Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs Lives & Secrets

Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs Vietnam - Student Exchange

Overview Of Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs

Like previous feudal dynasties in Vietnam’s history, the Nguyen dynasty (From the time Nguyen Anh ascended the throne in 1802 to the time King Bao Dai abdicated in 1945) still maintained a historical regime that employed eunuchs to work in the Forbidden Palace.

Eunuchs were people with a very special fate from the moment they were born (Giam Sinh), or from the time they were castrated (Giam Lat) until the day they closed their eyes and left this world. So let’s learn more about the Nguyen Dynasty Eunuch Life with Vietnam Student Exchange in this article.

Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs Vietnam - Student Exchange

With this article, we hope to once again thoroughly portray the little-known life stories of eunuchs in the last feudal monarchy of Vietnamese history.

If you would like to explore the Hue Imperial Citadel complex, and Hue Royal Tombs and learn more about the Royal Life of the Nguyen Dynasty Emperor, concubines, and eunuchs, we highly recommend you book Hue City Group Tour via Culture Pham Travel.

What Are Eunuchs?

The origin of eunuchs, according to some published historical research documents usually has two kinds, which are

  • “Giam Sinh” are the men who were born with defects in their genitals, and when they reach adulthood, they are unable to have sexual relations with the women.

According to feudal regulations, any family that gives birth to such a child must immediately report to officials in the village, then from the village to the commune, to the district, and then to the Ministry of Rites in the current royal court.

The child’s name will be recorded in the book until he is weaned (about 10 or 11 years old), then he will be taken into the palace and raised according to palace rituals. When they reach adulthood, the Ministry of Rites will send them to the forbidden palace to work as eunuchs, serving daily tasks in the king’s harem.

Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs Vietnam - Student Exchange

  • “Giam Lat” are the men who were castrated at a young age and then brought into the palace to be raised.

After being castrated, the adult male child will lose his beard, and hair, and speak willowy and high-pitched voice like a girl. All the removed parts will be impregnated for long-term storage. When they are promoted, they will be presented as evidence and when the eunuch dies, that “treasure” will be buried with their body.

According to regulations, any village whose family gives birth to a “Giam Sinh” will have the entire village exempted from taxes for up to 3 years and of course, when that child becomes a eunuch, the father, mother, and siblings will receive a lot of money and many special benefits.

Why Did Ancient Emperors Favor Eunuchs?

Firstly, eunuchs were people close to the emperor. Many emperors from childhood were cared for by nannies and eunuchs. The person who was next to the emperor day and night was also the eunuch. Therefore, the eunuch is also the person who understands the emperor’s feelings best so they receive the Emperor’s trust.

Secondly, eunuchs were a safe option. Ancient Emperors often inherited the throne from their fathers. Not every Emperor was capable of managing the country; even if they didn’t want to, they needed to complete their duties.

However, if the emperor had too much confidence in a civil or martial mandarin in the court, then these people would likely vie for the right to usurp the throne and steal the throne from the Emperor. Therefore, the emperors would choose eunuchs who did not have authority.

Lastly, eunuchs were dependent on the emperor. The eunuch mostly lived a solitary life until his death. Furthermore, their family had no money or power. They entered the palace to serve the royal family to make a living. Thus, eunuchs often had no ambition, more resigned and dependent than others.

Eunuchs were a perfect combination because they were strong as a man and skillful, and careful as a woman and they were totally safe for the concubines of the Emperors.

What Was The Eunuch’s Work In The Citadel?

Among the eunuchs, the royal court also made distinctions with different jobs:

  • Some groups serve the Emperors, convey documents, and orders of the Emperors, and present at court meetings.
  • Some work as Emperor’s bodyguards or become generals.
  • Another group specializes in serving the queen and concubines.
  • There was a group that specialized in monitoring the king’s eating and sleeping habits.

That’s why, from lowly positions, eunuchs had important positions in the royal palace, the eunuch gradually became powerful, not only behind the palace doors but also in the royal court.

Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs Vietnam - Student Exchange

The eunuchs were the Emperor’s closest people and knew very well about the Emperor’s personal life. Therefore, to avoid the abuse of power by the eunuchs in the forbidden palace, the Nguyen dynasty used the eunuch system in the palace for petty tasks and definitely did not allow them to interfere in court politics.

Because the order of Emperor Minh Mang’s edict required that eunuchs not be placed in the rank of mandarins, a special class system was created for them to arrange ranks, and regulate salaries in rice and allowance.

The Number Of Eunuchs In The Nguyen Dynasty

According to Hue researcher Ho Tan Phan, in the early stages of the Nguyen Dynasty, each emperor’s reign usually had about 200 eunuchs. This number depends on the prosperity of the dynasty.

Where Did They Bury The Eunuchs?

When they got old or sick, eunuchs were not allowed to stay in the imperial palace. At the end of their service period, they received salaries from the royal court and moved outside the imperial city, residing in the ” Cung Dám Viện” which means “Eunuch Department”.

To cope with loneliness, many eunuchs formed brotherhoods or adopted children. Others choose to get married. Because they have lost the ability to have children, they married old women to keep them company in their final days of life. The few luckier eunuchs returned home to live with relatives.

Nguyen Dynasty Eunuchs Vietnam - Student Exchange

Worried about the loneliness of the grave when lying down, during the reign of Thieu Tri Emperor (1807-1847), eunuch Chau Phuoc Nang raised money to restore Tu Hieu Pagoda, an ancient pagoda about 5 km from Hue city. and chose this place as a resting place after death. Since then, eunuchs who have made merit at the pagoda have been buried and worshiped by the pagoda after they had died.

Within the Tu Hieu Pagoda’s agounds, the eunuch cemetery is located on the left side, about 30 meters from the pagoda with an area of nearly 1,000 square meters. The 23 graves are buried in 3 rows, in the middle there is a stele engraved with the contributions of the eunuchs.

Vietnam Student Exchange hopes that, with this article, you will understand more about the life of eunuchs under the Nguyen Dynasty and plan a vacation to Vietnam, especially Hue City.