Biography of the last Chinese eunuch


Barbara Demick of The LA Times reports on Sun Yaoting, China's last living eunuch (Left, standing with his biographer, Jia Yinghua).

In 1911 when he was eight years old, his father castrated him with a razor in preparation of "an imperial life of riches." It didn't quite work out as his father had hoped.

After the Communists came to power in 1949, Sun and other surviving eunuchs were despised as freakish symbols of the feudal past. He was nearly killed during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, and his siblings were so fearful of persecution that they threw away his bao, or treasure: the severed genitals that eunuchs kept pickled in a jar so they could be buried as complete men.

It was not until the final years of his life that Sun was recognized as a rare living repository of history. A biography based on hours of interviews in the years before his death in 1996 was recently translated into English. The book arrives as a museum dedicated to eunuchs, built around the tomb of a 16th century eunuch, is undergoing a major expansion. It is scheduled to reopen in May.