East Asia in the year 1 CEby Stone Chen (CC BY-NC-SA). Laven, Mary (2012).

In 189 CE events took an even more brutal turn. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... …exploitatively dominated by favoured eunuchs: …about 1313 a magistrate named Wang Chen seems to have had a craftsman carve more than 60,000 characters on movable wooden blocks so that a treatise on the history of technology could be published.

The raise of these eunuchs had only been possible because they had gained the favour of the emperor. Huang Zongxi, the Ming dynasty Neo-Confucianist thinker here sums up the general view of eunuchs in Chinese history: "Everyone has known for thousands of years that eunuchs are like poison and wild beasts" (in Dillon, 93). Tsai, Shih-shan Henry (2002).

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Last modified July 27, 2017. Wu, H. Laura (2009). Advising the emperor from within the palace and blocking the access of officials to their ruler, the eunuchs were eventually able to acquire noble titles themselves, form a bureaucracy to rival the state’s and even select and remove emperors of their choosing.

The power they held and the political intrigues they often stirred up resulted in the eunuchs becoming infamous, and they were especially unpopular with Confucianist scholars. The mistrust of Emperor Taizu towards the officialdom in general was thus intensified in the long run, and the ceremonial distance between the ruler and his advisors increased. One of He’s fleets was composed of 317 ships, including 62 'treasure ships' full of gifts for foreign rulers and over 30,000 men. Investigations in the aftermath showed that the eunuch tyrants and their supporters had not just wielded a bloody regime, but also drastically enriched themselves, by extortion, corruption and embezzlement of state-owned and private land. In gratitude, the emperor awarded a noble title to five leading eunuchs. The only serious disruption of the peace occurred in 1449 when… During the 2nd century CE, in particular, a succession of weak emperors were easily manipulated by the eunuchs at court. In addition, the emperor knew that the eunuchs did not have a power base or loyalties outside the court, unlike the politicians. Wow what a boy who has HUGE burden to be an eunuch. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Often aligning themselves with the powerful Buddhist monasteries, they advised, spied, and intrigued in equal measure in order to acquire the top positions in the state apparatus. The eunuchs would not be content with the life of a simple slave for very long. Before leaving, Tang Fan said to Zheng Ying, "Lord Marquis, this is an extraordinary matter, we would like to take your son's body away to facilitate the examination." Omissions?

The eunuchs’ even greater power ultimately resulted in government officials and students banding together and staging protests in 166 and 168-169 CE. Eunuchs ingratiated themselves with the emperor and were perhaps more compliant than high-minded and more principled scholar-officials which made the emperor more likely to follow their advice. By the latter stages of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) there were some 70,000 eunuchs, and they had established almost complete domination of the imperial court. Eunuchs acted as fetchers and carriers, bodyguards, nurses, and essentially performed the roles of valets, butlers, maids, and cooks combined. Loewe, Michael (2005). By the latter stages of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) there were some 70,000 eunuchs, and they had established almost complete domination of the imperial court. The imperial army was ambushed about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Beijing, the emperor was captured, and Wang and all the leading Chinese generals were slain.

Doran, Christine (2010). Chinese Eunuchsby Unknown Artist (Public Domain). Despite their privileged position, the general public’s view of eunuchs was extremely negative as they were regarded as the lowest class of all servants.

"Corpses on Display: Representations of Torture and Pain in the Wei Zhongxian Novels". "On the Terms bao zi, yin gong, yin guan, huan, and shou: Was Zhao Gao a Eunuch?”. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) eunuchs were often made military commanders. Most of the powerful eunuchs were able to distract the attention of weak rulers from the realm of politics to that of private entertainment. "The Potent Eunuch: The Story of Wei Zhongxian". 304-305 (Huanguan zhuan 宦官傳) in the Mingshi 明史 and ch. (in Di Cosmo, 208). The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark.

Zhu Jianshen was a son of the Zhengtong Emperor (also known as the Tianshun Emperor). To him is also attributed the invention of horizontal compartmented cases that revolved about a vertical…. "Eunuchs in Ancient China." These privileges invigorated the power of the sovereign that was, during the Ming period, quite authoritarian anyway. One emperor authorised an official purge of the eunuchs in 835 CE to try and claw back some power but before the plan could be executed the eunuchs wiped out over 1,000 of the conspirators and anyone else they remotely suspected of trying to usurp their power. From being an attendant in the side-apartments of the palace, because he was skilled at manipulating the weighty as well as the trivial intentions of people, he was able by means of first serving in order to later command. Because he is the one who is in charge of the division between the West Factory and the East Factory.

Eunuchs were powerful political players in ancient Chinese government. https://www.ancient.eu/article/1109/. The cook, the eunuch and the chowhound - a crime solving menage a trois. The eunuchs murdered the 'Grand General' He Jin after it was discovered he had plotted to assemble an army to himself purge the eunuchs. "Castration and Connection: Kinship Organization among Ming Eunuchs". "The Demand and Supply of Ming Eunuchs".

From the early 15th century CE the eunuchs set up their own mini-bureaucracy at court where they could ferret away paperwork and filter out the input of government ministers in state affairs. Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Our mission is to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. McMahon, Keith (2014). The eunuchs would not be put off so lightly though and they instigated a wave of purges which saw many of those involved in the protests imprisoned and 100 executed. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 27 Jul 2017.

He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE.

The position of court officials and ministers was critically trimmed. Military matters were exclusively handled by members of the ruling elite, the Manchus, and memorials handled by princes or members of the Council of State (junjichu 軍機處). "Ritual Propriety and Political Intrigue in the Xuande Gate Incident". Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. …exploitatively dominated by favoured eunuchs: Wang Zhen in the 1440s, Wang Zhi in the 1470s and ’80s, and Liu Jin from 1505 to 1510. Wang was the constant companion and personal servant of the emperor Yingzong (1427–64), who ascended the throne while still a boy. At the end of the century, this eunuch-led apparatus had grown spectacularly to 12,000 employees, making it the equal of the official state bureaucracy. 03 Nov 2020. Very often the eunuchs encouraged and made worse political factions, which damaged the unity of the government.

Mark is a history writer based in Italy. Cartwright, Mark.

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He works directly under the emperor, but his loyalty lies with the Guifei (Imperial Concubine). Thank you! One such figure was Tong Guan (1054-1126 CE) who was Emperor Huizong’s most important general. Just as in previous eras, eunuchs manipulated the court, created divisions amongst the government officials, and by the 9th century CE, even began to enthrone and murder emperors. Wang was denounced by later historians as the first of a series of eunuchs whose mismanagement helped destroy the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The Hongxi (reigned 1424–25), Xuande (1425–35), and Hongzhi (1487–1505) emperors were nevertheless able and conscientious rulers in the Confucian mode. The power of the eunuchs is also reflected in the official history books, like ch. Related Content This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Wang-Zhen-Chinese-eunuch. Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, ed. Dettenhofer, Maria H. (2009).

Any other males were forbidden from staying overnight in the palace, and any person who entered unauthorised faced the death penalty.

He won famous victories in the north-west border regions in his youth, quashed the Fang La rebellion in Zhejiang province and continued to loyally serve his emperor into his seventies. This comedic drama features a wildly imaginative yet oddly fitting crime fighting menage a trois comprising of a low (sixth) ranked magistrate (Tang Fan), a high-ranked embroidered guard (jingyi wei; Sui Zhou) and an influential eunuch (Wang Zhi) with the emperor's ear. The first chief eunuch dominating an emperor was Wang Zhen 王振 (d. 1449), who had all his opponents wiped out. Wei Zhongxian had been a servant of the emperor's foster-mother. "Eunuchs in Ancient China." Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry (1991). Eunuchs advised, spied, & intrigued in equal measure in order to acquire the top positions in the state apparatus. The Sleuth of the Ming Dynasty《成化十四年》Chengnian Shisi Nian The Sleuth of the Ming Dynasty vol 1, Chapter 3: The Enunuch Wang Zhi After a few more pleasantries, Pan Bin got up and left. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms.

29, 37, 43 and 71 in the Mingshi jishi benmo 明史紀事本末.

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Eunuchs in Ancient China. The Hongxi (reigned 1424–25), Xuande (1425–35), and Hongzhi (1487–1505) emperors were nevertheless able and conscientious rulers in the Confucian mode.

The eunuchs were put in charge of this new force and soon began to create problems of their own for the emperor.

Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). The chief eunuchs had the right to note down remarks in red colour (pihong 批紅) on the incoming memorials, even before the emperor had seen them.

Cartwright, M. (2017, July 27).

Omg and wangzhi was only 19 yo at that moment??? With this power vacuum there then ensued a civil war for control of the empire, with the result that the Han fell and the Wei dynasty was established in 220 CE.

Corrections? An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art, Du Wanyan 杜婉言 (1992).

Childhood. He stood under the protection of Emperor Yingzong 明英宗 (r. 1435-1449 and 1457-1464), a young and weak ruler who was totally dependent of the eunuch. The Qing dynasty, a warrior-dynasty per definition, learned from the paradigm of the Ming, and strictly controlled the eunuch staff in the imperial city.