What is a eunuch?

A eunuch is a man who has had his testicles removed, in the other word, he has been castrated. In China, the penis was sometimes removed along with the testicles. The custom started in China during the eighth century BC.

Castration could be a form of punishment but was also a way to get a job in the Emperor’s palace. Many men and boys volunteered themselves for castration to choose their way of life. But more boys from the poor families had no choice. These families encouraged their sons to become eunuchs as a means of pulling the family out of poverty and gaining admittance into the imperial court.

The castrations were usually performed with one slash of a small knife, the only anesthetic used was hot chili sauce. If the operation failed, the patient usually died painfully.

In the vast palace, the Emperor was the only normal adult male. The other men, including officials, military guards and even male relatives of the emperor, were not only not allowed to enter the inner sanctums but were often required to leave the palace grounds at night.

Eunuchs were employed as sexless slaves in the Emperor’s palace to carry out household chores and guard the chastity of Emperor’s women since the emperor had so many concubines, sometimes hundreds of them. Much of the day to day operation of the imperial court was taken care of by the emperor’s favorite eunuch. And most eunuchs served as cooks, cleaners, record keepers and companions. Each eunuch was apprenticed to a master.

Sometimes a prince would gain the throne when still a child. Since he had been looked after by eunuchs all his life, he would often rely heavily on his favorite ones for support and advice.

Eunuchs were supposed to be docile, loyal, modest and polite. The reality could be very different as we saw the way so many eunuchs behaved in the history.

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