Shenzhen Metro Group launched "ladies first" subway cars on Monday, with the aim of providing a better travelling experience for female passengers and advocating care for women.
The city in Guangdong province is the first in the country to offer the service.
In a trial operation, the metro operator has designated the first and last compartments of every train on Lines 1, 3, 4 and 5 as priority carriages for women.
"The opening of 'ladies first' subway cars aims to promote a civilised social environment of caring for and respecting women," said Jian Lian, deputy general manager of Shenzhen Metro Group.
"The move shows the enhancement of urban civilisation in Shenzhen and its level of internationalization. It will also help enhance the city's metro services."
The courtesy is not mandatory, but male passengers are encouraged to show their gentility when carriages are packed with people, Jian said.
Shenzhen Metro's decision came after political adviser Su Zhongyang submitted a proposal during the annual sessions of the Guangdong provincial legislature and political advisory body in January that some female passengers feel uncomfortable during peak hours and sometimes even encountered harassment in the metro.
He suggested that special carriages be opened to provide a better environment for women.
"I am very excited to see that Shenzhen has launched the service so rapidly. It is a real demonstration of 'Shenzhen speed'," Su said
"There will be difficulties in implementing something new initially. We need some time to raise people's awareness and help them cultivate the habit of giving priority to women," he said, noting that some male passengers ignored the signs.
Shenzhen residents hailed the move.
"It is a boon for women, especially those pregnant or carrying babies. We will no longer be worried about uncomfortable touches from males or harassment. It is a show of respect to females," said a woman who only gave her surname as Yang.
"I fully support the move. I would only walk into priority carriages if the others are full and I am really in a hurry," said 33-year-old Zhang Yongqiang, a male passenger.
Other cities are launching similar services. Guangzhou, also in Guangdong, will start providing such carriages on Wednesday.