The Forbidden City gossip

I’ve been putting off blogging about the forbidden city. Not because of any lack of content, quite the contrary, there’s just so much to say! The history is so interesting and extensive that I could have easily written a ten page essay on the subject! Then the other day as I was skyping with my best friend Dale, the topic of the Forbidden City came up, and I thought the copy of this Skype chat would be a much more interesting way to communicate some of the ‘gossip’ I find so enthralling about this amazing oriental monument = )

[8/13/2010 9:54:49 PM] Tiara Rugdee: You know, the Forbidden City is still the largest Palace in the world and took 15 years to build back in 1406-1420, the guy who built it was the Yongle emperor, who was self-appointed through violence and murder of his own nephew. For part of the build material, he forced the people of Szechuan to go deep into the south-western woods to cut down hundreds of thousands of these old trees (pheobe zhennan wood), and send the logs down mountains and rivers floating over 1000 miles to Beijing – they didn’t have trucks then! It took 4 years for these logs to get to Beijing by nature alone. Many of the people from Szechuan didn’t make it out of the woods alive, they had to deal with soldiers, disease, wild life, and weather without any shelter to chop these massive timbers. Amazing!!
[8/13/2010 9:56:11 PM] Dale Pullin: Hahah that’s full on!!
[8/13/2010 9:59:44 PM] Tiara Rugdee: It’s the eunuchs who worked in the palace that really interest me. They used to keep their balls and penis in a jar with them, or in a safe place at all times. These jars were actually called the chinese word for ‘Precious’. Very Lord of the rings.
[8/13/2010 10:00:35 PM] Dale Pullin: wtf!!!!!!!
[8/13/2010 10:00:40 PM] Dale Pullin: balls and penis????????????
[8/13/2010 10:00:42 PM] Tiara Rugdee: The belief back then was that you couldn’t move on in the after-life (to heaven) if you were not complete (your body) so the eunuchs thought it very important to be buried with their ‘precious’ in the hope of tricking the Gods into believe he was still a complete man.
[8/13/2010 10:00:46 PM] Tiara Rugdee: yup. (to balls and penis)
[8/13/2010 10:01:00 PM] Tiara Rugdee: some as young as 12, 13 years old
[8/13/2010 10:01:11 PM] Dale Pullin: why did they have their packages removed???
[8/13/2010 10:01:28 PM] Tiara Rugdee: The belief was that eunuchs were pure of evil thoughts, and the most loyal of servants. the theory was that since Eunuchs could not have sons, they would not be ambitious as they had no one to pass their assets on to.
[8/13/2010 10:01:58 PM] Tiara Rugdee: It was a class/status thing to have eunuchs, it showed your authority and level in the Society. Only Royalty and Government officials kept Eunuchs.
[8/13/2010 10:02:29 PM] Tiara Rugdee: The Emperors only employed eunuchs and servant girls because it ensured that any heir from the empress, or 2400 concubines, would definitely come from his imperial line
[8/13/2010 10:02:30 PM] Dale Pullin: so they were slaves?
[8/13/2010 10:03:11 PM] Tiara Rugdee: no, they were paid. many grown men chose to become eunuchs in their later life for a better life and to work in the palace, rather than starve or have their families starve. The common people were very poor.
[8/13/2010 10:03:42 PM] Dale Pullin: shie+!!
[8/13/2010 10:04:57 PM] Tiara Rugdee: In the operation for a grown man, they would be asked one more time before-hand if they wanted to become a eunuch, and if the man agreed, 2 men would grab his legs, another guy would hold him tightly around the waist, he would then be given some nerve stunning tea and be lying on this type of bed that was semi declined, and then the ‘knifer’ would cut off his balls and penis as close to the body as possible with a small sharp knife.
[8/13/2010 10:05:34 PM] Tiara Rugdee: then to stop the bleeding, the ‘knifer’ would put a metal plug in the wounds, make the man walk for 2 hours (he wasn’t allowed to lie down), with no liquids for a couple of days. It was an agonising process made even worse cos they couldn’t pee during this time
[8/13/2010 10:05:42 PM] Dale Pullin: how did they not bleed to death???
[8/13/2010 10:05:58 PM] Dale Pullin: and how did they make sure their urethra wasn’t lost inside the body??
[8/13/2010 10:06:39 PM] Tiara Rugdee: After the 2 days (I think it was 2 days), they would unplug him, and if the new eunuch could pee it was deemed he would be ok and go on to ‘Eunuch training’ at a princes home for a couple of years before he was allowed to work in the Forbidden city. After the training, the prince would also have to vouch for the eunuchs character and that he had become ‘pure of evil thoughts’ before being allowed to step foot in the palace
[8/13/2010 10:07:04 PM] Tiara Rugdee: oh, if the man couldn’t wee, cos the hole had closed up, then he would be left to die an agonizing death of not being able to release. from the front.
[8/13/2010 10:07:26 PM] Tiara Rugdee: apparently there weren’t many unsuccessful operations like this, otherwise thousands of grown men wouldn’t have volunteered.
[8/13/2010 10:08:05 PM] Dale Pullin: fuck thaaaaat
[8/13/2010 10:08:05 PM] Tiara Rugdee: The other really interesting part was the relationships between the eunuchs with the concubines. They were known as ‘vegetarian relationships.’
[8/13/2010 10:08:12 PM] Dale Pullin: ?
[8/13/2010 10:08:20 PM] Tiara Rugdee: Some of the thousands of concubines wouldn’t see the Emperor for years, and living in the Forbidden city their whole lives with no contact from the outside world, the eunichs were the only ‘semi’ male contact they had
[8/13/2010 10:08:37 PM] Dale Pullin: whats a concubine? one of the Emperor’s wives?
[8/13/2010 10:08:45 PM] Tiara Rugdee: no, mistresses, harem
[8/13/2010 10:08:48 PM] Dale Pullin: ah right
[8/13/2010 10:09:57 PM] Tiara Rugdee: The theory behind it was that due to the low survival rates for children, the emperors would have thousands of concubines (around 2400 for the Yongle Emporer) to conceive with, and if anything happened to the empresses male off-spring, the throne would go to the highest ranked concubines son
[8/13/2010 10:10:40 PM] Tiara Rugdee: interesting thing about being one of the Emperors concubines, if they happened to outlive the emperor, after his death the remaining concubines would be dressed up for him and hung, along with all their servant girls. And we’re talking 30-40 servant girls each.
[8/13/2010 10:11:36 PM] Dale Pullin: holy shit that’s hardcore
[8/13/2010 10:12:10 PM] Dale Pullin: So I wonder how many people wanted to go work for the emperor when he was getting old? heh
[8/13/2010 10:12:59 PM] Tiara Rugdee: The concubines didn’t have a choice
[8/13/2010 10:13:06 PM] Tiara Rugdee: If you were pretty you were fucked
[8/13/2010 10:13:09 PM] Tiara Rugdee: Literally
[8/13/2010 10:13:34 PM] Tiara Rugdee: And anyone who hid their daughters or cut their hair to make them ugly would be arrested and punished
[8/13/2010 10:14:14 PM] Dale Pullin: lolz
[8/13/2010 10:14:34 PM] Tiara Rugdee: Outside of the palace people were very poor. And with the Forbidden City being forbidden to the rest of China, besides the thousands of eunuchs, concubines, servant girls the Emperor and Empress, some government officials and monks, the Emperor became disconnected from his people almost as soon as he was throned
[8/13/2010 10:14:49 PM] Tiara Rugdee: and if he was throned at a young age, he would be at the mercy of his eunuchs
[8/13/2010 10:14:59 PM] Dale Pullin: that’s’ bizarre
[8/13/2010 10:15:05 PM] Dale Pullin: so who ran the show?
[8/13/2010 10:16:35 PM] Tiara Rugdee: the first Forbidden City Emperor was in control, though he was a tyrant. emperors after seemed to be screwed up in one way or another..
[8/13/2010 10:17:18 PM] Tiara Rugdee: because there were so many imperial offspring, the sons would be raised by eunuchs, and the ambitious eunuchs would groom the boys to achieve their own goals. Some of the childhoods were horrific, cos the eunuchs would manipulate the sons and break them down physically and mentally until they were weak in mind and easily controlled
[8/13/2010 10:17:34 PM] Dale Pullin: I see!
[8/13/2010 10:18:10 PM] Tiara Rugdee: they only stopped the tradition of eunuchs in the early 1900s
[8/13/2010 10:18:35 PM] Dale Pullin: twisted
[8/13/2010 10:18:57 PM] Tiara Rugdee: it’s such a tragic history
[8/13/2010 10:19:41 PM] Tiara Rugdee: a magnificent culture cultivated on blood and tears
[8/13/2010 10:21:03 PM] Dale Pullin: yes indeed – Plenty of history to learn everywhere you go! 🙂