EUNUCH

EUNUCH

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others.

eunuch (play /ˈjuːnək/Greek: Ευνούχος) is a person born male most commonly castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences. (Less commonly, in translations of ancient texts, “eunuch” may refer to a man who is not castrated but who is impotent or celibate.)

Castration was typically carried out on the soon-to-be eunuch without his consent in order that he might perform a specific social function; this was common in many societies. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 21st century BC. Over the millennia since, they have performed a wide variety of functions in many different cultures: courtiers or equivalent domesticstreble singersreligious specialists, government officials, military commanders, and guardians of women or harem servants.

File:1749 eunuch.jpg
European illustration of one of the “white eunuchs” of the Ottoman Sultan’s court (1749)

Etymology and origins

The English word eunuch is from the Greek eune (“bed“) and ekhein (“to keep”), effectively “bed keeper”.

Eunuchs would probably be servants or slaves who, because of their function, had been castrated, usually in order to make them reliable servants of a royal court where physical access to the ruler could wield great influence. Seemingly lowly domestic functions—such as making the ruler’s bed, bathing him, cutting his hair, carrying him in his litter, or even relaying messages—could in theory give a eunuch “the ruler’s ear” and impart de facto power on the formally humble but trusted servant. Similar instances are reflected in the humble origins and etymology of many high offices (e.g., chancellor originally denoted a servant guarding the entrance to an official’s study). Eunuchs supposedly did not generally have loyalties to the military, the aristocracy, nor to a family of their own (having neither offspring nor in-laws, at the very least), and were thus seen as more trustworthy and less interested in establishing a private ‘dynasty’. Because their condition usually lowered their social status, they could also be easily replaced or killed without repercussion. In cultures that had both harems and eunuchs, eunuchs were sometimes used as harem servants (compare the female odalisque) or seraglio guards.

In Latin, the words eunuchus, spado, and castratus were used to denote eunuchs.

Eunuchs by region and epoch

Ancient Middle East

Eunuchs were familiar figures in the Assyrian Empire (ca. 850 till 622 BC) in the court of the Egyptian Pharaohs (down to the Lagid dynasty known as Ptolemies, ending with Cleopatra). Political eunuchism became a fully established institution among the Achamenide Persians.

Ancient Greece, Rome and Byzantium

The practice was also well established in Europe among the Greeks and Romans, although a role as court functionaries does not arise until Byzantine times. The Galli or Priests of Cybele were eunuchs.

In the late period of the Roman Empire, after the adoption of the oriental royal court model by the Emperors Diocletian and Constantine, Emperors were surrounded by eunuchs for such functions as bathing, hair cutting, dressing, and bureaucratic functions, in effect acting as a shield between the Emperor and his administrators from physical contact, enjoyed great influence in the Imperial Court (see Eusebius andEutropius). Eunuchs were believed loyal and indispensable.

However, it was not uncommon for wives to sleep with partially castrated eunuchs (those whose testicles were removed or rendered inactive only) whose sexual competence persisted for some time after the castration, hence the bitter epigram: “Do you ask, Panychus, why your Caelia only consorts with eunuchs? Caelia wants the flowers of marriage – not the fruit.”

At the Byzantine imperial court, there were a great number of eunuchs employed in domestic and administrative functions, actually organized as a separate hierarchy, following a parallel career of their own. Archieunuchs—each in charge of a group of eunuchs—were among the principal officers in Constantinople, under the emperors. Under Justinian in the 6th century, the eunuch Narses functioned as a successful general in a number of campaigns.

Following the Byzantine tradition, eunuchs had important tasks at the court of the Norman kingdom of Sicily during the middle 12th century. One of them Philip of Mahdia has been admiratus admiratorum, and another one, Peter the caid, was prime minister.

China

Empress Cixi’s eunuchs

http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/eunuchs1.html (Mary M Andeson)

Eunuchs, males who have been rendered sexually impotent by mutilation or removal of the external genitals, served as palace menials, harem watch-dogs, and spies for rulers in most of the ancient world kingdoms stretching from Rome, Greece, and North Africa, through the biblical lands, and on across the Man continent. Nor were castrati unknown in modern times. They were idolized in eigtheenth-century opera houses of Europe, having been emasculated as children to preserve their male soprano voices. The practice of using eunuchs for Vatican choir, was banned only ill 1878. Castrated aides attended the Great Moghul emperors of India, and the maharajas of Indian princely states under British rule well into the twentieth century. Nowhere, however, were eunuchs of such great and long-continuing historical significance as in the palaces of Imperial China.

http://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/234805.htm

Down through the centuries of China’s dynastic rule, officials repeatedly memorialized the Dragon Throne, pleading that eunuch interference in state affairs be curbed. However, almost none recommended that the ancient eunuch system be abolished. This is but one indication of how deeply ingrained in Chinese thinking was the custom that allowed only sexless males to serve the Imperial Presence, the ladies of his royal family, and his thousands of’ concubines, all amassed together in the “Great Within’ behind forbidden palace doors.

It should be pointed out that Chinese dynastic histories were all written by mandarins, the educated elite who, as a class, despised the palace eunuchs. Mandarins alone were eligible to hold office in the bureaucracy, the “Great Without.” Men qualified for coveted bureaucratic positions by passing grueling official examinations that required years of arduous study. The examinations were based on the philosophy of Confucius, the Great Sage, whose teachings became the backbone of Chinese culture. Records indicate that Confucius himself, some 5M years before Christ, gave his stamp of disapproval to eunuch assumption of power, thereby tending authority for centuries of Confucianists to defame all palace eunuchs. Some researchers suggest that the scholar-officials hated the eunuchs because, as personal attendants to the sovereign, the eunuchs always had his car, and so were in a better position than even the most powerful minister to curry favor, exercise influence, and accumulate wealth. Thus, when considering old Chinese accounts of eunuch treachery, allowance must be made for prejudice or exaggeration. Nonetheless, the bulk of evidence weighs so heavily against the eunuchs that few can doubt the harm they did the nation.

http://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/234805.htm

The use of eunuchs in Chinese courts was based in very old tradition, and no society clung more tenaciously to long-established custom than the Chinese. Court chronicles reveal that Chinese kings as early as the eighth century BC., and no doubt long before that, kept castrated servitors. Confucianism exalted all that was ancient, and admonished monarchs of every dynasty to meticulously follow precedents set not only by saintly historical kings of old, but also by god-kings glorified in China’s legendary past.

Since remotest times, and especially after the advent of Confucianism, Chinese males, including rulers, demanded strict moral purity in their womenfolk. Hordes of sexually impotent men were needed to guard the chastity of imperial ladies languishing in the teeming women’s quarters. The emperor kept the largest harem in the land not only to support his image as paramount personage of the realm, but also to ensure many heirs to the throne in a time of high infant mortality. If the emperor’s queens failed to bear a living heir, sons of the highest ranking concubines could succeed to the throne. The presence of numerous ever-watchful eunuchs lurking in the recesses of the sprawling palace guaranteed that each child born therein was sired by the monarch. Non-eunuch males, even relatives of the ruler or of his consorts, were barred from the vicinity of the women’s apartments on penalty of death.

http://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/234805.htm

Irrefutable royal paternity was essential to Chinese rulers, for the hoary cult of ancestor worship decreed that each emperor must perform the official sacrifices made to his deceased forebears as far back as the dynasty’s near-deified founder. Each emperor, as Heaven’s representative on earth, had to conduct the vital state religious rites necessary to maintain the harmonious balance between Heaven and the Chinese nation.

Eunuchs were also required to preserve the aura of sacredness and secrecy that surrounded the Imperial Presence. The Emperor of China1 was exalted as the recipient of the mystical Mandate of Heaven that sanctified his right to rule. Since it was believed that this Heaven-sent mandate could he rescinded if the emperor misgoverned or conducted himself unvirtuously, the personal life of the Son of Heaven was carefully shielded from ordinary mortals test they observe any human failings. Only the “effeminate, cringing eunuchs,” slavishly dependent upon the emperor for their very lives, were considered cowed enough to be silent witnesses to his private foibles and weaknesses.

During imperial audiences officials kept their eyes decorously lowered, for to look upon the royal countenance was strictly forbidden. When tile emperor proceeded through the capital city carried in the royal sedan chair by eunuchs, bamboo curtains were erected across the side streets to shield him from the vulgar view. All audienceiseekers, including envoys from vassal states and courts, had to kowtow before the Chinese emperor by sinking to their knees and knocking their heads nine times on tile floor to demonstrate total obeisance.

Eunuch Toms Ming Dynastyhttp://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/234805.htm

Much speculation exists as to why most monarchs of China so trusted their eunuchs one emperor praised them as “creatures docile and loyal as gelded animals” when bodily mutilation was universally abhorred in orthodox Chinese culture. Loss of limb or castration rendered a man unfit to worship before the carved wooden spirit tablets to which the ancestral souls descended during memorial services. More deplorable still, a eunuch, since he was incapable of siring sons, had no one to perform the obligatory sacrificial rites for his own soul after death. Thus, one who suffered this most shameful of deformities was deemed outside the pale ofChinese society

The belief was prevalent that a castrato, since he would always be childless, would not covet political power and position to pass it to sons, according to the Chinese tradition. Similarly, he would have no need to accumulate riches by selling inside palace information or stealing tile treasure and tribute that flowed to the imperial coffers. Yet history repeatedly proved this faith in eunuch passivity and loyalty unfounded. Official records, pethaps unfairly, cite few instances where palace eunuchs displayed genuine fidelity or civic concern.

In Chinese thinking, all forces indeed, allthings proceed naturally recurring cycles of yin and yang, reaching a peak (yin) and then inexorablyreceding to opposite depths (yin). (Maleness, strength, and virtue were under the influence of yang; while females, eunuchs, and evil were ruled by the forces of yin.) The yin-yang theory seemed to he borne out in the waxing and waning of eunuch power. What were some of the factors which led to the recurring, disastrous excesses of eunuch influence in the imperial courts?

Male infants sired by the emperor were reared in the profound seclusion of the palace, nourished by wet nurses till weaned. Thereafter, the young princes were placed almost exclusively in the hands of eunuchs who cherished the hope of remaining forever near the seat of power. Toward this end, many eunuchs went to exhaustive lengths to win and hold a future emperor’s favor. Unscrupulous, power-hungry eunuchs could – and often did mold a young heir apparent’s character to suit their own ambitions.

Many a prince became emperor while still a child. By the time he had reached his majority, his eunuchs had introduced him to enervating extremes of promiscuity and other debilitating habits. Once corrupted morally and physically, the new sovereign was a weak-willed tool in the hands of his caretakers – easily convinced that enemies and traitors lurked everywhere in the Great Without. In this way, his faith in legitimate government advisors was destroyed. His only recourse was to depend on his eunuchs for information, counsel, and support.

Sometimes eunuchs played upon the fierce female rivalries, jealousies, and raw ambitions prevalent in the harem. There, several thousand ladies competed for the attention of the emperor – their only road to wealth and power for themselves, their clans, and their hoped – for princely sons. More than one eunuch joined forces with a scheming empress or concubine in dark plots to do away with the heir apparent and place her own son or favorite in line for succession. If the intrigue was successful, the conspiring eunuch was in a position to usurp enormous authority.

Often a young ruler found himself completely beholden to eunuchs who had usurped such power that they were able to put him on the throne over a rival candidate. In such cases, the eunuchs were almost impossible to dislodge from power, for they kept control in their own hands from one short reign to the next. In some instances, the emperor actually feared his eunuch “benefactors.”

It must be acknowledged that certain Chinese emperors, had it not been for the backing of their eunuchs, would have been powerless in the face of organized factions of officials or mighty consort clans seeking control of the throne. Moreover, though many of the emperors were dominated by their eunuchs, many others throughout China’s imperial past were forceful and self-determined, and led their nation to a greatness and level of culture more advanced than those of contemporary civilizations in the West.

All countries large and small suffer one defect in common, the surrounding of the ruler with unworthy personnel… Those who would control rulers first discover their secret fears and wishes.

Han Fei Tzu, revered Chinese Minister of state and man of letters who died 233 BC

The Need for Eunuchs, How They Were Castrated, and Their lifestyle

Throughout this book, little has been said about the way its which Chinese males were castrated for palace service. Almost nothing was written on the subject in Chinese histories. However, in the late 1800s a British official stationed in China, George Carter Stent, published a paper giving more information on this subject than was ever before generally known in the Western world.[G. C. Stent, Chinese Eunuchs,” in Journal of the Royal Society, North China Branch. no, XI, 1887.] Although his study of palace eunuchs was made late in imperial rule, the eunuchs’ clinic which he described is known to have existed in the preceding Ming Dynasty, and it is assumed that many of its methods were in use long before the Ming era.

In Stent’s time there were only around 2,000 eunuchs employed in the Forbidden City, for the Manchu emperors had been determined to keep their numbers down. Another reason for the greatly reduced number of eunuchs may have been that during the previous fifty years, the Manchu Dynasty was ruled by a regent, Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi, for two successive little boy emperors, which would have considerably lessened the need for concubines.

Besides the eunuchs in the imperial palace, the numerous princely sons and married princesses of Manchu rulers were allowed to keep thirty eunuchs each in their private establishments. Imperial nephews and younger unmarried princes had to make do with twenty eunuchs, and grandsons with ten. Sons born to lesser concubines could employ four to six eunuch servants. During Manchu times, the only other persons allowed to employ eunuchs were all the numerous descendants of the eight Manchu banner chieftains who had originally assisted in establishing the Ching Dynasty in the 1600s: they were allowed twenty eunuchs each. All these dignitaries were not only entitled to use eunuchs, but were compelled to do so, or lose their rank for failing to keep up the dignity of their Manchu station.

Every fifth year, each princely son was required to furnish the Manchu palace with eight young eunuchs who had been well trained, inspected for proper castration, and declared free of disease or uncleanliness in person. The palace paid 250 taels to the princes for purchasing and training each eunuch. Since this system did not nearly supply the numbers of eunuchs required by the palace, grown men could. voluntarily have themselves castrated, but to be accepted for service at the palace, they had to find someone to vouch for their character, and they invariably ended up with menial jobs that did not necessitate entrance into the imperial ladies’ apartments. Large numbers of young boys, purchased from their families, were castrated and drafted into the palace where they were especially favored by harem ladies as pets and companions.

All eunuchs were thought of as “pure,” but those under ten years of age were termed “thoroughly pure.” These were prized by palace ladies and given as much freedom and familiarity as if they were girls, and allowed to perform bedroom and bathroom duties of the most intimate nature. Boy eunuchs were supposedly free of any licentiousness, even in thought. As they grew older they were replaced by younger eunuchs and given duties outside the ladies’ quarters.

Just outside the Forbidden City gate, but within the Imperial City, was a run-down budding where several “knifers”, – who were recognized by the government as qualified to perform castrations, though they received no government salary, plied their trade. Theirs was a hereditary, family profession. They collected six taels for each surgery and nursing the eunuch through the initial stage of recovery.

When the surgery was about to take place, the candidate was placed on a low bed in a semi-reclining position, and asked once more if he would ever regret being castrated. If the answer was no, one man clasped him about the waist while two others separated his legs and held them firmly down to prevent any movement. Tight bandages were wound around the thighs and lower abdomen, the patient was given a bowl of nerve-stunning” herbal tea, and his private parts were desensitized with baths of hot pepper water. Both penis and testicles were then swiftly cut off with a small curved knife as closely as possible to the body. A metal plug was immediately inserted into the urethra, and the entire wound covered with water-soaked paper and carefully bandaged. Immediately thereafter, the eunuch was made to walk about the room for two or three hours supported on each side by the “knifers” before he was allowed to lie down. He was not allowed to drink any liquid for three days, during which time lie suffered great agony from thirst and extreme pain, and was unable to urinate. At the end of three days, the bandages were removed, the inserted plug pulled out, and hopefully the sufferer was able to obtain relief with a copious flow of urine, at which time he was congratulated and considered out of danger. If the surgery rendered the eunuch unable to urinate, the passages having grown closed, he was doomed to an agonizing death.

It is claimed that eunuchs rarely died from the crude surgery, only about two cases in a hundred proving fatal. This is not difficult to believe, for if the fatality rate had been high, it is unlikely that thousands of males would have chosen this means to try to improve then economic status.

When thoroughly recovered, usually in two or three months, and after perhaps a year of training in princely establishments, they were transferred to the imperial palace where they were again closely examined by old, experienced eunuchs to ascertain that they had been rendered completely sexless.

The severed parts, euphemistically called the pao, meaning the “precious,” were preserved in a hermetically sealed vessel, and were highly valued by the eunuch. They were always placed on a high shelf to symbolize that the owner should rise to high rank. The eunuch also treasured his “precious” because, to be promoted to a higher grade, he was obliged to first display his emasculated parts and be reexamined by the chief eunuch. If his “Precious” should be lost or stolen, at promotion time he had to buy one from the eunuch clinic, or he could borrow or rent one from another eunuch. It was also vital that the eunuch’s organs be placed in his coffin at his death in the hope of hoodwinking the gods of the underworld into believing that he was a complete man: otherwise he was doomed to appeal in the next world as a she-mule.

Besides the hundreds and sometimes thousands of eunuchs employed in household and harem duties, a few were “ordained” to become one of the eighteen Lamaist priests which the palace maintained expressly to attend to the spiritual welfare of the female inmates. Though often as not the chosen eunuchs could neither read nor write and knew nothing about the craft of priesthood they earned a double salary. Needless to say, vacancies among the eunuch lamas were filled without delay.

Another some 300 eunuchs were employed as actors and singers in the ever popular palace theatricals. Eunuch performers lived outside the palace in the Imperial City on small salaries, but were accustomed to receive gratuities from their imperial audiences for especially pleasing performances,

Eunuchs who ran away from the palace were invariably caught by special police and returned to the Forbidden City. First-time offenders were imprisoned for two months, given twenty blows of the bamboo or whip, and sent back to duty. Those who deserted a second time were put in acangue for two months -a large wooden frame that clamped around the neck, preventing lying down or feeding oneself. Third time defectors were banished to Manchuria for two-and-a-half years, as were eunuchs who were caught in thievery. If the stolen goods were valued by the emperor, however, the offender was beheaded at a special grounds about ten miles from Peking. Neglect of duty or laziness were punished by whippings. The chief eunuch summoned one eunuch from each of the forty-eight household departments to administer the whipping with bamboo rods. The culprit received 80 to 100 blows and was then sent to a doctor -also eunuch -to have the wounds dressed. After three days, the offender was gain flogged, in a punishment called “raising the scabs.”

Eunuch salaries in the late 1800s usually ranged from two to four taels a month. Twelve taels was the highest pay allowed to eunuchs of any rank. In addition, each eunuch received a quantity of rice each month. Groups of eunuchs banded together to organize messes, each donating food as needed. The cooking was done in the palace kitchens. The eunuchs lived in small huts, called “menials’ houses,” attached to the sides of main buildings where their employers resided and where the eunuchs could be readily summoned. Each of the myriad of courtyards in the Forbidden City had a colony of eunuchs.

Palace eunuchs were allowed to worship in the temples, to burn incense, practice fasting, and donate money and offerings, but they were prohibited from ascending the altar of the main deity, as were all cripples, deformed persons, those lacking an eye, limb, or any other body part, and menstruating females.

Eunuchs were easily recognizable by their high falsetto voices (for which they were derisively called “crows”), as well as their want of beards, their cringing, hang-dog demeanor, and often their bloated appearance -though in old age they invariably became thin and deeply wrinkled, making them look like old women. Low-ranking eunuchs wore a long grey robe under a shorter dark blue coat, and had to wear their official hats and boots when on duty. In olden times, high-ranking palace eunuchs wore ornate robes of brilliantly embroidered colors.

Eunuchs had such a peculiar walk that they could easily be recognized at great distances. They characteristically leaned slightly forward, their legs close together, taking short, mincing steps, with the toes turned outward. Whether this odd walk was a physical necessity, or was imposed upon eunuchs as a rule of conduct to denote the eunuch’s station is not known.

For a long time after castration, many young eunuchs wet their beds and themselves. No notice of this was taken for a time, but a long continuance of the problem resulted in severe floggings, which were continued until the habit was broken or outgrown. Thus, the Chinese spoke of them behind their backs as “stinking eunuchs,” and claimed they could smell one a mile and a half away. A common expression used for a normal person who offended the nose was, “He’s smelly as a eunuch” The most common and vulgar name for a eunuch was “Old Earl” or “Old Rooster,” insulting terms that were never used to the eunuch’s face. Eunuchs were so extremely sensitive to any reference to their deficiency, it is said, that such items as a spoutless teapot or a tailless dog were never mentioned in their presence.

Most of the eunuchs’ leisure time was spent In gambling among themselves, their greatest source of enjoyment. It is said they were especially affectionate toward women and children, and loved pets, many of them keeping a puppy on which they lavished great affection. As late as tile 1920s, one dismissed but fairly well-off eunuch was commonly seen ice-skating on Peking’s outdoor rink, displaying miniature Chinese dogs that he sold to foreign ladies to make his living.

Records of eunuchs in China date to the Shang dynasty, when the Shang kings castrated prisoners of war. In China, castration includedremoval of the penis as well as the testicles. Both organs were cut off with a knife at the same time. Men sentenced to castrationwere turned into eunuch slaves of the Qin dynasty state perform forced labor for projects such as the Terracotta Army. The Qin government confiscated the property and enslaved the families of rapists who received castration as a punishment. Men punished with castration during the Han dynasty were also used as slave labor.

From ancient times until the Sui Dynasty, castration was both a traditional punishment (one of the Five Punishments) and a means of gaining employment in the Imperial service. At the end of the Ming Dynasty there were about 70,000 eunuchs (宦官 huànguān, or 太監 tàijiàn) employed by the emperor, with some serving inside the Imperial palace. Certain eunuchs gained immense power that occasionally superseded that of even the Grand SecretariesZheng He, who lived during the Ming Dynasty, is an example of such a eunuch. Self-castration was a common practice, although it was not always performed completely, which led to it being made illegal. During the early Ming period, China demanded to send the eunuchs as tribute to Korea, where some of them oversaw the Korean concubines in the harem of the Chinese Emperor.

When the Ming army finally captured Yunnan from Mongols in 1382, thousands of prisoners were killed and, according to the custom in times of war, their young sons – including Zheng He – were castrated. During the Miao Rebellions (Ming Dynasty), Chinese commanders castrated thousands of Miao boys when their tribes revolted, and then gave them as slaves to various officials.

The sons and grandsons of the rebel Yaqub Beg in China were all castrated. Surviving members of Yaqub Beg’s family included his 4 sons, 4 grandchildren (2 grandsons and 2 granddaughters), and 4 wives. They either died in prison in LanzhouGansu, or were killed by the Chinese. His sons Yima Kuli, K’ati Kuli, Maiti Kuli, and grandson Aisan Ahung were the only survivors in 1879. They were all underage children, and put on trial, sentenced to an agonizing death if they were complicit in their father’s rebellious “sedition”, or if they were innocent of their fathers crimes, were to be sentenced to castration and serving as a eunuch slave to Chinese troops, when they reached 11 years old, and handed over to the Imperial Household to be executed or castrated. In 1879, it was confirmed that the sentence of castration was carried out, Yaqub Beg’s son and grandsons were castrated by the Chinese court in 1879 and turned into eunuchs to work in the Imperial Palace.

It is said that the justification for the employment of eunuchs as high-ranking civil servants was that, since they were incapable of having children, they would not be tempted to seize power and start a dynasty. In many cases, eunuchs were considered more reliable than the scholar officials. A similar system existed in Vietnam.

The tension between eunuchs in the service of the emperor and virtuous Confucian officials is a familiar theme in Chinese history. In hisHistory of GovernmentSamuel Finer points out that reality was not always that clear-cut. There were instances of very capable eunuchs, who were valuable advisers to their emperor, and the resistance of the “virtuous” officials often stemmed from jealousy on their part. Ray Huang argues that in reality, eunuchs represented the personal will of the Emperor, while the officials represented the alternate political will of the bureaucracy. The clash between them would thus have been a clash of ideologies or political agenda.

The number of eunuchs in Imperial employ fell to 470 by 1912, when the practice of using them ceased.[citation needed] The last Imperial eunuch, Sun Yaoting died in December 1996.

Korea

The eunuchs of Korea, called Naesi (내시, 內侍), were officials to the king and other royalty in traditional Korean society. The first recorded appearance of a Korean eunuch was in Goryeosa (“History of Goryeo”), a compilation about the Goryeo period. In 1392, with the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, the Naesi system was revised, and the department was renamed the “Department of Naesi” (내시부, 內侍府).

The Naesi system included two ranks, those of Sangseon (상선, 尙膳, “Chief of Naesi”), who held the official title of senior second rank, andNaegwan (내관, 內官, “Common official naesi”), both of which held rank as officers. 140 naesi in total served the palace in Joseon Dynasty period. They also took the exam on Confucianism every month.[25] The naesi system was repealed in 1894 following Gabo reform.

Early on, castration consisted of daubing a boy’s genitals with human feces and having a dog bite them off. During the Yuan Dynasty, eunuchs became a desirable commodity for tributes, and dog bites were replaced by more sophisticated surgical techniques.

Ottoman Empire

File:Ottoman Eunech 1912.jpg

Chief Eunuch of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II at the Imperial Palace, 1912.

In the Middle Eastern empires, eunuchs were typically slaves imported from outside the Islamic domains. A fair proportion of male slaves were imported as eunuchs.

The Ottoman court harem—within the Topkapı Palace (1465–1853) and later the Dolmabahçe Palace (1853–1909) in Istanbul—was under the administration of the eunuchs. These were of two categories: Black Eunuchs and White Eunuchs. Black Eunuchs were Africans who served the concubines and officials in the Harem together with chamber maidens of low rank. The White Eunuchs were Europeans from the Balkans. They served the recruits at the Palace School and were from 1582 prohibited from entering the Harem. An important figure in the Ottoman court was the Chief Black Eunuch (Kızlar Ağası or Dar al-Saada Ağası). In control of the Harem and a perfect net of spies in the Black Eunuchs, the Chief Eunuch was involved in almost every palace intrigue and could thereby gain power over either the sultan or one of his viziers, ministers or other court officials.

File:Jean-Baptiste van Mour 010.jpg

 Harem scene with the Sultan

The eunuchs in the Ottoman Empire were created mainly at one Coptic monastery, at Abou Gerbe monastery on Mount Ghebel Eter. The Coptic priests sliced the penis and testicles off Nubian or Abyssinian slave boys around the age of eight. The boys were captured from Abyssinia and other areas in Sudan like Darfur and Kordofan then brought into Sudan and Egypt. During the operation, the Coptic clergyman chained the boys to tables and after slicing their sexual organs off, stuck a piece of bamboo into the genital area, then submerged them in neck high sand to burn. The recovery rate was ten percent. The resulting eunuchs fetched large profits in contrast to eunuchs from other areas.

File:Eunuch courtyard Harem Topkapi Istanbul 2007 85.JPG

Courtyard of the Eunuchs in the Harem of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

Indian subcontinent

Eunuchs in Indian Mughal royalty

http://worldphotocollections.blogspot.com/2010/05/indian-eunuchs-photo-collection.html

Eunuchs were frequently employed in Imperial palaces by Mughal rulers as servants for female royalty, and often attained high-status positions in society. Eunuchs in Imperial palaces were organized in a hierarchy, often with a senior or chief eunuch (Urdu:”Khwaja Saras”) directing junior eunuchs below him. Eunuchs were highly valued for their strength, ability to provide protection for ladies’ palaces and trustworthiness, allowing eunuchs to live amongst women with fewer worries. This enabled eunuchs to serve as messengers, watchmen, attendants and guards for palaces. Often, eunuchs also doubled as part of the King’s court of advisers.

http://worldphotocollections.blogspot.com/2010/05/indian-eunuchs-photo-collection.html

As a result of the number of high-status job openings available for eunuchs, poor families often converted one of their sons into a eunuch and had him work in the imperial palaces to create a steady source of revenue for the family and ensure a comfortable lifestyle for the son. This practice of castration was banned throughout the Empire in 1668 by Aurangzeb, but continued covertly.

The hijra of South Asia

Main article: Hijra (South Asia)
click for source of fullsized image
shrine deity or murti of the hijra goddess Bahuchara Mata (Balol Temple, Santhal, Gujarat)
photo by Harshal Purohit (http://androgyne.0catch.com/hijrax.htm)

The Ancient Indian Kama Sutra refers to people of a “third sex” (triteeyaprakrti), who can be dressed either in men’s or in women’s clothes and perform fellatio on men. The term has been translated as “eunuchs” (as in Sir Richard Burton‘s translation of the book), but these persons have also been considered to be the equivalent of the modern hijra of India.

http://worldphotocollections.blogspot.com/2010/05/indian-eunuchs-photo-collection.html

Hijra, a Hindi and Urdu term traditionally translated into English as “eunuch”, actually refers to what modern Westerners would call male-to-female transgender people and effeminate homosexuals (although some of them reportedly identify as belonging to a third sex). Some of them undergo ritual castration, but the majority do not. They usually dress in saris (traditional Indian garb worn by women) or shalwar kameez(traditional garb worn by women in South Asia) and wear heavy make-up. They typically live in the margins of society, face discrimination and earn their living in various ways, e.g., by coming uninvited at weddings, births, new shop openings and other major family events and singing until they are paid or given gifts to go away.The ceremony is supposed to bring good luck and fertility, while the curse of an unappeased hijra is feared by many. Other sources of income for the hijra are begging and prostitution. The begging is accompanied by singing and dancing and the hijras usually get the money easily. Some Indian provincial officials have used the assistance of hijras to collect taxes in the same fashion; they knock on the doors of shopkeepers, while dancing and singing, and embarrass them into paying.Recently, hijras have started to found organizations to improve their social condition and fight discrimination. There has even been a wave of hijra entering politics and being elected to high political positions.

http://worldphotocollections.blogspot.com/2010/05/indian-eunuchs-photo-collection.html

In the epic Mahabaratha of India, Arjuna, one of the five heroes – a person who is originally a handsome man, warrior and great archer – becomes Brihannala, disguised as a hijra, when the five spend their last year of exile in the kingdom of Virata. Brihannala/Arjuna lived among the palace women as a teacher of song and dance.

Religious castration

Castration as part of religious practice, and eunuchs occupying religious roles have been established prior to classical antiquity. Archaeological finds at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia indicate worship of a ‘Magna Mater’ figure, a forerunner of the Cybele goddess found in laterAnatolia and other parts of the near East. Later Roman followers of Cybele, were called Galli, who practiced ritual self-castration, known as sanguinaria.

The practice of religious castration continued into the Christian era, with members of the early church castrating themselves for religious purposes, although the extent and even the existence of this practice among Christians is subject to debate. The early theologianOrigen found scriptural justification for the practice in Matthew 19:12, where Jesus says, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (NRSV)

Tertullian, a 2nd century Church Father, described Jesus himself and Paul of Tarsus as spadones, which is translated as “eunuchs” in some contexts. Quoting from the cited book: ”…Tertullian takes ‘spado’ to mean virgin…”. The meaning of spado in late antiquity can be interpreted as a metaphor for celibacy, however Tertullian’s specifically refers to St. Paul as being castrated.

Eunuch priests have served various goddesses from India for many centuries. Similar phenomena are exemplified by some modern Indian communities of the Hijra, which are associated with a deity and with certain rituals and festivals – notably the devotees of Yellammadevi, orjogappas, who are not castrated and the Ali of southern India, of whom at least some are.

The 18th-century Russian Skoptzy (скопцы) sect was an example of a castration cult, where its members regarded castration as a way of renouncing the sins of the flesh. Several members of the 20th century Heaven’s Gate cult were found to have been castrated, apparently voluntarily and for the same reasons.

Eunuchs in the Bible

Eunuchs are mentioned many times in the Bible such as in the Book of Isaiah (56:4) using the word סריס (saris). Although the AncientHebrews did not practice castration, eunuchs were common in other cultures featured in the Bible, such as Ancient EgyptBabylonia, thePersian Empire and Ancient Rome. In the Book of Esther, servants of the harem of Ahasuerus such as Hegai and Shashgaz as well as other servants such as Hatach, Harbonah, Bigthan, and Teresh are referred to as sarisim. Being exposed to the consorts of the king, they would have likely been castrated.

There is some confusion regarding eunuchs in Old Testament passages, since the Hebrew word for eunuch, saris (סריס), could also refer to other servants and officials who had not been castrated but served in similar capacities.The Egyptian royal servant Potiphar is described as a saris in Genesis 39:1, although he was married and hence unlikely to have been a eunuch.

The reference to “eunuchs” in Matthew 19:12 has been considered by some as referring to homosexual men, particularly in the case of those eunuchs “so born from their mother’s womb”. Christians oppose this argument and state that the Bible’s use of the word “eunuch” refers strictly to men incapable of sexual intercourse or reproduction, through either birth defect or castration.

Castrato singers

Main article: Castrato

Eunuchs castrated before puberty were also valued and trained in several cultures for their exceptional voices, which retained a childlike and other-worldly flexibility and treble pitch. Such eunuchs were known as castrati. Unfortunately the choice had to be made at an age when the boy would not yet be able to consciously choose whether to sacrifice his reproductive capabilities, and there was no guarantee that the voice would remain of musical excellence after the operation.

As women were sometimes forbidden to sing in Church, their place was taken by castrati. The practice, known as castratism, remained popular until the 18th century and was known into the 19th century. The last famous Italian castrato, Giovanni Velluti, died in 1861. The sole existing recording of a castrato singer documents the voice of Alessandro Moreschi, the last eunuch in the Sistine Chapel choir, who died in 1922.

Non-castrated eunuchs

According to Byzantine historian Kathryn Ringrose,[52] while the pagans of Classical Antiquity based their notions of gender in general and eunuchs in particular on physiology (the genitalia), the Byzantine Christians based them on behaviour and more specifically procreation. Hence, by Late Antiquity the term “eunuch” had come to be applied not only to castrated men, but also to a wide range of men with comparable behavior, who had “chosen to withdraw from worldly activities and thus refused to procreate”. The broad sense of the term “eunuch” is reflected in the compendium of Roman law created by Justinian I in the 6th century known as the Digest or Pandects. That text distinguishes between two types of eunuchs – spadones (a general term denoting “one who has no generative power, an impotent person, whether by nature or by castration”, D 50.16.128) and castrati (castrated males, physically incapable of procreation). Spadones are eligible to marry women (D 23.3.39.1), institute posthumous heirs (D 28.2.6), and adopt children (Institutions of Justinian 1.11.9), unless they are castrati.

Eunuchs in the contemporary world

The hijra of India (see above) may number as many as 2,000,000, and are usually described as eunuchs, although they may be closer to male-to-female transsexual people, but have surgical castration instead of reassignment surgery, and seldom have access to hormones. The loss of testosterone and lack of estrogen means their bodies take on the characteristics of post-pubertal eunuchs.

The most commonly castrated men are advanced prostate cancer patients. In the United States alone there are more than 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year. It is estimated that over 80,000 of these men will be surgically or chemically castrated within six months of diagnosis. With the average life expectancy after castration, there are approximately a half million chemically or surgically castrated prostate cancer patients at any time in the U.S. alone. While most of these men would deny the term “eunuch,” they meet all physiological characteristics of post-pubertal eunuchs. Some do, however, embrace the term for the historic and psychological grounding that it gives them.

Convicted sex offenders who have been castrated are rare; although there is debate as to whether the drastic reduction of testosterone and the consequent diminishing of libido might have an effect on recidivism.

The most common group that actually embraces the term “eunuch” are the contemporary voluntary eunuchs, who number 7,000 to 10,000 in North America, with many more around the world.[60][61][62] Many of these are males who have a Male-to-Eunuch Gender Dysphoria. While they are born with male genitalia, their brain tells them that they are not male, but neither are they female. They seek castration to align their bodies with their brain sex. A second large group of the contemporary eunuchs have a Body Integrity Identity Disorder. This occurs when the brain does not accept the presence of some specific body part.

Popular Culture

Film

The 2001 documentary film Bombay Eunuch examines the changing role of India’s hijras, some of whom are also eunuchs. Once granted an honored place in Hindu society because they were thought to possess divine powers, the hijras have lost status as Western notions of gender and sexual identity have crept into Indian culture.

The 2003 documentary film American Eunuchs investigates the underworld of modern eunuchs in America. Each year in the United States hundreds of men voluntarily choose to be castrated and reinvent their sexual identity for reasons other than sex reassignment.

Kiss the Moon, a 2010 documentary, is set in a rapidly changing Pakistan. Three generations of eunuchs examine the ancient rituals and religious beliefs surrounding their community.

The 2011 film Nilkantho treats the plight of the Indian hijras with sensitivity. They arrive at Nishikanta’s house to shower blessings on his newborn son. Since Nishikanta is too poor to give them even a single pie, the eunuchs gave him money so that he may buy milk for his son. Nishikanta ends by joining the eunuch community to make a living.

The Last Eunuch, a 1991 Chinese biographical film directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang, tells the story of Li Lianying, a eunuch who wielded power in the waning days of the Qing Dynasty. The film was entered into the 41st Berlin International Film Festival, where it won an Honourable Mention.

Castration secrets of China’s last eunuch revealed

Updated March 16, 2009 21:15:00

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-03-16/castration-secrets-of-chinas-last-eunuch-revealed/1620756

Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting’s eyes in old age – the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China’s last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the “Emperor’s slave” but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of “living history”.

He had stories of the tortuous rituals of the Forbidden City, Emperor Pu Yi’s last moments there and the troubled puppet court run by the Japanese during the 1930s.

He escaped back to the heart of a civil war, became a Communist official and then a target of radical leftists before being finally left in peace.

This turbulent life has been recorded in the The Last Eunuch of China by amateur historian Jia Yinghua, who over years of friendship drew out of Sun the secrets that were too painful or intimate to spill to prying journalists or state archivists.

Sun died in 1996, in an old temple that had become his home, and his biography was finally published in English this year.

It unveils formerly taboo subjects like the sex life of eunuchs and the emperor they served, the agonising castrations often done at home and also often lethal, and the incontinence and shame that came with the promise of great power.

“He was conflicted over whether to tell the secrets of the emperor,” said Jia, adding that Sun preserved a loyalty to the old system because he had dedicated so much of his life to it.

“I was the only person he trusted. He did not even confide in his family, after they threw away his ‘treasure’”, Jia added, using traditional eunuchs’ slang for their preserved genitals.

They were discarded during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when having anything from the “old society” could put lives at risk.

“He only cried about two things; when telling me about the castration and about the loss of his ‘treasure’,” said Jia, who works as an energy bureaucrat, but devotes all his spare time to chronicling the dying days of Imperial China after a childhood enthralled by the eunuchs and princes who were his neighbours.

Sterility and power

Over years of painstaking research, he has gleaned arcane details about every aspect of palace life, along with secrets about the emperor’s sexuality and cruelty that would look at home on the front page of tabloid newspapers.

For centuries in China, the only men from outside the imperial family who were allowed into the Forbidden City’s private quarters were castrated ones.

They effectively swapped their reproductive organs for a hope of exclusive access to the emperor that made some into rich and influential politicians.

Sun’s impoverished family set him on this painful, risky path in hopes that he might one day be able to crush a bullying village landlord who stole their fields and burnt their house.

His desperate father performed the castration on the bed of their mud-walled home, with no anaesthetic and only oil-soaked paper as a bandage. A goose quill was inserted in Sun’s urethra to prevent it getting blocked as the wound healed.

He was unconscious for three days and could barely move for two months. When he finally rose from his bed, history played the first of a series of cruel tricks on him – he discovered the emperor he hoped to serve had abdicated several weeks earlier.

“He had a very tragic life. He had thought it was worthwhile for his father, but the sacrifice was in vain,” Jia said, in a house stacked with old books, newspapers and photos.

“He was very smart and shrewd. If the empire had not fallen there is a high chance he would have become powerful,” Jia added.

The young ex-emperor was eventually allowed to stay in the palace and Sun had risen to become an attendant to the empress when the imperial family were unceremoniously booted out of the Forbidden City, ending centuries of tradition and Sun’s dreams.

“He was castrated, then the emperor abdicated. He made it into the Forbidden City then Pu Yi was evicted. He followed him north and then the puppet regime collapsed. He felt life had played a joke at his expense,” Jia said.

Many eunuchs fled with palace treasures, but Sun took a crop of memories and a nose for political survival that turned out to be better tools for surviving years of civil war and ideological turbulence that followed.

“He never became rich, he never became powerful, but he became very rich in experience and secrets,” Jia said.

The Death of the Last Emperor’s Last Eunuch

By SETH FAISON
Published: December 20, 1996
New York Times Articles

Over the centuries, the most secretive and grotesque corner of China’s extensive imperial court belonged to the fraternity of special guardians: the eunuchs, whose high voices and soft demeanors often cloaked the viciousness of their back-alley politicking and custody of the Forbidden City’s magnificent exotica.

When the last emperor’s last eunuch died this week, he closed the final page on a bizarre chapter of Chinese imperial history, even though the last dynasty and its ancient system of governing were overthrown in 1911.

The eunuch, Sun Yaoting, was just days shy of 94 years old when he died at his home in a Beijing temple on Tuesday evening.

Like the thousands who preceded him through Chinese history, Mr. Sun was emasculated as a young boy, in a crude and risky operation that was arranged by his family, who were looking for a way out of poverty and into the private domain of China’s highest rulers.

Aside from the emperor, eunuchs were generally the only men trusted to enter the inner courtyards of the palace, where the women of the imperial family and harem lived. Other men, including officials, military guards and even the emperor’s male relatives, were often required to leave the palace grounds at night.

Using only hot chili sauce as a local anesthetic, the people who performed this fateful operation typically did so in one swoop, using a small, curved knife. In exchange for a lifetime of humiliation marked by incontinence and sexual frustration, a few eunuchs were able to achieve tremendous influence and wealth.

Only months after Mr. Sun’s family forced him through the ordeal in 1911, the Manchu Dynasty, which had ruled China since the early 1600′s, was overthrown, bringing an end to this system.

Yet Mr. Sun continued to serve Pu Yi, the puppet monarch depicted in the film ”The Last Emperor,” during the ensuing decade, when the former ruler was allowed to continue to live in the Forbidden City, occasionally playing tennis in its spacious courtyards.

Mr. Sun’s biographer, Jia Yinghua, said that the last eunuch was memorialized in a traditional ceremony at the Guanghua Temple in Beijing, where his family laid a gold cloth across his face, put rings on his fingers and shrouded him in white silk embroidered with the dragon and phoenix emblems of China’s imperial tradition.

‘He was a man of rare intelligence,” Mr. Jia told Reuters, recounting how Mr. Sun had revisited the Forbidden City in 1993 for the first time in more than 70 years and had pointed out inaccuracies in the historical displays.

In one corner of the outer square of the palace, a granite block still marks the spot where some of Mr. Sun’s fellow eunuchs were said to have lost their ”three precious,” as the organs were called in court parlance of the day. Traditionally, a eunuch preserved his genitals in a jar, to insure that they would eventually be buried with him, in the belief that this would guarantee his reincarnation as a ”full” man.

Yet Mr. Sun was not so fortunate. During the Cultural Revolution, a decade of intense political and social upheaval that began in 1966 — coincidentally the year that the former Emperor Pu Yi died — Mr. Sun’s family destroyed his jar. They were afraid of being punished by marauding Red Guards if such a symbol of China’s feudal past were discovered.

”He used to joke about it,” said Mr. Jia, who recorded Mr. Sun’s story in a book titled ”The Secrets of the Last Eunuch.”

”He said, ‘When I die I will come back as a cat or a dog.’ ”

Mr. Sun passed his later years tending Beijing’s temples, and Mr. Jia said the eunuch’s adopted son and grandson would now take his remains to a home village, near the northern city of Tianjin, for further ceremonies before having them cremated in Beijing.

The practice of using castrated men as guardians of the emperor’s inner court began more than 2,000 years ago.

According to Jonathan D. Spence, a China historian at Yale University, the practice reached its zenith during the reign of Emperor Wanli in the late 1500′s during the Ming Dynasty, when the ruler authorized the hiring of a large number of eunuchs and withdrew himself from the day-to-day running of the court.

”Since the emperor would not come out from the inner recesses of the Forbidden City — an area closed to all save the imperial family and their personal attendants,” Mr. Spence wrote in his book ”The Search for Modern China, ”the eunuchs became crucial intermediaries between the outer bureaucratic world and the inner imperial one.

”Any senior official with business that demanded the emperor’s attention had to persuade a eunuch to carry the message for him; the eunuchs, naturally enough, asked for fees in return for such service, and soon the more powerful ones were flattered and bribed by ambitious officials.”

A ruling principle of Chinese history emerged: whenever the authority of an emperor receded, so the influence of eunuchs grew as a court yielded to a web of corruption, a hallmark of a declining dynasty ripe to be overthrown.

A generation before Mr. Sun was born, Li Lianying accumulated vast influence as the favorite eunuch of the Empress Dowager Cixi, one of the greatest purveyors of imperial politics. She climbed from a concubine third-grade to become ruler of China for 40 years in the 19th century, and relentlessly played off her courtiers against one another.

Li headed an imperial staff of thousands of cooks, gardeners, laundreymen, cleaners, painters and other eunuchs, who were classified in a complex hierarchy of 48 separate grades.

”Each eunuch was apprenticed to a master,” wrote Marina Warner in ”The Dragon Empress,” a biography of Empress Dowager Cixi, ”and his eventual success or promotion depended on the favor in which his master was held. On his master’s death, a young eunuch might be forgotten in the sluices until the day he himself died, but if he was apprenticed to the chief eunuch he might rapidly acquire influence.”

Though eunuchs were generally illiterate, some, like Li Lianying, could read enough of the stylized court language to wield influence over officials bearing documents.

Mr. Jia, the biographer, said China’s last eunuch had never stopped lamenting the fall of the imperial system he had aspired to serve.

”That was the regret of his whole life,” Mr. Jia said.

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2 Responses to “EUNUCH”

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