Eunuchs in Siam

Before, During and After the Reign of King Narai in Ayutthaya

Authors

  • Katherine A. Bowie University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract

Eunuchs played important roles in courts across Asia. Although some scholars have argued there were no eunuchs in the Siamese courts, eunuchs—albeit few in number—were present in the court of King Narai (1657-1688). Drawing on hints regarding race, gender, numbers, and roles provided in the Palace Law of Ayutthaya and European accounts, this essay considers the evidence regarding the presence of eunuchs before, during and after the reign of King Narai. Indian eunuchs were most likely brought to Ayutthaya during King Narai’s reign. If eunuchs predated his reign, they were likely of Chinese origin. However, Chinese eunuchs may have first arrived following the collapse of the Ming dynasty in 1644 and the expansion of trade during the Qing dynasty. Eunuchs apparently served during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868). Rather than policing harems, eunuchs promoted the interests of kings and palace women alike.

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Published

2022-05-06

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