Singers, advisers, and servants: role of eunuchs from a historical context
The Epoch Times (February 14, 2010)
Admiral Zheng He, was one of the most accomplished explorers in Chinese history. Born in 1371 during the Ming Dynasty, He led a fleet of Chinese merchant vessels on seven expeditions to South Asia, trading goods and developing relations with India, Siam (present-day Thailand), Indonesia, Persia, and East Africa. The son of a Chinese Muslim family, Zheng He was nicknamed “san bao,” or “three treasures” for his expeditions and service to the emperor. Yet, Zheng He also was a “taijian,” or eunuch in the Chinese imperial court.Today, eunuchs—and castration— are almost taboo, delineated by modern works as confused, anomalous, or oft-troubled individuals. But eunuchs held a variety of functions in society—in the imperial court, as singers, guardians of women, religious servants, and military commanders. The term eunuch derives from the Greek words eune (bed) and ekhein (to keep), or together, a “bed keeper.” Such individuals were thought to be more docile, domesticated, and trustworthy. For the ancients, castration was a medium for exercising control. Eunuchs kept a life of focused dedication, or sometimes used their positions to gain power, fame, and fortune. For certain classes of males, it was a way to circumvent the paradigm that existed among those seeking such away of life—to forcibly eliminate the constant struggle between desires and duty, domination and sacrifice.