Eunuchs in SE Asian history

There’s a busy street in Hanoi called Lý Thường Kiệt, named after a famous 11 Century general who was also a poet and, quite surprisingly, a eunuch. Castration was practised in Vietnam for centuries and it didn’t just involve the removal of the testicles – the penis was also cut off! Many men volunteered to become eunuchs, so that they could secure a better job; the only men allowed inside the Forbidden City at Huế were the Emperor and his eunuchs.  During the Nguyen dynasty, however, only men from wealthy families could be considered for castration. Lý Thường Kiệt is not Vietnam’s only famous eunuch – there’s also Nguyễn An, a hydraulics specialist and architect who was given to the Chinese emperor as tribute in the 15th Century.

Above: Chinese eunuchs, circa 1908

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