielded more than 300 results though most appear to be hoaxes. Out of the 30-plus that look bona fide with photos and contact numbers, almost all are men offering to be fake boyfriends.
One posting reads: "Not getting any younger and still dreading facing the nagging parents? Need a boyfriend to face the family?"
Another fake boyfriend for rent is interior designer Wang Lei, 24, a Xian local doing it for the first time this year in the hope of making some extra money during a lull period in his work now.
"I got calls from more than 20 women, and also men, though I specified that I would take only female clients," he said.
"But no one closed the deal, saying prices were high or they were concerned about personal safety."
Mr Wang charges 300 yuan daily but those who hire him for two weeks get a discounted 200 yuan.
His rates are cheap. On Taobao, prices go as high as 2,000 yuan a day, excluding transport and lodging costs to be borne by the clients. Extras are offered too: 50 yuan for a kiss; 500 yuan for a fake boyfriend to stay overnight in a bed and 600 yuan in a couch.
Even foreigners are muscling into the action. Taobao has an advertisement by a man claiming to be a Caucasian living in China.