Eunuchs in East Asian History

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy

Table of Contents

August 25th 2009

September 2nd 2009 . go to NHW's Log

Points (1b), (1d), (1f), (1g), (2a), (3a), (3b), (4a) fixed. Now focus on content.

August 25th 2009 . go to NHW's Log

A complate draft, so expect a long & detailed response

(1) notes, references, quotations
(1a) your notes 97, 98, 103-105 and others : in your text you write in a way that non-readers of Chinese can follow your argumentation. in your notes you presume your reader to be bilingual in English and Chinese.
Your paper has a total of 135 notes, among them 56 ibids. This might be interpreted as excessive dependence on a few specific sources; now the value of your paper lies in the fact that these sources you depend upon are mainly in Chinese / Korean, and you make them accessible to readers not proficient in Chinese. So, please, reformulate notes of the note 97 type in a way that they make sense to the readers not proficient in Chinese.
(1b) note 127 : see supra note 68 p.37
If your reader goes to note 68, he finds an explanation and another cross-reference : see supra note 61.
I suggest to exchange "see supra note 61" by Chang 2007 p.67.
(1c) note 61 Chang 2007, cited in XYZ : I read this as you quote Chang 2007 indirectly, as you read Chang being quoted in XYZ. I assume it was the other way round : XYZ, as referred to in Chang 2007 p... . If my assumption is correct, reformulate all notes of this type accordingly.
(1d) reference Korea No.6 Article: Korea, history of, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009.
First : throw out "Ultimate Reference Suite". Not part of the name, but advertisement.
Second : as you do not give a URL or a comment "Online version", you refer to the printed version. But you do not give edition, volume, page number. The Britannica exists since 1768; if you quote it, your reader must assume that you use the print version unless expressedly stated otherwise. So complete all entries of this type.
(1e) references Korea No.7, 8 : note the difference ? standardize. Just one question : did you use the English, Chinese or Korean language version of the Wikipedia ? Of course I know, but as you heavily rely on Chinese and Korean language sources, it would make sense to state explicitly thaty you used the English language version. (in normal papers written in English, the version used is presumably the English one unless specifically stated otherwise).
(1f) your note 56 : Silla (57 BC - 935 AD) was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and the longest sustained dynasty in Asian history. Other two kingdoms were Goguryeo and Baekje. All these countries had existed within the Korean peninsula. Article: Silla, from Wikipedia.
So what's wrong here ? Your reference "Article : Silla, from Wikipedia" says : the information I rely on in the previous text is based on ... But you went one step further, you copied and pasted the sentence. You did give credit to the Wikipedia, but you did not identify the text as a direct quote. Use quotation marks.
Also in any other case where you did so, throughout the paper.
As you do not use quotation marks yet, you have to stand up for the statement "and the longest sustained dynasty in Asian history". The Japanese dynasty is uninterrupted since the beginning of Japanese history; so the term "sustained" is meant to exclude Japan from the comparison. But when I visited Kyeongju, I learned that for a certain period of time, Silla was called Kyerim. Now if a state changes its name, that means for me a discontinuation ..
This argumentation is of no relevance for your paper. But it may help you understand the importance of quotation marks : if you use them, it is not your problem to defend that statement; if you don't, it is yours.
(1g) Zheng He's first voyage consisted of a fleet of around 300 ships (other sources say 200) holding almost 28,000 crewmen. These were probably mainly large six-masted ships. One of a set of maps of Zheng He's missions, also known as the Mao Kun maps, 1628. Zheng He's fleets visited Arabia, East Africa, India, Indonesia and Thailand (at the time called Siam), dispensing and receiving goods along the way. Zheng He presented gifts of gold, silver, porcelain and silk; in return, China received such novelties as ostriches, zebras, camels, ivory and giraffes. (49) I suspect this to be another case of forgotten quotation marks.

(2) Terminology
(2a) your note 2 : Zhou-li ( ) is one of three ancient ritual texts listed among the classics of Confucianism. Article: Rites of Zhou, from Wikipedia.
better : Rites of Zhou, in Chinese Zhou-li ( ) formerly known as the Book of Rites, one of the classics of Confucianism; see Articles : Rites of Zhou and Classic of Rites, from Wikipedia
This paper is less about you digging up, organizing and presenting information unknown to historians, but about making information generally known to the Far Eastern scholars more easily accessible to interested, educated western readers.
A problem you need to be aware of is that books published on East Asian history in English over the centuries have used a variety of transcriptions of Chinese/Korean names, and a variety of historical terms. Try to make it easy for such readers to understand that Zhou-li is not another book authored by Confucius discovered in the Beijing national library last year, but in fact is a recently used term for what in the west, for centuries, is known as the Book of Rites (or at least part of it).

(3) Expression
(3a) Before Ming Dynasty => Before the Ming Dynasty
Dynasties can be counted. If you refer to a specific dynasty, the determined article is required. Fix throughout your paper.
(3b) However, these unemployed eunuchs began to cause several problems within the nation. Since they were not even capable to find jobs only for males (20), the only thing left for them to do in order to continue living was robbery.
I have difficulty with only. Couldn't they sell noodles along the streets, do the laundry for people, become merchants ?

(4) Contradiction
(4a) However, these unemployed eunuchs began to cause several problems within the nation. Since they were not even capable to find jobs only for males (20), the only thing left for them to do in order to continue living was robbery. Robbery during the Ming dynasty surges owing to this reason. However, the government had few choices to soothe the unemployed eunuchs because the number of castrated males greatly outnumbered that of eunuchs employed. The period during the Ming dynasty can surely be summarised into one phrase : the flood of voluntary eunuchs.
If I understand your paper correctly, only the Imperial Chinese court and the Royal Korean court hired eunuchs. So I wonder (1) how come lots of people volunteer to become eunuchs ? Especially, if there are unemployed eunuchs around ? For this statement, you don't give a reference.
If eunuchs become involuntarily, "demand" and "supply" are easy to match by those who make the decision. If persons castrate themselves in order to apply for a job, then you can have problems such as excessive numbers of applicants. Now, the only place where the jobs the eunuchs of their own making were available were in the capital. So was the eunuch robbery a problem of the capital region only ? If we assume Ming China to have had a population of 50 million, the Imperial court to have employed 3000 eunuchs, and the number of applicants who found themselves to be unemployed ten times the last figure, was this a major problem ? Countrywide or locally ?

(5) Organization
Questions you do not, or at least not systematically, try to answer :
(5a) where did the eunuchs come from (geographical area, social stratum).
(5b) when/how did the institution of eunuchs end (as only Imperial courts / Royal courts hired them, the end of these courts .. See "The Last Emperor". The Imperial court was maintained during the early years of the Chinese Republic. When did castration as a form of legal punishment end ?
(5c) what happened to the eunuchs when they were no longer required at court ?
(5d) you mention that eunuchs were not accepted in any other job. I wonder, how were they treated by Buddhist monasteries ?

(6) Information
(6a) Robbery crisis because of too many eunuchs : when ? Ming Dynasty lasted 2 1/2 centuries.

(7) Analysis
This paper provides you with an opportunity. In your conclusion (or introduction) you can come up with a definition of the East Asian eunuch and his place in the court. Household administration (as opposed to national administration). You can list the problems inherent in the institution : the problem of supply and oversupply, of trying to extend their influence beyond their limits. I suggest - after having presented all these details - you try distance yourself from the factual basis, you ask yourself one question : How come the institution of eunuchs, in the Far East, lasted that long; in what way did society benefit from it, and in what way did they pose a problem ?
Remember Kermit the frog, the trees and the forest. Your chronological description of basic information is solid. Your analysis, the forest, leaves room for improvement.