Eunuchs were castrated males who guarded an emperor’s harem and some were used in positions of leadership and government. China has a long history with the use of Eunuchs and many emperors routinely made them a part of their court. Eunuchs were used as a sign of status and affluence and the wealthy members of ancient Chinese society also utilized the services of eunuchs within their homes. They are placed on the Bible Timeline with World History in the Chinese section beginning in 1200 BC
Most eunuchs came from the poorer classes of society and many males either volunteered for this position or they were forced into this role. Prisoners, slaves, and indebted people were also made eunuchs as well. A lot of Chinese peasants who were poor and who had little hope of changing their circumstances would have their male sons castrated in hopes that they could make a fortune as a eunuch. This was a very risky practice because there wasn’t a guarantee that a male would survive the castration process.
The castration process was brutal during ancient times. When a male was made into a eunuch his genitals and penis was removed from his body. Ancient Chinese people used various methods to carry out this practice. A male’s private parts would be completely removed by a sword, ax or some other sharp instrument. When a male’s parts were removed he had a 50% chance of survival. There was a small opening that was created in the process that allowed the male to urinate. If a castrated male was able to get rid of urine then the process was usually a success. Castrated men also had to worry about contracting an infection. Males that were able to relieve themselves and to avoid infection were now able to be employed as eunuchs.
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Eunuchs were then used to protect concubines and harems within an emperor’s court. They were trusted by the emperor’s and other wealthy men because they were not viewed as a threat. Many rulers and men with power feared rivals who could place their children in a position of power. Emperor’s also trusted eunuchs because they couldn’t defile their wives, concubines or harems. Since eunuchs were considered less than human and “less of a man” they were also entrusted with vital and important information. Eunuchs were also used as companions for princes and the children of wealthy people. In time, eunuchs had become very trusted and powerful members of many Chinese courts.
Eunuchs were used by the women in the court or harem in order to gain favor with an emperor or ruler. Some had learned how to manipulate rulers and used their newfound power to dictate the affairs of a kingdom. Some rulers didn’t want to deal with the daily politics and governance of their empires and they indirectly gave control of these matters over to their eunuchs.
Eunuchs were also mentioned in the Bible (see Isaiah 56:4) and Jesus spoke about the importance of sexual purity by becoming a spiritual eunuch (Matthew 19:12). Many other cultures such as the Egyptians, Babylonians and the Persians all employed the use of eunuchs. The Chinese people used the practice of eunuchs all the way up to the 20th century before the practice fell out of favor. The practice was outlawed in 1912 and the last Imperial Eunuch in China was Sun Yaoting who died in 1996.
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