Eunuchs In China
The tradition of using eunuchs in the imperial court goes back at least 2,000 years. Beginning in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- A.D. 220), palace eunuchs often ran the day to day affairs of the court. They vied for power with military leaders and scholar-bureaucrats.
The word eunuch comes from the Greek word for bed watcher. Eunuchs were used in China, the Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Turkey and other imperial states by monarchs as "keepers of the couch," or guardians of the royal harem.
Chinese imperial eunuchs were nicknamed 芒鈧揵ob-tailed dogs". During the Ming dynasty it was said that 20,000 of them were employed in the Forbidden City. Imperial eunuchs survived until 1924 when the last 1,500 of them were banished from the Forbidden City, according to one observer, 芒鈧揷arrying their belongings in sacks and crying piteously in high pitched voices.芒鈧?
Eunuches were widely seen as greedy, corrupt and scheming. In dramas about Imperial life they are often cast as villains. Even so they made their contributions to Chinese culture and civilization. The eunuch Cai Lun is credited with inventing paper in A.D. 105. Court eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty were the first Chinese to play Western classical music. The eunuch Zheng Ho was China"s greatest explorer. In the the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong assembled a chamber orchestra of eunuchs dressed in European suits and wigs.