Negotiating Power and Identity: Eunuchs in Qing China (1644–1911)
Pages 307 - 320
While traditional historiography has portayed eunuchs in imperial China as avaricious and ambitious, a growing number of new studies set out to reverse the stereotypical and biased representations of eunuchs. Focusing on two recent monographs on eunuchs in Qing China, this review article aims to unveil the history of the hitherto lesser-known palace servants to present a more vivid and multi-faceted picture of this marginal yet important group. While most eunuchs in the Qing were relegated to a servile status and subjected to social marginalization, they still enjoyed certain imperial favor and obtained a degree of agency that allowed them to create a collective identity. Because of their proximity to the emperor, they also formed a significant part of the central, and most inaccessible, physical space of the Qing empire.