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The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty
The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty
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Shih-shan Henry Tsai - Author
SUNY series in Chinese Local Studies
Hardcover - 290 pages
Release Date: November 1995
ISBN10: 0-7914-2687-4
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-2687-6

Out of Print
Price: $33.95 
Paperback - 290 pages
Release Date: November 1995
ISBN10: 0-7914-2688-2
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-2688-3

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This study of Chinese eunuchs illuminates the entire history of the Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644, and provides broad information on various aspects of pre-modern China.

This book is the first on Chinese eunuchs in English and presents a comprehensive picture of the role that they played in the Ming dynasty, 1368-1644. Extracted from a wide range of primary and secondary source material, the author provides significant and interesting information about court politics, espionage and internal security, military and foreign affairs, tax and tribute collection, the operation of imperial monopolies, judiciary review, the layout of the palace complex, the Grand Canal, and much more.

The eunuchs are shown to be not just a minor adjunct to a government of civil servants and military officers, but a fully developed third branch of the Ming administration that participated in all of the most essential matters of the dynasty. The veil of condemnation and jealousy imposed on eunuchs by the compilers of official history is pulled away to reveal a richly textured tapestry. Eunuchs are portrayed in a balanced manner that gives due consideration to able and faithful service along with the inept, the lurid, and the iniquitous.

“This book is a detailed and intellectually sophisticated study of Ming eunuchs that illuminates the entire history of the Ming. The author is aware of the systematic anti-eunuch prejudice of the sources (all composed by civil officials), and has adopted a critical stance throughout. This has permitted him to assess objectively the achievements of the eunuchs and to let them 'speak for themselves' to the extent that the sources permit.”— Edward L. Dreyer, University of Miami

Shih-shan Henry Tsai is Professor of History and Chairman of Asian Studies at the University of Arkansas.

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Table of Contents

Maps and Figures


Successive Reigns of the Ming Emperors (1368-1644)

I. Introduction

The Scholar and the Eunuch
New Thematic Approaches

II. The Demand and Supply of Ming Eunuchs

Historic Origins
Foreign Supply of Eunuchs
Domestic Supply of Eunuchs
More Supply Than Demand
The Problem of Excessive Castrati

III. Institutionalization of the Eunuch Agencies

Early Eunuch Establishments
Eunuchs' New Haven
Eunuch Agencies Inside the Imperial City
Eunuch Agencies Outside the Capital City

IV. Eunuchs and the Ming Military System

Eunuchs as Military Commanders
The Eunuch Battalions
The Nanjing Grand Commandant
Eunuch Commanders and Ming Bureaucracy
Eunuchs and Teas-Horse Trade

V. Eunuchs and the Ming Intelligence-Gathering Apparatuses

The Eastern Depot
Succesive Directors of the Eastern Depot
The Western Depot

VI. Eunuchs and Ming Diplomacy

Ming Tributary System
The Mongols and the Tibetans
Eunuch Missions to Central Asia
Ming Eunuchs and Chinese-Korean Relations

VII. Eunuchs and Ming Maritime Activities

Eunuchs and the Ming Maritime Trade
Trade with Japan and the Ryukyu Islands
Trade with Southeast Asia
Zheng He's Seven Navigations

VIII. Eunuchs' Involvement in the Ming Economy

Managing the Imperial Plantations
Eunuchs as Tax Collectors
Eunuchs' Role in the Ming Salt Monopoly
Eunuchs and Ming Mining
Eunuchs as Purchasing Agents and Manufacturing Managers

IX. Miscellaneous Duties of the Ming Eunuchs

Eunuchs and Imperial Seals
Eunuchs and Ming Flood-Control Projects
Eunuchs and Ming Judiciary Reviews

X. Conclusion

Appendix 1: Eunuch Agencies and Their Duties in Ming Dynasty

Appendix 2: Glossary of Chinese Characters




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