G. CARTER STENT
[G. Carter Stent, "Chinese Eunuchs," in: Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, No. 11, Shanghai, 1877.]
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[Read before the Society on 26th March, 1877.]
Much has been said and written about eunuchs at various times, but very little seems to be really known concerning them, save that they are unnaturally mutilated, and that their duties chiefly consist in attending on the inmates of harems. In fact, everything relating to them is described so vaguely that one is almost tempted to believe that eunuchs exist only in the Arabian Night's Entertainments and other eastern tales, or in the imaginations of the writers, rather than actually belonging to and forming no inconsiderable portion of the human race.
Curiously enough, with one trifling exception, eunuchs are only to be found in eastern despotic countries, the enlightening influence of Christianity preventing such unnatural proceedings being practised in the countries of those who profess it. This serves to shew at least one beneficial result of the spread of Christianity; for while we are free from the baneful practice, it is a vile blot on less fortunate countries; too palpably showing in what a low estimation the women of these countries must be held, when their husbands or masters conceive it necessary to resort to such horrible mutilations of one sex to keep the other pure;-- for it is but sophistry to say that eunuchs are merely kept to mark the rank of the owner, to add to the dignity of his establishment, and other balderdash of a like nature. There can be no other motive in using them than the suspicion, distrust and jealousy of eastern potentates and others, of the fidelity of their wives and concubines; and the dread that if men were employed, licentiousness and profligacy would run riot in their harems.
Eunuchs are generally represented as being vindictive and revengeful in disposition; this, if true, cannot be wondered at, for if they have been made eunuchs in their childhood, and against their own inclination, the injustice and barbarity perpetrated on them, as they grow up and fully perceive its greatness, must naturally rankle in their minds and tend to breed and develop all those vices for which we give them credit. On the other hand, should they have arrived at a period of adolescence, and have enjoyed intercourse with the opposite sex previous to castration or mutilation--either with or without their own consent--no punishment can be conceived more horrible than that which they daily and hourly endure--that of seeing women in their most abandoned moments, and knowing at the same time they have for ever lost their virility, and consequently, all power of the greatest enjoyment in life. They may beg and are, at the time, physically dead to all feeling of sensual pleasure, but it is impossible their minds and memories can be dead or oblivious of what had been or might still have been theirs, but for their mutilation. Those, therefore, who have indulged in sexual intercourse previous to castration, must feel the loss of their virility much more keenly than those who have been made eunuchs before they felt or experienced those mysterious workings of nature which accompany the adolescence of both sexes; and this also would tend to embitter and envenom all their after lives, and fill them with but ill-concealed envy and hate.
I shall not endeavour to give a detailed account of the origin of eunuchs--particularly those of other countries--but, with the exception of a short extract or two, shall only give a brief sketch of here and there one known to Chinese history, a few of their peculiarities, and the mode of depriving them of their procreative powers, which would seem also to deprive them of every virtue, leaving them the vile and contemptible beings they are generally depicted.
In "Smith's Bible Dictionary" we find the following remarks regarding eunuchs:--
"The origination of the practice is ascribed to Semiramis (Amm. Marcell. xiv. 6), and is no doubt as early, or nearly so, as eastern despotism itself. Their incapacity, as in the case of mutes, is the ground of reliance upon them (Clarke's Travels, part ii. § 1-13; Busbeq. Ep. i. 33). By reason of the mysterious distance at which the sovereign sought to keep his subjects (Herod. i. 99. comp. Esth. iv. 11), and of the malignant jealousy fostered by the debased relation of the sexes, such wretches, detached from social interests (especially when, as commonly, and as amongst the Jews, foreigners), the natural slaves of either sex (Esth. iv. 5), and having no prospect in rebellion save the change of masters, were the fittest props of a government resting on a servile relation, the most complete organa eupsycha of its despotism or its Iust, (but see Esth. ii. 21), guardians (Xenoph. Cyrop. vii. 5. § 15: Herod. viii. 105) of the monarch's person, and the sole confidential witnesses of his unguarded or undignified moments. Hence they have in all ages frequently risen to high offices of trust, etc."
To quote again from "Smith's Bible Dictionary," in speaking of eunuchs, we find the remarks:
"The moral tendency of this sad condition is well known to be the repression of courage, gentleness, shame and remorse, the development of malice, and often of melancholy, and a disposition to suicide." ...
"The operation itself, especially in infancy, is not more dangerous than an ordinary amputation. Chardin (ii. 285) says that only one in four survives; and Clot Bey, chief physician of the Pasha, states that two-thirds die. Buckhardt, (Nub. p. 829), is mistaken, when he says that the operation is only fatal in about two out of hundred cases."
I shall have occasion hereafter to call the attention of my hearers to some of the preceding remarks, and see how far they agree with the facts as they stand regarding Chinese eunuchs.
The Cyclopedia (Penny) gives the definition of eunuch as "one who has care of a bed;" and goes on to say in regard to the custom of making eunuchs:--
"This peculiar species of barbarity was a Persian practice (Herod. vi. 32). It appears however that the Greeks sometimes carried on the trade of making eunuchs, whom they sold at Ephesus and Sardis to the Persians for high prices; the Persians considering that eunuchs generally were more trustworthy than other men. (Herod. viii. 105). Tavernier tells us that in the kingdom of Bootan twenty thousand eunuchs were annually made in his time, to sell to other nations; and the seraglios of the east are principally served and guarded by them to the present day."
"The Christian emperors of Rome forbade the practice of making eunuchs, particularly Constantine; and Justinian imposed a law of retaliation upon such as exercised this inhumanity. In Italy however the process of castration is still practised upon children intended to supply the operas and theatres of Europe as singers. The council of Nice condemned those who from excess of zeal made eunuchs of themselves. Persons so mutilated were not admitted into holy orders."
"Certain heretics of the third century bore the name of Eunuchs, who had the folly or madness, after the example of Origen, not only to castrate those of their own persuasion, but all whom they could lay hands on. They were also called Velasians, from Velasius, an Arab, who was their chief. (See Epiphanius and Baronius' Annals, under the years 249 and 260)."
In an able article in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, (Vol. lxxv. p. 60) named "The Past and Future of China," we find:--
"The evils of polygamy, however, were aggravated by the monarchs of the 'Han dynasty raising eunuchs of the court to important offices in the State. In China, these men, emasculated ineverything save craftiness and ambition, came to exercise a pernicious influence on the government; but, forming an association for mutual aid among themselves, they were the means of ruining many successive dynasties without themselves being displaced."
"Long experience has shown, in China as in other empires, that the energetic founders of a dynasty are by-and-by succeeded by men who give themselves up to pleasures--betaking themselves to the harem, and resigning the reins of government in many cases to crafty and ambitious eunuchs--a class of men who, as we have seen, have proved the bane of almost every dynasty for the last sixteen centuries."
Herodotus (iii. 49), informs us that "Periander had selected the sons of the Corcyraean nobles, and sent them to Sardis to be emasculated, in revenge of an insult offered him; for the Corcyraeans had first committed an outrageous deed against him."
Again, we find (Herod. vi. 32), that when the Persian generals had made themselves masters of the cities they selected the handsomest youths, and castrated them, and made them eunuchs instead of men."
Further on, (Herod. viii. 105), we are told that Panionius, "whenever he purchased boys remarkable for beauty, having castrated them, he used to take and sell them at Sardis and Ephesus for large sums; for with the barbarians eunuchs are more valued than others, on account of their perfect fidelity."
Eunuchs, in all generations and in all countries appear to have been objects of hate and fear, and often not without reason; for, strangely enough, when in possession of power, they have almost invariably presumed on it; the result has been that the whole class has often suffered through the fault of one person. There have been periods when the hatred against them, through their overweening arrogance, has reached to such a pitch that a general massacre of the eunuchs has taken place ere the hatred of the populace could be appeased.
Our earliest impressions of eunuchs--and those that cling longest and
most tenaciously to the memory of most persons belonging to western nations--are
derived from tales of eastern romance. In these the eunuch seems almost
a mythical personage; he appears occasionally on the scene, generally entrusted
with some death-dealing commission, which he proceeds, scymeter in hand,
or provided with bag, cord, box, or poison to execute; we follow his actions
with awe; when he disappears we know no more of him--his further life is
shrouded in mystery. Some eunuchs, I doubt not, could tell strange tales
of eastern licentiousness and despotism in the harem, had they the opportunity
of doing so--safely.
In the bible eunuchs are variously spoken of as eunuchs, officers, chamberlains, etc. (See note at end), and we see that they have often risen--like those in China, formerly--to high rank, both in civil and military capacities: that they have often been the possessors of great power, which they have wielded to their own benefit, have had, at times, undue influence with their employers, and have been entrusted with duties which could not conveniently have been given to others. Indeed, there is a great similarity in the history of eunuchs, in no matter what time or country they may have belonged. We notice this remarkable difference, however, that whereas in other eastern countries any wealthy persons can employ eunuchs in their families, in China they can only be used by certain members of the imperial family, and in the families of the high hereditary princes whose ancestors assisted in establishing the present dynasty. These eight princes possess--in some cases--more than royal privileges; their rank is hereditary. In brief, eunuchs, to all intents and purposes are, in China, an appanage of royalty only.
ORIGIN OF EUNUCHS B.C. 1100.
As far as I can ascertain, no mention is made of eunuchs in Chinese history previous to the Chou dynasty, or about 1100 B.C. At this period we are told that Chou-kung, [char 1] the younger brother of Wu-wang, [char 2], the first monarch of the Chou dynasty, framed a code of laws for China, and among the five modes of punishment he introduced, we find castration. Although I can find no actual law where the criminal, after being castrated, was made to serve the members of the royal family, yet both history and tradition says that such was the case, and there can be very little doubt but that it was really so. Indeed, the very name of the punishment is proof sufficient--kung-hsing, [char 3]. (Palace punishment), while one of the common terms for eunuch is also another convincing proof--if one were needed--lao-kung-yen, [char 4]--the centre character meaning both palace and castration.
It may be presumed that the system of employing eunuchs in the palace was found to answer; and gave such satisfaction, that finding, in the lapse of years and the increase of licentiousness, the supply of criminals to be made eunuchs not being equal to the demand for their services, other means were resorted to to obtain them. Boys were either bought, sent by their relatives, or obtained from other sources, and castrated to fill the various posts in the palace, caused by keeping up establishments, rendered necessary by the increasing style of splendour and luxury in which each succeeding monarch lived; till what had been originally a punishment only, became by custom or necessity an established rule.
In other dynasties eunuchs generally possessed great power and influence, in this, they fortunately possess little or none; consequently we do not hear much of them or their doings; and a foreigner might live in China--even in Peking--for years, and scarcely know there were such persons in the country, unless indeed he was familiar with the language and casually heard the word "eunuch" applied to another as a term of abuse.
But little is mentioned of eunuchs in Chinese history, save of those who have distinguished themselves in some form or other; as a rule they are spoken of vaguely, as if not worth mentioning. I will select a few from amongst those who have come prominently before the Chinese world; tracing one or more from the dynasty in which they commence, through succeeding ones, down to the present time, giving a slight account of each, and finishing with a brief sketch of the eunuchs of the present dynasty and reign.
Having said thus much I shall now proceed to introduce each eunuch in turn, and will commence with one named Ch'in-yen, [char 5], who lived about 720 B.C.
In the reign of Chou-'huan-wang, [char 6], of the Chou dynasty, the country was split up into a number of petty states: one of these was governed by a prince named Sung-kung, [char 7].
This prince was holding his court one day, when a minister named 'Hua-fu, [char 8], had the daring to kill a rival minister in his actual presence. The whole of the officers wore naturally indignant, and concerted measures to slay the obnoxious 'Hua-fu on the following day. Their plan, however, was frustrated by the eunuch, who secretly despatched a letter to 'Hua-fu, informing him of the conspiracy against his life.
The next day 'Hua-fu entered the court, bringing with him eight hundred soldiers, and slew not only the ministers but the prince himself. Ch'in-yen, the eunuch is spoken of as the one who "spoilt the affair" by his officiousness.
An instance is given in the Lieh-kuo, [char 9], where a eunuch was employed as a minister of death, which gives one an idea that--like eunuchs in other countries--they were employed as "private executioners" occasionally.
Chin-hsien-kung, [char 10], of the Chou dynasty (B.C. 650), instigated by a favourite concubine, ordered a eunuch named, Kuo-chi, [char 11], to go and slay his second son Chung-erh, [char 12]. The eunuch departed on his mission, but the prince, being secretly informed of this design, jumped over the wall of his palace and fled; so closely, however, had he been pursued, that the eunuch in making a cut at the prince while he was getting over the wall, cut off a portion of his sleeve, which he carried back to his royal master to shew that he had done his utmost to effect his object.
About the same period (B.C. 651), we have the following tale, which shews how a eunuch, to gratify his hatred, succeeded in setting a father against a son:
The king of Chi ([char 13]), had a favourite concubine, named Ts'ou, [char 14], with whom he was much infatuated. He also had a favourite eunuch, named I-li, [char 15].
This eunuch had an intense hatred to the heir-apparont, on account of having been kicked by him for his insolence on one occasion. He was too cunning to report the conduct of the prince to his father, as investigation might elicit facts which would not redound to his own credit. He therefore, as he imagined, ensured the destruction of his enemy by a more certain means; this was by playing so on the feelings of the concubine as to cause her to influence the king to destroy the prince.
The eunuch set to work by representing to the concubine that the prince constantly spoke of her in a disrespectful manner, implying that her conduct was no better than it should be. His account inflamed the anger of the concubine to such a pitch that she determined to have revenge on the prince; scratching her own face, therefore, and disordering her robes, she ran to the apartments of the king in this state, declaring his son had done it in the struggle to take liberties with her.
The king readily believed the tale of his favourite, and flying into a rage, immediately ordered the eunuch to behead the prince; but the latter, being informed of his intended fate, fled. Wandering about at night the prince was taken up as a vagrant and brought before a Censor, who discovering his rank and the danger he was in, concealed him in his own house.
The eunuch, meanwhile, taking with him a number of soldiers, instituted a strict search through the houses of the officers of the court--feeling positive that the prince must be secreted in one of these; at length he came to the Censor's house, which he searched, the prince escaping only by being disguised as a woman, and passing off as one of the female members of the family.
The prince afterwards fled the country, and on the death of his father some years later, he returned to his home and beheaded his old enemy the eunuch.
I shall now skip over a period of some 400 years and bring my subject
down to the Ch'in dynasty, about 250 B.C.; where casual mention only, in
the Hsi 'Han, [char 16], goes to prove that eunuchs began to be largely
used in excess of those who might have been punished by emasculation.
We are told in the book above quoted that Ch'in-shih-'huang, [char 17], built a palace, which he named, O-'huang-kung, [char 18], the walls of which were 15 li in circumference. Within this enclosure at every fifth step was a tower, and at every tenth an enclosed pavilion. Within the walls, also, were gardens filled with rare flowers and plants, and a crystal stream, spanned here and there by marble bridges, meandered through the gardens, adding to the beauty of the scene.
In this delightful place the emperor kept three thousand beautiful concubines who were attended by innumerable female servants. After he had dismissed his court, the emperor loved to come hither and enjoy himself in the society of the ladies, drinking with them, listening to their music, or strolling with them through the beautiful gardens.
But as it was impossible to keep so immense a place in order with women only, and as he feared the ladies would give way to licentiousness were he to employ men to do the necessary work, the emperor selected a great number of lads who were made eunuchs for this purpose.
Mayers' "Chinese Readers' Manual" gives a short account of a eunuch named Chao-kao, [char 19], who existed during the same dynasty. It says there that he was a "eunuch in the service of Ch'in Shih-'huang-ti, [char 20], on whose death, B.C. 210, he conspired with the minister Li-ssu, [char 21], in fabricating a false testament, by which the sovereignty of the empire was bequeathed to the Emperor's second son 'Hu-'hai, [char 22]: the heir apparent Fu-su, [char 23], having previously been sent into banishment. Chao-kao ingratiated himself with his Imperial protege by yielding boundless compliance with the latter's wishes, but his ambition still aimed at a more entire control of power. In furtherance of this secret design he sought to remove from his path all possible antagonists; and in order to discover who were boldest among the courtiers he, on one occasion, presented a stag to the young sovereign, saying 'This is a horse for your Majesty.' Some of the courtiers, on being asked by the Emperor what the animal was, remained silent; others replied 'This is certainly a stag.' Of all these, whom he regarded as daring to oppose his will, Chao-kao speedily effected the destruction. Trusting at length in his supposed power, he deposed the Emperor, B.C. 207, and put him to death, but was shortly afterwards assassinated by the youthful heir to the Throne."
This little episode shews the daring of the eunuch, and that he scrupled at nothing to obtain his ends, even going to the length of regicide.
A hundred years later, or about 100 B.C., we find an instance of castration as a punishment. Wu-ti, [char 24], of the former 'Han dynasty despatched a general named Li-ling, [char 25], with a large force to subjugate the Hsiung-nu Tartars. He was defeated, however, and fearing to return to his own country, voluntarily gave himself up a prisoner to the enemy.
On this being reported to Wu-ti, the enraged emperor ordered the whole of Li-ling's family to be beheaded. One of his ministers, named Ssu-ma Ch'ien, [char 26], however, remonstrated with the emperor, telling him that Li-ling was loyal, and that even if he had submitted to the Tartars he had good and sufficient reasons for doing so. The emperor, angry with Ssu-ma Ch'ien for daring to take the part of a traitor, ordered him to be castrated and thrown into prison, where he lingered for a while, but was eventually taken into the palace and did duty there as a eunuch. (He completed his great work "Historical Records," [char 27], after castration). His punishinent is spoken of as "palace punishment", [char 28].
I now take another leap of 200 odd years, or to about A.D. 170, at the time of the 'Han dynasty, before Liupai ascended the throne.
The emperor Ling ([char 29]), had ten favourite eunuchs. These managed, not only the affairs of the palace, but the more important business of state; without scruple, making use of their influence and power to extort wealth from all ranks and classes; and those who failed to comply with their rapacious demands were invariably made to feel the power of the eunuchs by being stripped of office and honours, as well as having their wealth squeezed out of them.
When the emperor died the ten eunuchs conspired together to establish his second son on the throne, in preference to the eldest who was weak and delicate; but 'Ho-chin, [char 30], the uncle of the two princes, expressed his intention of going against the wishes of the ten ennuchs, and of supporting the eldest son as the rightful heir to the throne.
The eunuchs, hearing of this, persuaded 'Ho-chin to enter the palace and discuss the matter over with them--they having previously concealled assassins there with instructions to murder him. 'Ho-chin entered the palace alone and without suspicion, his followers, numbering above five hundred, remaining outside waiting to hear the result of the discussion.
After waiting a long time, and finding their master did not return, they grew impatient and clamoured for his appearance, when to their horror, the head of 'Ho-chin was flung over the palace wall into their midst--he having fallen a victim to the daggers of the assassins.
'Ho-chin's followers were so enraged at the sight of their master's bloody head that they vowed vengeance; bursting open the gates, therefore, they rushed into the palace, set it on fire, and slew every eunuch they encountered. Among the victims were the ten eunuchs who had brought the attack on by their treachery.
The empress and her eldest son made their escape out of the back gate
of the palace, but were afterwards sought for and brought back; for the
followers of 'Ho-chin, having glutted their vengeance on the eunuchs, hastily
extinguished the fire they had themselves ignited, and order was once more
restored in the palace; the eldest son succeeded to the throne.
Some sixty years later (A.D. 230), mention is made of a eunuch, named 'Huang-'hao, [char 31], who lived during the reign of A-tou, [char 32], the son of Liu-pai.
This eunuch, out of revenge to a general who had vainly endeavoured to persuade A-tou to take his life, supressed despatches sent to A-tou entreating reinforcements, on two occasions, when the general was beaten by the enemy.
Seventy more years brings me to the Chin ([char 33]) dynasty, or about A.D. 800.
The emperor 'Huai, ([char 34]), of that dynasty had a minister named 'Ho-tao-an, [char 35], whose daughter was one of his concubines. Both father and daughter were ambitious; and enlisting the services of Chia-yu, [char 36], a eunuch, they conspired together to kill the emperor and place the son of the concubine on the throne.
In furtherance of this scheme the eunuch concealed an assassin in the palace, with instructions to watch his opportunity and kill the emperor; the man was, however, seized in the attempt by the guard and at once consigned to prison.
The eunuch, fearful that the prisoner would confess who his instigator was, caused him to be secretly poisoned; and although the jailors and many others suspected the eunuch of having done so, yet none dared accuse so powerful a person of the act and he escaped.
Another leap of 800 years brings us to the emperor Yang ([char 37]), of the Sui ([char 38]) dynasty, about A.D. 600. We are told that this licentious emperor caused subscriptions to be raised in every province under his sway, to enable him to build six palaces. When these were built, he selected three thousand women whom he placed in them as concubines. These were all entrusted to the charge of a eunuch, named Hsu-yuan, [char 39].
This eunuch was very covetous and avaricious, and the women, knowing his weak points, used to bribe him with money or presents to induce him to recommend them to the favourable notice of the emperor; each one doubtlessly hoping that she might eventually aspire to be raised to something higher than a mere concubine--perhaps even to share the imperial throne.
Among the ladies was one who had never even seen the emperor, as she had no money to bribe the eunuch with. She grew melancholy, and the thoughts of her hard lot preyed so much on her mind that she committed suicide by hanging herself.
The eunuch reported her death to the emperor, and he taking into his head to look at the corpse, found, to his surprise, that she had been more beautiful than any lady he possessed. He bitterly reproached the eunuch for not having introduced so lovely a creature to him while she was living, but must needs wait till she was dead and then tell him of it. Some of the ladies, gathering courage, now related a few of the eunuch's malpractices to the emperor, who immediately ordered him to be beheaded.
Tradition says that the emperor was so smitten with the charms of the lovely corpse, that he wept over and embraced it, regretting that he had never had an opportunity of doing so while it was living; and finally, tired out with unavailing lamentations and caresses, he felt asleep with the corpse of the beautiful concubine in his arms.
During the same emperor's reign (A.D. 605), it is related that a southern tribe sent tribute to him; among the tribute bearers was a lad, eighteen years of age, named Wang-i, [char 40].
Wang-i was a dwarf, but was smart in appearance, well-behaved, and naturally very intelligent. The emperor noticing this, took him into his service, employing the lad as one of his personal attendants.
When the emperor paid visits to the apartments of the ladies Wang-i, to his astonishment, was never allowed to enter; on enquiring the reason from a eunuch, he was told that none but eunuchs were allowed to see the ladies. On further enquiry Wang-i expressed a wish to become a eunuch, and succeeded in persuading his informant to perform the necessary operation on him, which the eunuch did shortly after while Wang-i was in a drunken stupor.
When the emperor was informed of his attendant having voluntarily become a eunuch, he showed a greater partiality for him than ever, and made him chief favourite. Wang-i, however, did not make use of this to further his own ends, but used all the influence he possessed to promote the welfare of the people; and shortly afterwards, when there was a rebellion, he boldly--in a memorial--taxed the emperor with having brought it on by bad government.
The emperor was enraged at the temerity of his favourite, and ordered him to be brought into his presence immediately; but Wang-i, having conscientiously performed what he considered to be his duty, and anticipating the death that was in store for him, committed suicide by cutting his throat--hoping remonstrances and death would have the effect of causing his master to abandon his evil courses.
Yang-ti was much grieved at the death of his favourite, but still continuing to oppress his people, he lost his empire and his life ere the year was completed. He was put to death by a body of conspirators A.D 618.
Nearly a hundred years later (A.D. 713), in the T'ang ([char 41]) dynasty, during the reign of the emperor Hsuan Tsung, [char 42], (or as he is more commonly called T'ang-ming-kuang, [char 43], mention is often made of a eunuch, named Kao-li-shih, [char 44], who faithfully followed the fortunes of his master for nearly fifty years.
He was chief eunuch and privy counsellor of the emperor, and has the credit of assisting this licentious monarch in many of his voluptuous orgies. Some historians also give him the credit of strangling the beautiful Yang-kuei-fei, [char 45], by the order of the emperor who was compelled to sacrifice her life to satisfy the hatred of his mutinous soldiery.
Whatever the faults of this eunuch might have been, he was at least fathful to his sovereign, and followed him in adversity as well as in prosperity. He died A.D. 762.
In the same dynasty and reign was a eunuch, named Li-fu-kuo, [char 46], who attained to exalted rank and power, but who was eventually assassinated. Mayers thus briefly gives his history:-- "A eunuch of the household of T'ang Huan Tsung, and the latter's most trusted counsellor during the closing years of his reign. When Huan Tsung abdicated the throne in favour of his son, the emperor Suh Tsung, the latter was similarly led to repose unbounded confidence in Li-fu-kuo, under whose influence he raised to the rank of empress the lady Chang, one of the chief inmates of his seraglio (A.D. 767). From this period the control of State affairs was almost wholly engrossed by Li-fu-kuo, who was advanced to the post of minister, and for a time his influence with the empress ([char 47]), who virtually ruled the State, was unbounded. She began, however, to weary of his dictation and sought to compass his death; but her consort died before she was able to accomplish the project, and in the ensuing confusion, Li-fu-kuo caused the empress herself to be put to death in her own apartments. On the accession of the heir apparent (the emperor Tai Tsung), Li-fu-kuo was for a time treated with marked respect and continued in the discharge of his high functions; but the emperor, fearing his encroaching disposition, caused him shortly afterwards to he secretly assassinated." This was in A.D. 762.
Progressing onwards for some 300 years we come to the Sung ([char 48]) dynasty, or about A.D. 1000.
In the reign of Ch'en-tsung, [char 49], there was a chief eunuch,
named Ch'en-lin, [char 50]. He was one day going out of the palace gate, when he encountered a female slave, named Kou-ch'eng-yu, [char 51], bearing in her arms a small box.
The eunuch stopped the slave, and making her open the box, found that it contained an infant. He at once taxed her with being the mother of it, and demanded to know what she was going to do with it. The slave told him that the child was not hers, but that it was a prince, the son of the lady Li, ([char 52]), and that her rival the lady Liu ([char 53]), had secretly exchanged her female baby for the prince, and had ordered her to throw him into the river.
The eunuch could scarcely credit the slave's story, but on her repeating it and solemnly swearing to its truth, he believed her. And taking the box from the slave, he determined to save the prince; he therefore bore him out of the palace into that of the emperor's uncle, to whom he told the tale, and who secretly brought up the child as his own.
Meanwhile the slave returned to her mistress, and told her that she had disposed of the child by throwing it into the river. The lady Liu congratulated herself on having so easily got rid of her rival's child. She had reason afterwards, however, to suspect that the child still lived, and resolving to ascertain the truth, she ordered Ch'en-lin to flog the slave girl till she confessed what had really become of the babe and who had saved it.
The eunuch was compelled to flog the slave for his own sake, but the brave girl bore it without flinching, and allowed herself to be flogged to death rather than confess; she encouraging the eunuch in flogging her and making him understand that she would not divulge, he feeling as much anguish in flogging the heroic girl as she did in receiving it, but each knowing that discovery must ensue were they not both resolute to carry out their rôle. Thus the prince was saved at the sacrifice of the girl's life.
We now take another leap of about 350 years, to the reign of Yuan-shun, [char 54], the last monarch of the Yuan dynasty (from A.D. 1333 to A.D. 1341).
This monarch had a daughter, known as Po-'hua, [char 55], who was not only very beautiful, but was also skilled in all manly exercises. She had a eunuch to wait upon her, named Pa-la, [char 56], who having a hatred against a young student, and wishing to compass his death, invited him into the palace, where he supplied him so plentifully with drink that the young man got intoxicated, and, in this state was led by the eunuch to the sleeping apartment of the princess and left asleep on her couch.
When the princess returned to her chamber for the purpose of retiring, and drew back the curtains of her bed, she was much astonished at seeing a very handsome youth sleeping there. She at once drew her sword and was about to kill him when he awoke, and throwing himself at the feet of the princess entreated her to spare his life; explaining how he had been invited into the palace by the eunuch, had been made intoxicated, and that he must have been conducted hither while in that state.
The princess was charmed with the young fellow's appearance and ingenuous manner; and instead of killing him, as she at first intended, she became deeply enamoured of him, and kept him concealed in her chamber.
This did not suit the views of the treacherous eunuch, and he informed the emperor of the princess having a young man concealed in her room. Yuan-shun, hereupon, ordered the eunuch to search his daughter's chamber and slay the person concealed there; but the princess, hearing of the intended search, giving her lover a sword as a keepsake ([char 57]), bade him fly--she, herself, assisting him over the wall.
The search was in vain, and the eunuch in a fright now entreated the princess to save his life from the anger of her father. As she could not do this without implicating herself she sternly refused. The emperor, disgusted at having listened to the tales of a eunuch impeaching his daughter's honour, and conceiving he had been made a fool of, ordered the wretched eunuch to be instantly beheaded.
We now skip to the commencement of the Ming ([char 58]) dynasty, or about A.D. 1410.
Yung-lo, [char 59], the founder of Peking, had a favourite general, named Kang-ping, [char 60], and knowing him to be brave and loyal, on one occasion when he went out hunting, he left the general in charge of the palace.
Kang-ping was much gratified by the confidence shown in him by his royal master in giving him such an important trust. Fearful, however, that some enemy might endeavour to do him an injury by reporting some imaginary irregularity on his part among the ladies of the palace, which he might have difficulty in refuting, he determined to guard against it by castrating himself.
As the general had anticipated, when Yung-lo returned, one of the ministers reported that he had had improper intercourse with some of the palace ladies. In reply to this accusation Kang-ping briefly related how he had made a eunuch of himself, and as a proof that he had done so, showed the emperor the parts emasculated, to the utter confusion of his detractor. The emperor was so struck with the general's loyal conduct that he made him chief eunuch.
When Kang-ping died the emperor deified him, giving him a niche in a large temple he had built to the God of War ([char 61]). He also bestowed a large piece of ground to be used as a cemetery for eunuchs. The temple and cemetery are outside the P'ing-tzu-men, [char 62], about twelve li distant from Peking, at a place called Ching-en-chuang, [char 63]. Since the death of Kang-ping and his deification by the emperor all eunuchs consider him as their patron saint or deity, and worship him accordingly.
The eunuchs, during the reign of Chien-lung of the present dynasty, also built a temple, which they named after and dedicated to their patron deity; calling it Kang-ping's temple ([char 64]), they also enclosed a spot of ground for a cemetery. These are on the large plain called the 'Hai-tien, [char 65]. Both temples are used as hospitals for sick eunuchs; and most eunuchs, when they die, are buried in one or the other of the cemeteries.
When eunuchs are seventy years of age, or are rendered unfit for duty through sickness, etc., they are allowed to retire on a pension varying from two to six taels per month, and those who wish to do so, have the privilege of living in the temples rent free.
As eunuchs, after death, cannot be sacrificed to by their children--they have none,--the government allows a yearly sum to enable a certain number of eunuchs to go to the cemeteries in the spring and autumn to burn paper money, and offer sacrifices at the tombs of those who have been buried there.
With this slight digression I will now resume my narrative chronologically.
A hundred years later brings it down to the reign of Cheng-te, [char 66]
of the same dynasty.
In the reign of this monarch there was a eunuch, named Liu-chin, [char 67], who attained to extraordinary power. This eunuch was a great favourite with the empress-dowager, and was raised by her to the rank of "Nine thousand years;" his greatest recommendation to her favour apparently being, that he could write equally well with either hand.
Liu-chin was very rapacious by disposition, and stopped at nothing--even to the ruin of his country--so that he could fill his own coffers. One instance will suffice for present purposes and I will briefly relate it:
To the west of Peking is a hill, named "Ten Prospect Hill," [char 68]. In this hill a spring rises which flows eventually into the Yellow River. Liu-chin employed workmen to cut out and enlarge the spot from whence the water sprung, thinking by this means its volume would increase to such an extent that it would inundate the country about Peking; when he would, in consequence, have the disposal of ample funds from government to repair the damage caused by the floods which he himself had originated. In this instance, however, he was doomed to be disappointed; for after squandering immense sums of his own money in the undertaking, he was compelled to give it up as a failure.
Liu-chin built the celebrated stone road leading to the Lu-k'ou bridge, and many other works of a like nature owe their origin to him. He died a natural death.
In the same reign was another eunuch, named Wei-chung-hsien, [char 69], who ranked as a prince ([char 70]). This eunuch was also of a rapacious disposition, and generally succeeded in compassing the destruction of those who thwarted his wishes. His ambition was such that he even dared to raise his eyes to the "dragon throne," and plotted to obtain possession of it.
Wei-chung-hsien stealthily kept a concubine, and so desirous was he of having a son that he secretly sent in search of the Ling-tan, [char 71], or any other medicine that would cause his procreative powers to re-develop themselves. A doctor told him that if he extracted the brains from seven living men and ate them, his genitals would return to their original state and his impotency be cured. He therefore procured seven criminals, had their heads split open, the brains extracted. from them, and devoured the revolting mess. Tradition does not inform us whether this horrible remedy produced the desired effect or not.
This eunuch built a tomb for the emperor. He also built a temple for himself at Hsin-chuang-'rh, [char 72], a place seventy li to the west of Peking. This temple he constructed rather as a place of refuge where he could fly to in case of danger, or where he could carry on his malpractices without interruption or dread. It was strongly fortified, and resembled a walled-in city more than a temple, being surrounded by a lofty stone wall, so broad, that a carriage might be driven on the top of it; while at each corner was a watch-tower. In the enclosure were numerous buildings, and in the centre was a lofty tower or keep, which had seventy-two circular entrances. There was only one gateway to the temple, within which was a deep well covered with a revolving trap. Every one entering the gateway must cross this trap, which could be so arranged that the persons crossing could be easily deposited in the well. To render the entrance additionally dangerous, on either side was a niche where men might be concealed and thrust at any one entering. The temple is still standing, but is now called Hsuan-ching-kuan, [char 73].
In the succeeding reign, that of the emperor Chia Ching, [char 74], who came to the throne A.D. 1522, we have an interesting account of a eunuch and the mode of disposing of him.
Chia Ching, we are told, had a daughter who had such an inordinate liking for lichees ([char 75]), that, partly to gratify her liking, and partly to reward a deserving officer, a native of Kuang-tung, [char 76], (Canton) named Tao, [char 77], was selected by the emperor to be her consort [char 77a].
Tao returned to his native place, taking with him his bride, a large establishment of servants, and a eunuch, named Hsu, [char 78] who was sent by the emperor expressly to wait upon the princess.
The eunuch was an arrogant, overbearing sort of person, and was both feared and hated by the Cantonese who had any dealings with him, and the upper seat was invariably given to him wherever he went as a guest. This coming to the ears of Tao, he determined to humble the pride of his follower; and representing to his informants that the eunuch was merely a slave, he desired them not to make so much of him for the future. To set them an example, Tao shortly after gave a large party and ordered the eunuch to wait upon the guests. This humihating treatment so exasperated the eunuch that he vowed revenge, and at once secretly despatched a messenger to Peking with a letter to the emperor, in which he stated that Tao was on the point of rebellion.
Fully believing the eunuch's tale, the emperor sent an officer to order his son-in-law back to Peking, and the latter, not knowing of what crime he had been accused, committed suicide out of sheer fright. The princess, however, was not of so timid a disposition, and having gathered all the information she could concerning the eunuch's plot, she hastened to Peking, and explained everything to the emperor, who, enraged at the eunuch's treachery, ordered him to be rolled up in cotton well saturated with oil, and then suspended from a beam, heels uppermost. While in this position the wretched eunuch was set fire to from the top--where his feet were--and in this state remained, slowly burning downwards, till death put an end to his sufferings. This mode of death was called "Lighting the human lamp," [char 79].
A hundred years later and we come to the last year of the last emperor
(Ch'ung-chen, [char 80]), of the Ming dynasty A.D. 1628.
In the stirring times which preceded the fall of the Ming ([char 81]) dynasty, a eunuch named Tu-shih-'heng, [char 82], comes into prominent notice. This eunuch was governor of the nine gates of Peking at that exciting period, and it was he who opened the city gate, and admitted Li-tzu-ch'eng, [char 83], the rebel chief and his horde, who speedily overran the city and palace, committing all sorts of atrocities.
As is well known, the rebel-chief reigned as emperor eighteen days, having a dynastic title ([char 84]), and even casting cash having these characters on them during that brief period. One of the first acts he did was to behead the eunuch for opening the city gate, so that he reaped the reward of his treachery in a manner different from what he anticipated. This eunuch is spoken of with execration even to the present time.
In contrast to the above-mentioned eunuch was one who, living at the same time, was equally celebrated for his loyalty. This eunuch's name was Wang-cheng-en, [char 85]; he remained faithful to the last. Such was his devotion, that when his imperial master hung himself on Prospect Hill, he also committed suicide.
Another hundred years brings us to Chien-lung, [char 86], of the present dynasty, A.D. 1736.
In Chien-lung's reign the palace eunuchs were very arrogant and overbearing, and were detested by every one: knowing this, it seems strange they did not assume a more conciliating attitude; such, however, was not the case, and the following sketch shows that they suffered for it in a very remarkable manner.
President Liu ([char 87]) was noted for bringing the delinquencies of officials to the notice of the emperor, by sending in written reports of their misconduct; so that every one stood in dread of him and his mischievous pen, except the chief eunuch, who thought he and his eunuchs were beyond the reach of the president's predilection for reporting; and not content with thinking so, must needs tell him as much. One day he stopped Liu's carriage, and insolently told him he knew he was fond of reporting others, but that as the ennuchs never misconducted, themselves they could laugh at him, as he was unable to report them. Simply remarking that he would do so on the morrow Liu went on his way.
The next day the president was as good as his word, and sent in a memorial to the emperor, in which he stated that "although the eunuchs had originally been castrated, yet the mutilated organs must, in many cases, have grown to such an extent as to render re-castration necessary. He had heard such a thing had occurred in the Ming dynasty, and the result had been licentiousness and disorder in the palace between the eunuchs and ladies. This coming to the emperor's ears, he had ordered an inspection of eunuchs, when it was found necessary to re-emasculate many of them. To prevent such a scandal occurring again the memorialist begged that the whole of the eunuchs might at once be inspected, and that those whose organs had partially grown might have them 'swept clean,' ([char 88]).
Chien-lung assented to this proposal, and immediately issued orders
for the whole of the eunuchs to be examined and re-emasculated, if necessary,
lest they should presume on their position and the facilities afforded
them, to cause licentiousness in the palace.
This order was strictly carried out and many of the eunuchs underwent another operation at the hands of the "knifers." Many of the eunuchs died shortly after the operation, or as the Chinese tersely express it, were "swept dead," ([char 89]; others recovered, but there can be no doubt that they must have suffered severely. All this death, suffering, and, consequent shame on the part of the surviving eunuchs originated entirely through the insolence of the chief eunuch to president Liu, who took this strange method of punishing it.
In the 18th year of Chia-ch'ing, [char 90], (A.D. 1814) a great many of the palace eunuchs were implicated in a plot to overturn the Manchu government. These eunuchs were members of a secret society, called "The White Feathers,"--numbering only a few hundred men:--
"The little society had the audacity to attack the Imperial palace at Peking, succeeded in effecting an entrance, and but for the bravery and determination of one of the princes, who effectually opposed and destroyed the rebels, this little rising might have had a startling influence on the future destinies of the empire."
On the discovery of the part played by the eunuchs, those who were implicated in the conspiracy wore apprehended, and upwards of a hundred of them were beheaded.
To come nearer to our own times, we find that castration has not altogether been discontinued as a punishment. The following facts are in the memory of thousands of Pekinese:
In the 1st year of Hsien-feng, [char 91], (A.D. 1851) a yamen or court, known as the Hsun-fang-chu, [char 92], was instituted in Peking, expressly to try and punish all rebels who were unfortunate enough to be captured and brought before it. It is needless to say that very little mercy was shown to the prisoners, death being the invariable sentence.
In the 7th year of Hsien-feng, some rebels were brought in prisoners; among them were seven boys, none of them over ten years of age. The full-grown rebels were all decapitated at once, but the law not allowing children to suffer death--or till they are fifteen years of age, when they are considered adults--the boys were sent to the Board of Punishments, for that tribunal to decide what was to be done with them.
As the Chinese notion is that the sons of rebels must breed rebels, and as the boys were of too tender an age to suffer death, the Board decided that they should all be emasculated and sent to the frontiers to become slaves of the troops stationed there. This sentence was carried into effect.
The most notorious and powerful eunuch of the present times was An-te-'hai [char 93], whose adventures and tragic end will probably from [sic] the theme of many a tale, play, or poem, when this dynasty shall be succeeded by another; for till such an event takes place, historiographers, poets, and play-writers will not dare relate his deeds, under penalty of losing their heads. The following brief sketch of his life and death may, however, be received as correct; as I obtained the particulars from one who knew him personally, and who was familiar with his history.
An-te-'hai was brought up in La-ku [char 94] lane, just outside the Ti-an gate ([char 95]) of the palace. His parents, who were very poor, compelled him, at the age of twelve (1855), to become a eunuch,--this was in Hsien-feng's reign. The young eunuch was very handsome, and on that account was selected by Hsien-feng's empress (the mother of Tung-chih) as one of her personal attendants; and the lad displayed so much intelligence and activity in his duties that she took a great fancy to him, and had him constantly about her.
While Hsien-feng was living, the partiality of the empress for her favourite eunuch did not excite much attention; but after the emperor's death, her infatuation for An-te-'hai daily increased, and she treated him more like a son than a slave; and although he held no office, the empress made him a "white button," supplied him liberally with money, and indulged his every whim.
Some idea may be formed of his extravagance and the money required to
keep it up--money which could only be procured from the empress--when the
reader is informed that An-te-'hai, a mere eunuch, had a large establishment
outside the palace, where he kept sixty of the finest horses procurable,
numbers of hunting-hawks and badger-dogs, with their keepers, and a large
retinue. He had also a wife--an unnecessary appendage to a eunuch--but
one which he conceived his riches and power entitled him to indulge in.
As An-te-'hai grew in years and in favour with the empress, so also his arrogance increased; his conceit and insolence knew no bounds, and so great was his presumption, that on one occasion he actually rode his horse round the courtyards of the palace, a thing the emperor, only, was entitled to do. Prince Kung was so enraged at the eunuch's audacity that he ordered him to be bound and taken to the Shen-hsing-ssu, [char 96], for instant punishment. The favourite was saved, however, for a eunuch ran off and informed the empress, who at once dispatched a messenger to the yamen ordering his immediate release, as she had important business for him to do. Even prince Kung dared not detain the eunuch after this mandate, and he was accordingly released.
Among the many marks of favour shewn by the empress to this eunuch may be mentioned one which finds no parallel in the annals of China. On the death of his father (1866) An-te-'hai applied for and obtained a hundred days leave to perform the necessary mourning ceremonies. During the whole of this time the empress ordered him to be supplied with food from her own kitchen; and every morning eunuchs bearing covered dishes might be seen issuing from the palace gates. This hitherto unheard of proceeding attracted much attention, and many queer remarks were made at the time of a not very complimentary nature; high and low expressing their wonder at the empress so publicly displaying such an interest in a slave. The young emperor, Tung-chih, is also said to have disapproved of his mother's strange partiality for a eunuch, and there is no doubt he would have put a stop to An-te-'hai's career when he grew up.
An-te-'hai spent a great deal of his time beyond the precincts of the palace, visiting all the temples and places of note in the vicinity of Peking, and invariably accompanied by a large retinue, consisting chiefly of loose characters, who imposed on and ill-treated the inhabitants. He even, on one occasion, extended his peregrinations as far as Tientsin, and squandered upwards of 8,000 taels during his trip; this money--indeed the money for all his extravagancies, being supplied by the empress.
In the sixth year of Tung-chih (1867), An-te-'hai went on a pleasure trip to Shantung, taking with him above thirty followers. On this occasion he even went so far as to use the flag of his imperial mistress; his followers, taking their cue from this, gave out that he was on a special mission for the empress; and on the strength of this, imposed on people of all ranks. The expedition, however, was brought to an abrupt termination, for the governor of Shantung, Ting-pao-chen, [char 97], the present governor (1877)--who it is said had received private instructions from prince Kung--sent soldiers to seize An-te-'hai and his party, and the whole, after some resistance, were seized and thrown into prison.
The governor now sent a despatch to prince Kung in which he stated that the eunuch and his followers had so grossly misconducted themselves on their arrival in Shantung that he had been compelled to place them in prison, and he wished to know what should be done with them. Prince Kung is said to have written in reply that he was to behead the whole party. The governor carried out these instructions almost to the letter; one man alone, a carter, being spared, and he only by proving that he did not belong to the party but had been engaged at a roadside village.
The governor afterwards reported what he had done, and gave as his reason for doing so, the abduction of two girls by An-te-'hai's party, and the subsequent death of one of them. Whether the party were guilty of the crime, or whether it was a tale concocted to give a plausible excuse for executing them all, no one appears to know; but one thing is certain, pamphlets were sold in Peking giving an elaborate account of the abduction and its consequence.
When the news of An-te-'hai's death reached the empress, she is said to have repudiated all knowledge of his journey to Shantung, and whatever she may have felt, she wisely held her peace. The eunuch's property was confiscated, but the empress ordered her brother, Duke Chao, [char 98], to support An-te-'hai's mother in his own palace, which he did till the old lady died.
Having thus briefly given the history of a few of the more celebrated eunuchs, from the Chou dynasty (720 B.C.) to A.D. 1867 of the present dynasty, I shall endeavour, as briefly as possible, to describe them as they now are; and give, as well as I can, a few of their distinguishing traits, the mode of emasculation, the rules they have among themselves, the duties they undertake and other details. Without farther preamble, therefore, I shall commence--giving first a list of those ranks which entitle the possessor to employ eunuchs, and the number of eunuchs each is entitled by his rank to employ. It will be seen by the following that (with one exception) the employment of eunuchs is strictly confined to the imperial family.
The emperor ought to have 3,000 eunuchs to perform the various duties of the palace; at the present time there are not above 2,000 employed.
Princes of the blood (Ch'in-wang, [char 99]), sons of the emperor,
may use thirty eunuchs in their establishments.
Imperial princesses, (Kung-chu, [char 100]), daughters of an emperor--who have been bestowed in marriage on high officials, or on Mongolian or Tartar princes, are also entitled to use thirty eunuchs.
Chun-wang, [char 101], nephews or younger sons of the emperor, may use twenty eunuchs.
Pei-le, [char 102], grandsons of the emperor, may use ten.
Pei-tzu, [char 103], sons of Pei-le, may use six.
Kung-yeh, [char 104], sons of Pei-tzu, may use four.
The exception spoken of previously, is the hereditary princes. (Hsi-wang, [char 105],) descendants of the eight Manchu chiefs who assisted Shun-chih in establishing the present dynasty. These are entitled to employ twenty eunuchs, but must employ some in their service, or they are liable to be reported and lose their rank for failing to keep up the dignity of their station.
The above-mentioned, only, are entitled by their rank to employ eunuchs in their establishments, and they are all compelled to do so.
Having, in the above list, given the titles of those who are privileged to use eunuchs, I shall now proceed to relate how eunuchs are procured for the imperial palace, from whence they are procured, and who furnish them, etc.
Every fifth year each prince is required to furnish, for the use of the palace, eight young eunuchs. These must have been previously well trained, and before they enter on their duties in the palace, must be inspected and guaranteed to be pure eunuchs--i.e. properly emasculated, clean in person, and free from all disease. The sum of 260 taels is paid for each of these eunuchs to the princes who send them, to recoup whatever expense they may have incurred in purchasing and training them. This system is adopted to ensure a constant supply of handy and faithful servants, as they have served a long probation before entering the palace; and, moreover, each prince is responsible for his quota of eunuchs sent.
But as this system does not nearly supply the number of eunuchs required, they are obtained from other sources as well; large numbers of boys, and even grown up men--either purchased from their relatives, or voluntarily offering themselves--being constantly emasculated, and when recovered from the operation, drafted into the palace.
Most eunuchs are natives of Chihli, (indeed all eunuchs are supposed to be natives of that province, though it is probable here and there one may be found who is not) and of these again, by far the greater number are from a place named 'Ho-chien-fu, [char 106], some 850 li to the south of Peking: this has been the case ever since the Ming dynasty. Chinese say that the natives of the place like to be eunuchs, but it would be more reasonable to suppose that compulsion had a good deal to do with it in the first instance, and it has gradually grown into a "custom," which (in China), like the laws of the Medes and Persians "cannot be altered."
Among the reasons why persons become eunuchs at the present day may be enumerated the following:
Compulsion:--This one reason will account for at least seven-eighths of the number of eunuchs made; as in the case of boys of tender age, who are compelled by their parents or relatives to become eunuchs, either for the sake of the money which will accrue to them by the sale of the boys for that purpose, or from the desire of seeing them provided for in life.
Poverty:--In the case of those who are grown up, and who, having no means of getting an honest livelihood, prefer becoming eunuchs to beggary or theft.
Choice--or rather laziness:--As in the case of those who become eunuchs on account of the high duties they will have to perform; which, with good board and lodging, together with the certainty of a comfortable provision for old age, renders the prospect of a eunuch's life one to be envied and desired.
Other reasons might be given, but I shall content myself with the three already specified. In the first case--compulsion; every one in China is aware that a parent's word is law to his child, so that the boy would submit implicitly to whatever fate his parent might choose for him. In the second case--poverty; men of twenty years of age or upwards may, in many instances, be their own inasters, and have their destiny in their own hands. When these desire to become eunuchs they must first find a security as to their honesty and general character. When this is obtained, they have the operation performed; wait till they are recovered, and are then drafted into the palace, where they are employed as gardeners, cooks, or in some other menial work which does not necessitate their entering the private apartments of the ladies.
Cases have been known of middle-aged men becoming eunuchs, and there are at the present time in the palace several eunuchs who are married and have families. These, of course, were made eunuchs after their marriage, being driven to it, some, by poverty, and it is even said, some, by the tongues of their better-halves. Those of the palace eunuchs who have wives and families are allowed to go out and spend a few days with them occasionally.
In regard to the latter reason, "Choice or Laziness," an illustration
or two will serve to show that such reasons can be assigned. I'll first
briefly relate an instance of a failure:--A few years ago a newly-married
young man expressed a strong desire to become a eunuch, as he said, he
should then have nothing to do but eat, drink, and, sleep. His relatives
endeavoured to dissuade him from so insane on idea, and refused to become
surety for him; whereupon he attempted to perform the operation on himself,
but did it so clumsily that no one would employ him. He, therefore, had
mutilated himself for life without gratifying his desire of living the
easy life of a eunuch.
To quote another case:--There is at the present time in the palace of prince Su ([char 107] opposite the British Legation, Peking), a young man who became a eunuch from choice. He had been married only a year when he mutilated himself with a common butcher's knife; this occurred. about five years ago. When he recovered he was employed in the Su-wang-fu, where he has remained ever since; going out occasionally to spend a day or two with his wife and daughter. In the case of this young man no other reason can be given except that he did it from choice. His friends are well to do, he is blessed with youth, a wife and child, and all the comforts of a home, and yet he voluntarily becomes a eunuch by performing the operation on himself!
A curious case occurred in the 3rd year of the reign of Hsien-feng (1853) which is worth recording as showing to what an extent a Chinese will go to obtain his ends, and at the same time have revenge:--A poor man entered a pawnshop one day and wanted to pledge his coat for a small sum. Seeing that it was worthless, the pawnbroker refused to advance anything on it, whereupon, the man in a rage pulled out a knife, emasculated himself on the spot, threw the parts emasculated on the counter, and insisted on pledging them for thirty tiao, (about $4). The pawnbroker was naturally much alarmed and at once reported the circumstance. Strange as it may appear to foreigners, the pawnbroker was compelled for his own sake to send the man to a temple, and furnish him with food and medical attendance till he recovered, when he sought for and obtained a situation for the self-made eunuch in the palace of one of the princes; for had the man died, his death would have been laid at the pawnbroker's door, or having recovered, and not being satisfactorily provided for, he would have been a source of endless annoyance and persecution to the unfortunate pawnbroker.
Having given some of the reasons why persons are made eunuchs, I shall as briefly as possible endeavour to describe where the operation is performed, by whom, and how it is done.
The place where men or boys are made eunuchs is just outside the inner Hsi-'hua gate ([char 108]) of the palace, and within the imperial city. It is a mean-looking building, and is known as the Chang-tzu, [char 109], the shed. Within this building reside several men recognized by government, yet drawing no pay from it--whose duty consists in emasculating those who are desirous of becoming, or are sent to become--eunuchs.
These men are called tao-tzu-chiang, [char 110], "knifers," and depend entirely for their living on making eunuchs. They get a fixed sum--six taels--for every operation they perform on boys sent or brought to them, and for keep and attendance till the patients are properly recovered.
Grown up men desirous of becoming eunuchs, but who are too poor to pay the necessary fees, make arrangements with the "knifers" to repay them out of their salaries. But in any case the "knifers" dare not operate on them unless they (the candidates) have securities to vouch for their respectability.
The "knifers" have generally one or two apprentices to learn the profession; these are almost invariably members of their own families, so that the profession may be said to be hereditary.
When the operation is about to take place, the candidate or victim--as the case may be--is placed on a kang in a sitting--or rather, reclining position. One man supports him round the waist, while two others separate his legs and hold them down firmly, to prevent any movement on his part. The operating "knifer" then stands in front of the man--with his knife in his hand--and enquires if he will over repent. If the man at the last moment demurs in the slightest, the "knifer" will not perform the operation, but if he still expresses his willingness, with one sweep of the knife he is made a eunuch.
The operation is performed in this manner:--white ligatures or bandages are bound tightly round the lower part of the belly and the upper parts of the thighs, to prevent too much haemorrage. The parts about to be operated on are then bathed three times with hot pepper-water, the intended eunuch being in the reclining position as previously described. When the parts have been sufficiently bathed, the whole,--both testicles and penis--are cut off as closely as possible with a small curved knife, something in the shape of a sickle. The emasculation being effected, a pewter needle or spigot is carefully thrust into the main orifice at the root of the penis; the wound is then covered with paper saturated in cold water and is carefully bound up. After the wound is dressed the patient is made to walk about the room, supported by two of the "knifers," for two or three hours, when he is allowed to lie down.
The patient is not allowed to drink anything for three days, during
which time he often suffers great agony, not only from thirst, but from
intense pain, and from the impossibility of relieving nature during that
At the end of three days the bandage is taken off, the spigot is pulled out, and the sufferer obtains relief in the copious flow of urine which spurts out like a fountain. If this takes place satisfactorily, the patient is considered out of danger and congratulated on it; but if the unfortunate wretch cannot make water he is doomed to a death of agony, for the passages have become swollen and nothing can save him.
In spite, however, of the rough mode in which the operation is performed, it is rare that a death occurs; one case, only, having come to my informant's notice during many years,--the victim being a man of thirty years of age. This is entirely opposed to Chardin, who says that "one only in four survives," and to the chief physician of the Pasha, who states that two-thirds die. It would seem that Buckhardt was nearer the mark when he says that the operation is only fatal in about two out of a hundred cases. (See page 145).
When thoroughly cured--which he generally is in about a hundred days--the eunuch is sent into the palace of one of the princes, to learn his duties; at the end of a year, or so, he is transferred from thence to the imperial palace and appointed to wherever his services may be required. If a number enter the palace at one time, the ladies who require additional eunuchs, select from them according to their rank.
Newly joined eunuchs, previous to entering on their duties, are closely inspected by an old eunuch to see that they are bona fide eunuchs. They are then instructed in the duties of their respective posts till they are considered proficient in them.
The parts emasculated are called the "precious," [char 111]; these, having been prepared by some process, are carefully kept by the "knifers" in common pint measures hermetically closed, and placed on a high shelf. This is called high promotion ([char 112])--figuratively that the owners of them may rise to high rank. Those, however, of the newly made eunuchs who demand their "precious," or who have relatives who claim it for them, are allowed to retain it in their own possession; these are likewise placed in pint measures on high shelves, being treasured with the utmost care.
The "precious" are kept for two reasons; the first of which is, should a eunuch be promoted to any grade he must shew one, or he cannot obtain his rank--the possession of a "precious" rendering him eligible. It is inspected by the chief eunuch; this is called "inspecting the precious" ([char 113]). This inspection is a source of profit to the "knifers," for those eunuchs who have, through ignorance or carelessness, neglected to claim their "precious," when emasculated, are often, on promotion, compelled to pay a large sum for one--sometimes as much as fifty taels. It often occurs, too, that a eunuch loses his "precious," or has it stolen from him, and then, in the event of his being selected for promotion, he is either driven to the necessity of buying one from the "knifers," or has to borrow or hire one from a friend, so that it may well be termed "precious," for on these occasions it is really so.
The second reason why the "precious" are so much prized is, that each
eunuch, when he dies, has his own particular one placed in his coffin and
buried with him--or if he cannot obtain his own, that of some one else.
This is done, partly because the eunuch wishes to be as complete
as possible when departing into another world--for Chinese have a horror
of being mutilated--and partly to hoodwink the King of Hades ([char 114]),
who is supposed to transform defunct eunuchs into she-mules; and by having
his "precious" with him, he hopes to evade this fate.
It would take up too much time and space to specify particularly all the duties eunuchs have to perform in the palace. They may be summed up in a few words; as regards out-door employment, they are water-carriers, watchmen, chair-bearers, gardeners, etc., while their in-door work is such as would be performed by cooks, chamber, parlour, scullery maids, and persons of that class in our own countries. In short, they do everything in the palace. I shall speak more particularly of two or three special employments of eunuchs as I am on the subject, the first of which may be styled of a religious nature, so I give that the precedence.
In the palace are eighteen Lama priests, who are also eunuchs. These priests are supposed to represent the Lo-'han, and are kept expressly to attend to the spiritual welfare of the ladies of the palace.
When a vacancy occurs in the eighteen it is speedily filled up by selecting a eunuch who has either a desire to become a priest, or fancies he has a vocation that way; so that, independent of not having been trained to the priesthood from childhood, many of them know nothing whatever pertaining to their craft when they join; some of them, too, can neither read nor write, and we can readily imagine the amount of ignorance and superstition to be found among these eunuch priests, and the spiritual benefit likely to accrue to the employers of their services.
These eighteen Lama priests draw a double allowance of salary, receiving an allowance as priests in addition to their salary as eunuchs; this is a strong temptation to many eunuchs, and any vacancy in the ranks of the priesthood is--under these circumstances--filled without difficulty.
The next "special employment" of a number of eunuchs is theatricals. That the ladies of the palace may he gratified in their taste for theatrical entertainments, and as no outsiders can enter the palace, a dramatic corps is kept up especially for that purpose. This corps numbers over three hundred, and is composed entirely of eunuchs, the whole of them under the control of a chief eunuch. They live in a building within the Imperial city, but outside the palace, called the Nan-fu, [char 115]. These eunuchs have no other duties to perform but those of playing in the palace, and the rehearsals necessary to render them proficient.
Within the palace is a theatre, known as the T'ung-lo-yuan, [char 116]. In this, it is customary to have one performance every month. This is entirely independent of representations given in honour of officials who may have distinguished themselves; and have therefore been deemed worthy of witnessing what may be termed a "state performance."
In addition to these the emperor or empress often orders a particular performance to be given. Both the present empresses are said to enjoy farces or domestic dramas, in which the homely lives of the poor are depicted, and of which they can learn but very little, or witness in any other manner than by these sources. On the other hand an emperor would invariably select pieces of an historical nature. It is related of Hsien-feng that he was once so frightened at the "make-up" and acting of a dramatic player, that he ordered the unfortunate eunuch to receive twenty blows for daring to startle him. This mode of complimenting a player would rather astonish some of our dramatic performers, and would not have a tendency to develop "native talent," one would imagine. These players draw the same salaries as other eunuchs, but often get a largess bestowed on them by the emperor or empress when they are particularly pleased with a performance.
The following brief sketch, although somewhat trenching on another subject, serves to show one more special duty which some of the eunuchs have to perform, so I will relate it:--When the emperor wishes for the presence of any particular concubine in his bed-chamber, he gives a label or tally, on which he has written the name of the lady, to the eunuch in waiting, who takes it to the lady in question and she is borne in a chair by eunuchs to the emperor's sleeping apartment, which is named the Yang-hsin-tien, [char 117].
On retiring to rest the lady does not dare get into the emperor's bed in the usual manner--that is, from the head, or rather, side--but it is etiquette for her to crawl in from the foot till she comes in a line with her imperial bedfellow.
Two eunuchs keep watch outside the door, and before break of day they arouse the concubine and she is borne back again to her own apartment. The circumstance of the concubine having slept with the emperor is then recorded in a book, with the name of the lady, and the date of the visit. The entry is signed by the emperor, and the book is referred. to to substantiate the legitimacy of the child, in the event of the concubine giving birth to one. It is considered of the utmost importance that this book should be strictly kept; and the visit of every lady to the emperor's sleeping apartment is consequently carefully registered and attested.
For the better management of the eunuchs, and that the work of the palace may be carried on systematically, it is (in the present dynasty), divided into forty-eight departments ([char 118]): each one having its own particular class of duties connected with it, and staff of eunuchs to perform those duties; thus, there is the department for looking after gardens, courtyards, cook-houses, armoury, chairs, etc., etc. Each department has a superintendent ([char 119])--who is generally of the sixth grade, or having a "gold button." Over the whole of the departments is a chief eunuch, or general supervisor ([char 120]); this officer is usually of third grade and wears a "red button."
If any eunuch by reason of dislike to his duty, through hardship, ill-treatment,
or other causes, should run away from the palace, his absence is immediately
reported to the [char 121], a species of police corps, whose duty it is
to capture runaway eunuchs. The men composing this force are not eunuchs
themselves, but know all the eunuchs of the palace; and it is rare that
one of them succeeds in escaping, for no sooner is the flight of one reported,
than the members of the force--(who are adepts at disguises, and may be
considered detectives) spread themselves all over the city, and speedily
recapture the deserter; who is then conveyed to a yamen-appointed for the
punishment of eunuchs known as the Shen-hsing-ssu, [char 122], where he
is tried and punished according to the nature and degree of his offence.
For a first case of desertion, the culprit is imprisoned for two months; at the end of that period he receives twenty blows and is sent back to his duty in the palace. For the second offence, he is put into the cangue for two months; at the end of which he is again returned to his duty. For the third offence, he is banished to Moukden for two years and a half, and at the completion of his term of banishment, he is returned to his duty, as usual.
Theft is punished by banishment to Moukden; but if the property stolen should be anything prized by the emperor, such as curios, jewellery, or other valuables, the offender is taken to Chin-shan-k'ou, [char 123]--a place about forty li distant from Peking--and there beheaded.
Trifling ofFences, such as neglect of duty, laziness, etc., are punished by the bastinado. When a eunuch commits an offence of this kind, it is dealt with summarily. The chief eunuch summons the attendance of a eunuch from each of the forty-eight departments, each eunuch being armed with a baton-made by glueing together two slips of bamboo, with the rough side outwards--and the culprit receives from eighty to a hundred blows. When the beating is finished he is sent to the surgery, where the doctor--who is also a eunuch--dresses the wounds by rubbing in ointment, and after three days the culprit is again flogged to render the punishment more severe. This second flogging is termed "raising the scabs" ([char 124]).
Sometimes, when two eunuchs have been implicated in a similar offence, each has to flog the other in turn. This is amusing, for the one who flogs first does not dare strike lightly, lest the chief eunuch, who is looking on, should detect it; while the second hits hard to have satisfaction for the beating he has just received from his present victim. This is called "flogging in turn" ([char 125]).
Palace eunuchs are rarely dismissed, they must be incorrigible before that event takes place. When once they are driven from the palace they cannot be employed as servants by any one, and as they are fit for nothing else, they become beggars and eventually die of starvation. On the other hand, if a prince dismisses a eunuch it is not of so much consequence, as he may obtain employment in the family of some other prince or noble who is entitled by his rank to employ eunuchs.
The actual salaries of common eunuchs vary from two to four taels per month; twelve taels being the highest salary any one receives, no matter what his rank may be. It is not to be supposed, however, that eunuchs are different from other Chinese in one thing--"squeezing:"--and many of them make large sums in various ways, such as by pretending to facilitate, or really facilitating the business of those having audience; making them comfortable while waiting, by supplying them with tea, pipes, etc., and the thousand and one other ways by which a true Chinaman knows how to "turn an honest penny." The salaries of eunuchs are paid monthly, whereas, other officials draw theirs half-yearly.
Each eunuch, in addition to his pay, is supplied with a certain quantity of rice monthly; and to economize their salaries, as well as for convenience sake, the eunuchs form messes amongst themselves, subscribing so much each to supply meat, vegetables and other kinds of food, which is cooked in the palace.
Every courtyard in the palace has its colony of eunuchs, who live in small houses, called "Menial's houses" ([char 126]), at the sides of the main building in which their particular employer resides; so that they can be readily summoned when wanted.
The palace gates are shut at dusk, and opened shortly after midnight, for the admission of such officials as have business with the emperor. Should any eunuch be out of the palace when the gates are closed he is compelled to stay out all night, and is sure to be severely punished the next day. Official hats have to be worn on all occasions by eunuchs, no one being allowed egress or ingress without a hat on; consequently one mode of punishing a eunuch is by taking his hat from him, and by this means confining him to the palace.
All eunuchs are considered pure (chen, [char 127] or ch'ing, [char 128])
but boys who are made eunuchs when under ten years of age are termed "thoroughly
pure" (t'ung-chen, [char 129]). These are specially prized, and are employed
by the ladies of the palace with as much freedom as if they were girls;
performing such offices as ought only to be done by women--some of them
of a nature it would be impossible to describe here. These boy-eunuchs
are supposed to be free from the least licentiousness--even in thought;--in
fact, they are considered to be devoid of all feeling of that kind whatever.
They are commonly called "little eunuchs" (Hsiao-t'ai-chien, [char 130]);
as they grow up they are not allowed such freedom of intercourse, being
replaced by others younger than themselves, while they are employed in
such duties as do not bring them into the more private apartments of the
Eunuchs, in common with other Chinese, are not excluded from worshipping in temples, burning incense, fasting, etc., but at the end of a prescribed period of fasting (which generally lasts about fifty days) they are not allowed the privilege of ascending the tai-chieh, [char 131]. In this, however, they are not worse off than many others, for no cripple or deformed person, no one short of an eye, finger, or any portion of the body, nor any woman in her courses, etc., can ascend the dais. In this we have a marked resemblance to the Mosaic Law, as laid down in the book of Deuteronomy, XXIII.
Eunuchs may be known by the voice, want of hair on the face, cringing manner, hangdog, bloated appearance (in some), and an indescribable je-ne-sais-quoi, which those who have not been emasculated do not have. To enable a better idea, however, to be formed of them, I will enter somewhat into detail, and describe, as well as I can, some few of their more striking peculiarities.
In the first place, eunuchs, in China, invariably dress in sombre coloured garments (bought by themselves), such as an ash-coloured long coat (p'ao-tzu, [char 132]) and over this a dark-blue shorter coat (kua-tzu, [char 133]), trowsers of some dark material, and always the official hat and boots when on duty or out walking;--the boots are more square at the toes than those generally worn by officials.
In walking, eunuchs lean slightly forward, take short steps, keep the legs close, at the same time turning the toes outwards; they may be recognized by their gait for a long distance. In riding, they do not "grip" the saddle, but "ride on the stirrups,"--which are very short,--leaning forward, and rising up and down in them, "jockeying;"--in fact, depending entirely on the stirrups regardless of either "equitation" or "grip."
Eunuchs, taken as a whole, may be considered repulsive looking, but young eunuchs are often very handsome and feminine in appearance; indeed, one can almost imagine some of them to be young women dressed in men's clothing. As they grow older there is something painfully comical in their appearance; on seeing them one cannot help fancying they bear a resemblance to old women, who forgetting their age and sex, are masquerading in male attire. One is positive, therefore, on encountering a specimen of this sort, that it is either a bona fide eunuch, or else a masquerading old lady--the latter not being very probable.
All eunuchs, when they are emasculated, lose their natural voices, those who underwent the operation when children can scarcely be distinguished from young women by the voice; while those who had the operation performed on them after arrived at maturity speak in a cracked falsetto--as a Billingsgate fish-fag might. In fact, there is something grotesque--if I may be allowed the expression--in their voices, not by any means pleasant to listen to.
Actors, who personate eunuchs on the stage, such as attendants who usher in a prince, emperor, or lady of the court, etc., always make a moaning, whining noise, as 'hu-u-u-u, such as a dumb person might make if in pain or distress.
Chinese, in general, are not celebrated for a very liberal supply of "hirsute honours," but all eunuchs are utterly devoid of the nearest approach to a hair on the face: should one have had hair on it when emasculated, in a few months every sign of it disappears, the hairs coming out gradually and imperceptibly till the face is as bare of hair as a billiard ball. It is needless to say that hair in its most incipient form never appears on the faces of those who were emasculated in their childhood.
Young eunuchs, for a long time after they are emasculated, "wet their beds." This is not noticed for a time, allowance being made for the recent operation they have undergone, but a long continuance of it results in a severe flogging to the culprit, which is continued till he either breaks himself of the habit or outgrows it. This habit has originated the expression--which Chinese use when wishing to convey in forcible language how their olfactory nerves have been offended when speaking of them--"He stinks like a eunuch" ([char 134]). Chinese also speak of them as "stinking eunuchs" ([char 135]), and aver that they can smell a eunuch for half-a-li.
When emasculated young, eunuchs often become stout, but their flesh is soft and flabby; they have no strength whatever, and most of them lose their flesh as they grow older, when they speedily become outrageously wrinkled. It is rare to see a stout elderly eunuch, those who are so look puffy and bloated. Chinese call this sort of corpulency "empty stoutness" ([char 136]).
Emasculation seems to take all manhood away from eunuchs; they age rapidly, looking sixty when only forty; they are like children; will burst into tears at a trifle, or give away to ungovernable rage for what another person would scarcely notice, and are as quickly pacified as they are to become angry. They are not by any means bloodthirsty--as eunuchs are usually represented to be--but exactly the reverse, being harmless and conciliating in manner, as if they sought to ingratiate themselves with those stronger than they are, by confessing--in their fawning demeanor--their own weakness and inferiority.
Eunuchs who had no voice in their own emasculation--that is, those who were mutilated while children at the instance of their friends--invariably hate their fathers as being the cause of their life-long degradation, impotency and misery; they will often, in after years, refuse to hold any intercourse with them, though at the same time they may be dutiful and affectionate to their mothers.
They are very clannish in disposition, and will always assist one another against those who are not eunuchs, even to the extent of fighting.
Eunuchs are very shy of persons seeing them perform the necessary operations of nature, and will suffer any inconvenience till they can find a place to do them in unobserved. This is a praiseworthy trait in their character, as Chinese, generally, are utterly careless who sees them at such times.
Any allusion, either direct or implied, to their deficiency is considered by them a great insult, and resented as such--if possible. If a person, when in company with a eunuch, sees a dog, without a tail, or with one that has been docked, he must not speak of it as tail-less or dock-tailed, but as a "deer-tailed" dog ([char 137]). If a teapot is minis a handle it must not be noticed or mentioned. When speaking of cutting one must not use the character ko, [char 138], (which is also used to signify "castrate") but la, [char 139], or one of the other characters meaning "to cut."
Most of the eunuchs smoke opium, and to enable them to indulge in this habit without quitting the palace, seven or eight opium dens are opened in its precincts; this is not only a convenience for them, but for officials who may have business in the palace, but are compelled to wait about the outer courtyards. These opium dens are called "smoking establishments; [char 140]; the fact of their being in the palace is notorious, but no doubt it is considered policy to shut the eyes--officially--to their existence.
All eunuchs gamble, and spend most of their leisure time in that occupation. It is their greatest source of enjoyment; as they say, if we "do not like gambling we have no pleasure" ([char 141]).
As a class, eunuchs are considered to be very honest, it being a rare occurrence to hear of one having committed a theft. Another good trait in their character is that they are charitable to the poor, and generally carry loose cash about them to bestow in alms on those they conceive deserving.
Eunuchs are much liked by the small tradesmen with whom they have any dealings, for, unlike other Chinese, they do not care to haggle over a bargain; a seller, or workmen, knowing their peculiarity this way, has only to say "give me what you please," and for a trifling job, or for goods not worth half-a-dozen cash, he is sure to receive a handful; so that this class of people generally trust to a eunuch's generosity, and invariably get the best of the bargain. In paying for small articles too, they rarely take back any change,--indeed it is seldom one of them is ever known to be mean or stingy.
A great freedom of speech and manner is allowed to eunuchs, on account
of their deprivation; language and conduct that would not be tolerated
in others being looked over in them with the remark, "he is only a eunuch."
The most common and vulgar name for eunuch is Lao-kung, [char 142], which will bear translation either as "Old Earl" or "Old Cock"--the latter translation being the one intended. To call them or address them as Lao-kung is an unpardonable offence; they are only spoken of as such when they are not present. When addressing them the proper way is to style them [char 143], [char 144], [char 145], [char 146], or [char 147]. The term "eunuch" ([char 148]), applied to otliers--particularly amongst southerners--is a most insulting epithet.
When a person becomes a eunuch he is spoken of as "quitting home" ([char 149])--the same expression which is used when a layman becomes a priest. Like the priest, too, when a eunuch dies, he is not buried with the rest of his family, so that both priests and eunuchs may he reckoned "outsiders"--beyond the pale of home influences or feelings before death; and separated from his kindred after death.
As regards eunuchs being subject to melancholy and a disposition to suicide (See page 145), close questioning elicited the answer that suicide is almost unknown amongst them, my informant never having heard of a single case during a period of forty years; and that melancholy is not more prevalent amongst them than it is amongst Chinese generally. In short, to sum up in a few words what has already been stated, eunuchs, as a class, love mirth and gaiety--anything conducing to amusement being eagerly sought after by them. That a little amuses them, while on the other hand, a mere trifle will make them shed tears. That they love gambling, every one of them being gamblers. That they are affectionate to women and children, and are fond of pets--particularly small dogs--almost every eunuch having one. They are not by any means revengeful, but are extremely timid, and have a dread of others who are not as they are. An-te-'hai's great dread was that some one would murder him; this is an exceptional case, but his dread was realized. They are irritable and excitable; will give way to bursts of rage and squabble like women, but they are easily pacified. Cases sometimes occur where they become insane when ill-treated or stripped of their rank for some fault, but their insanity is generally of a harmless nature. They are very clannish and will stick to one another through thick and thin. They are honest, generous, and charitable as has been shown. Putting, therefore, their good traits against their bad ones, I think they will shew up favourably with the common run of Chinese; and when one reflects on the awful deprivation they have suffered, one is more inclined to overlook many of their failings and to think them objects of pity rather than execration and contempt.
From the foregoing pages it may easily be gathered that the emperor is the only man who resides in the palace at Peking. One man, only, in that vast enclosure! Well may he be styled the "solitary man!" ([char 150]). What a life, too, for the ladies! Incarcerated; shut out from the world, what is the palace but a gorgeous prison for them! Seeing none of their male relatives, and only at long intervals their female ones, all their nearest and dearest home ties must be severed; the most sacred feelings of the heart must become withered and parched up for want of the nourishment necessary to foster them. Hearing nothing from the outside world, but what is filtered through the lips of eunuchs--for all they can gather of what goes on beyond their prison walls must come to them through that source--what wonder is it that we hear of heart- burnings, palace intrigues, and struggles for supremacy; each one striving to be favourite so that she call forward her own interests or those of her never-more-to-be-seen relatives. And, lastly, what a life for the eunuchs! Their position must be worst of all. One is at a loss to know which to pity most, the emperor in his solitary grandeur, the ladies in their gorgeous imprisonment, or the eunuchs in their deprivation of all that constitutes what may be essentially termed manhood.
From everything we can learn regarding eunuchs, but one conclusion can be drawn as to their origin, and that, is, polygamy; were it not for that eunuchs would be as rare as unicorns. With this fact in front of us, the question naturally arises in our minds "how about polygamy in the west? If the Mormons, who are polygamists, are left to themselves, will they not hereafter introduce eunuchs?" Revolting and painful as the idea may be, one cannot avoid the reflection that they are gradually trending in that direction; that there is but a stop between them and the eastern polygamist, and unless they awake to the error of their ways, or are compelled to reform, that step--in the common course of events--must eventually be taken. Let us hope that this foul blot on civilization may be "wiped out" one way or another, by common sense and humanity, if possible, by compulsion, if necessary.
Our bible makes frequent mention of eunuchs; to facilitate comparison of dates, etc., I have given below a short list of texts, in chronological order, in which eunuchs are variously mentioned, commencing with the first mention of them, which dates as far back as B.C., 1729.
Genesis xxxvii, 36. "And the Midianites sold him (Joseph) into Egypt unto Potiphar an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard."
Genesis xxxix, 1. (Same date) "And Joseph was brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him out of the hands of the Ishmaelites, which had brought him down thither."
I. Samuel viii, 15, B.C. 1140. "And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants."
II. Kings viii, 6, B.C. 892. "So the king appointed to her a certain officer," etc.
II. Kings ix, 82, B.C. 884. "And he (Jehu) lifted up his face to the window, and said, 'Who is on my side? who?' And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs."
II. Kings xviii, 17, B.C. 725. "And the kings of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris (chief eunuch) and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah, with a great host against Jerusalem."
II. Kings xx, 18, B.C., 810. "And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."
II. Kings xxiii, 11, B.C. 624. "And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain."
II. Kings xxv. 19, B.C. 588. "And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war."
Esther i, 10-12, 10 (B.C. 521). "On the seventh day when the heart of
the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha,
and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served
in the presence of Ahasuerus the king"
11. "To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on."
12. "But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains."
Esther ii, 3, B.C. 519. "And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women." See also verses 8 to 21.
Esther iv, 5, B.C. 510. "Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend on her," etc.
Isaiah, lvi, 3, 4, 5, B.C. 712. "Neither let the eunuch say,
Behold I am a dry tree."
"For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me and take hold of my covenant;
"Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off."
Jeremiah xxix, 2, B.C. 596. "After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah, and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem".
Jeremiah xxxiv, 19, B.C. 590. "The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land," etc.
Jeremiah xxxviii, 7, B.C. 590. "Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, one of the king's eunuchs," etc. See also verses 8 to 13.
Jeremiah xli, 16, B.C. 588. "Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs," etc.
Jeremiah lii, 25, B.C. 588. "He took also out of the city an eunuch, which had the charge of the men of war; and seven men of them that were near the king's person," etc.
Daniel i, 3, B.C. 607. "And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs," etc. See also verses 6 to 18.
Matthew xix, 12, A.D. 32. "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake."
Acts viii, 27, A.D. 34. "And he arose and went; and behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority, who had charge of all treasure," etc.
Acts xii, 20, A.D. 44. "And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon; but they came with one accord to him, and having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country."
Romans xvi, 23, A.D. 60. "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church,
saluteth you, Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you,
and Quartus a brother."
1 Members of the collateral branches of the imperial family, each generation becoming a degree lower in rank, (and it may be added, poorer in pocket) till eventually they become mere members of the family, with no rank whatever, wearing however the "Yellow Girdle," and receiving a trifling allowance from government. These persons are known as "Yellow Girdles," and some of them may be found in the lowest walks in life--beggars and thieves, even.
2 These are, mo, [char 151], pi, [char 152], yueh, [char 153], kung, [char 154], and ta-p'i, [char 155]. Branding on the forehead, cutting off the nose, maiming, by cutting off the ears, hands, or feet (chiefly feet), castration, and capital punishment.
3 In the south [char 156] is commonly used.
4 To be found in the [char 157].
5 This palace was burnt down by Pa-wang, [char 158], B.C. 206.
6 San-kuo-chih, [char 159].
7 In the Sui T'ang, [char 160].
8 Tradition also has it that the lady Liu shewed the emperor a skinned kitten, which she asserted was the child of the lady Li. The emperor was so revolted at her giving birth to such a monstrosity, that he consigned her to the Cold Palace, [char 161], i.e. disgraced her. The tale from which this incident is taken is not unlike one in the Arabian Night's Entertainments.
9 [char 162] Princes are styled "thousand years" [char 163]; the emperor is addressed as "ten thousand years," [char 164], consequently this eunuch was next in rank to the emperor.
10 All emperors have their tombs built for them while they are yet living. Curious that the "Lord of ten thousand years," should have his tomb prepared while he is, perhaps, not twenty years of age.
11 This gate was the P'ing-tzu-men, [char 165].
On the accession of Shun-chih, [char 166], the first emperor of the present
dynasty, he caused a flower resembling a peony to be cut into one of the
bricks on the left side of the gate--branding it, in fact, as a thief would
be on the left temple. The gate is known as "The Rebels Gate" ([char 167])
to this day. By a curious coincidence, on the arrival of Shun-chih, Li-tzu-ch'eng
fled out of the city by the same gate he had so recently entered.
12 See "Lamentations of Ch'ung-chen," "The Wry-necked Tree," and "The Cursed Temple." China Review, IV, 294; 255.
13 This did not actually occur; the president was drawing on his imagination.
14 It is said that the emperor ever afterwards felt compunction for having ordered the re-emasculation of the eunuchs.
15 See "The White Feathers,"--China Review, vol. IV, pp. 361-364.
16 He was born in the 23rd year of Tao-kuang (1843), was emasculated in the 5th year of Hsien-feng (1855), and killed in the 6th year of Tung-chih (1867).
17 At this time Hsien-feng was dead and Tung-chih quite a child.
18 In the 5th year of Tung-chih.
19 These are supposed to be given in marriage before they reach the age of eighteen. It is related of Taokuang that he disliked his fifth daughter, on account of her lachrymose disposition. One day the emperor became so much annoyed at her bursting into tears when summoned before him, that he swore he would marry her to a beggar; and actually carried out his threat, for he married her to a common soldier, a bannerman earning only four taels a month. The man, however, was well-connected and was a fine looking follow. When he became the husband of the princess a palace was given to him with an allowance suitable to his rank. The princess lived with him ten years and died childless.
20 These are also called Tieh-mao-tzu-wang, [char 168], lit. Iron-capped princes, figurative for the durability of their rank--never wear out-hereditary.
21 The Chin, Chun, and Hsi-wangs, only.
22 Prince Su is one of the hereditary Tartar princes.
23 Among the reasons given might be mentioned the following: [char 169]. Having "thoroughly seen the world"--disgusted with it, used up blasé; antipathy to women, having had too much of them: and some become eunuchs because they think it a sin to indulge in sexual intercourse.
24 [char 170] Boys are not asked the question, the consent of their friends being amply sufficient.
25 It must be borne in mind that the Chinese have not foreign appliances in the shape of catheters or bougies to facilitate the free passage of urine.
26 This applies chiefly to persons who are emasculated
when grown up; boys up to twelve or fourteen years of age may be taken
to the imperial palace immediately they are cured.
27 It must not be imagined by this that there are no female servants in the palace. Every third year a certain number of girls, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, are selected from the families of Bannermen to perform such light duties as embroidery, etc., in fact, they are called "embroidery girls" ([char 171]). These girls all dress in male attire; they remain in the palace for five years, when they receive a small bonus and are sent back to their respective families. There are also matrons for performing such duties as can only be performed conveniently by such persons.
28 [char 172] These deities, eighteen in number, are the attendants of Kuan-yin, [char 173], the goddess of mercy.
29 Ladies do not attend these representations.
30 Sheng-ching, [char 174]; also called Feng-t'ien-fu, [char 175]--the capital of Manchuria.
31 This is a raised dais, stage, or platform, on which the priest sits, and at the end of a period of fasting--which has been previously announced--he examines and receives the confessions (kao-ch'eng, [char 176]), of those who have prepared themselves by fasting, etc., for the ceremony, and after having done so he absolves them (fang-chieh, [char 177]). This is remarkably and like confession and absolution in the Roman Catholic religion--the dais being actually the confessional.
32 The real character should be [char 178].
33 These terms are all in common use now; in former times they were called [char 179], or [char 180]. There are many other terms for eunuchs, but those quoted have been deemed sufficient, as being those used.