Eunuchs in Siam
Before, During and After the Reign of King Narai in Ayutthaya
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.
Andaya, Barbara Watson. 2006. The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Andaya, Barbara Watson. 2008. “Women and the Performance of Power in Early Modern Southeast Asia.” In Servants of the Dynasty: Palace Women in World History, ed. Anne Walthall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008, pp. 22-44.
Babayan, Kathryn. 2012. “Eunuchs: The Safavid period.” Encyclopaedia Iranica. https: //iranicaonline.org/articles/eunuchs#iv.
Baker, Chris and Pasuk Phongpaichit. 2017. A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baker, Chris. 2013. “The Grand Palace in the Description of Ayutthaya: Translation and Commentary.” In Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 101: 69-112.
Baker, Chris and Pasuk Phongpaichit. 2010. The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Baker, Chris and Pasuk Phongpaichit, ed. 2016. The Palace Law of Ayutthaya and the Thammasat: Law and Kingship in Siam. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program Publications.
Barbosa, Duarte. 1921 [c.1518]. The Book of Duarte Barbosa: an account of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their inhabitants. Trans. Mansel Longworth Dames. Second Series #49. 2 vols., London: Hakluyt Society.
Bhawan Ruangsilp. 2016. “Kromluang Yothathep: King Narai’s Daughter and Ayutthaya Court Intrigue.” In Journal of Siam Society, Vol 104: 95-110.
Bowring, John. 1969 . The Kingdom and People of Siam. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
Céberet du Boullay, Claude. 2002 [1887-1888]. “Ceberet’s Journal.” In Mission Made Impossible: The Second French Embassy to Siam 1687. Michael Smithies, ed. and transl. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Charnvit Kasetsiri. 1976. The Rise of Ayudhya: A History of Siam in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
Choisy, Abbé de. 1993 . Journal of a Voyage to Siam, 1685-1686. Trans and intro by Michael Smithies. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
Dale, Melissa. 2018. Inside the World of the Eunuch: A Social History of the Emperor’s Servants in Qing China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Dhiravat na Pombejra. 2000. “VOC Employees and their Relationship with Mon and Siamese Women: A Case Study of Osoet Pegua.” In Other Pasts: Women, Gender and History in Early Modern Southeast Asia. Barbara Watson Andaya, ed. Honolulu: Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
Fine Arts Department. 1997. Bot Lakhon Ryang Ramakien Phraratchaniphon Phrabat Somdet PhraPhutthayotfaChulalok Maharat [Drama Script of the Ramakien of King Rama I].
vols. Bangkok: Fine Arts Department.
Forbin, Claude de. 1997 . The Siamese Memoirs of Count Claude de Forbin, 1685-1688. Intro and edited by Michael Smithies. Chiang Mai; Silkworm Books.
Gervaise, Nicolas. 1989. The Natural and Political History of the Kingdom of Siam. John Villiers, ed. and trans. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.
Hambly, Gavin. 1974. “A Note on the Trade in Eunuchs in Mughal Bengal.” Journal of the American Oriental Society. 94(1): 125-130.
Hathaway, Jane. 2018. The Chief Eunuch of the Ottoman Harem: From African Slave to Power Broker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hogendorn, Jan. “The Hideous Trade. Economic Aspects of the ‘Manufacture’ and Sale of Eunuchs.” Paideuma 45 (1999): 137-160. http: //www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/stable/40341768 (accessed 9 March 2021).
Hsieh, Bao Hua. 2014. Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China. London: Lexington Books.
Jory, Patrick. 2021. A History of Manners and Civility in Thailand. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Julispong Chularatana. 2007. “Muslim Communities during the Ayutthaya Period.” Manusya: Journal of Humanities 10(1): 89-107. http: //www.manusya.journals.chula.ac.th/files/essay/Julispong_89-107.pdf
Julispong Chularatana. 2018 [BE 2561]. “Khanthi haeng Krung Sri Ayutthayaa: Nakthet–NaajKamnal-Yuunuk...Thuk Tohn cing mai tohn thiinaj?” [“Eunuchs in Ayutthaya: Foreigners-Royal Servants-Eunuchs...Really castrated, castrated where?”]. In SilapaWathanatham. https://www.silpa-mag.com/history/article_16985
Julispong Chularatana. 2021. KhanthiKhaeknajRachasamnakAyutthayaa [Indian Eunuchs in the Palace of Ayutthaya]. In SilapaWathanatham. https: //www.silpa-mag.com/history/article_17068
Kaempfer, Engelbert. 1977. Am Hofe des persischen Grosskönigs. Tubingen: Horst Erdmann Verlag.
Laffin, John. 1967. Women in Battle. London: Abelard-Schuman.
Leonowens, Anna. 1988. The English Governess at the Siamese Court. Oxford University Press.
Loos, Tamara. 2005. “Sex in the Inner City: The Fidelity between Sex and Politics in Siam.” Journal of Asian Studies 64(4): 881-909. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/stable/25075903 (accessed 15 July 2021).
La Loubère, Simon de. 1969. The Kingdom of Siam. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
Marcinkowski, Ismail. 2002. “The Iranian-Siamese Connection: An Iranian Community in the Thai Kingdom of Ayutthaya.” Iranian Studies 35(1/3): 23-46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4311436 (accessed 30 July 2021).
Mitamura, Taisuke. 1970. Chinese Eunuchs: The Structure of Intimate Politics. Trans. Charles Pomeroy. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company.
Moosvi, Shireen. 2009. “India’s Sea Trade with Iran in Medieval Times.” In
Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 70: 240-250. http: //www.jstor.org/stable/44147672 (Accessed 20 August 2021).
Muhammad Rabi ibn Muhammad Ibrahim. 1972 . The Ship of Sulaiman. John O’Kane, trans. New York: Columbia University Press.
Patterson, Orlando. 1982. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Peletz, Michael. 2009. Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times. New York: Routledge.
Penzer, N.M. 1936. The Harem: An Account of the Institution as it Existed in the Palace of the Turkish Sultans. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.
Pires, Tomé. 1944 . The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires: An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, written in Malacca and India in 1512-1515. Cortesão, Armando, trans. 2 vols. London: Hakluyt Society.
Polo, Marco. 1931 [c.1302]. The Travels of Marco Polo. Ricci, Aldo, trans. London: Routledge.
Reid, Anthony. 1993. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680. Two volumes. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Reynolds, Craig J. 1994. “Predicaments of Modern Thai History.” South East Asia Research 2(1): 64-90.
Sarasin Viraphol. 1977. Tribute and Profit: Sino-Siamese Trade, 1652-1853. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Schouten, Joost. 1986 . “A True Description of the Mighty Kingdom of Siam.” In Caron and Schouten: The Mighty Kingdoms of Japan and Siam. Bangkok: Siam Society, pp. 121-152.
Scupin, Raymond. 1980. “Islam in Thailand before the Bangkok Period.” In Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 68: 63-64.
Smith, Malcolm. 1982 . A Physician at the Court of Siam. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
Smithies, Michael. 2002. Mission Made Impossible: The Second French Embassy to Siam 1687. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Smithies, Michael, ed. 2011. Five Hundred Years of Thai-Portuguese Relations: A Festschrift. Bangkok: Siam Society.
Stent, G. Carter. 1877. “Chinese Eunuchs.” Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 11: 143-184.
Strathern, Alan. 2019. “Sacred Kingship under King Narai of Ayutthaya.” In Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 107(Pt. 1): 49–77.
Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. 1992. “Iranians Abroad: Intra-Asian Elite Migration and Early Modern State Formation.” Journal of Asian Studies. 51(2): 340-63.
Suwadee Tanaprasitpatana. 1989. “Thai Society’s Expectations of Women 1851-1935.” PhD Dissertation, University of Sydney.
Tachard, Guy. 1688. A relation of the voyage to Siam performed by six Jesuits, sent by the French King, to the Indies and China, in the year, 1685. London: J. Robinson and A. Churchil.
Tougher, Shaun. 2008. The Eunuch in Byzantine History and Society. New York: Routledge.
Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. 1991. “The Demand and Supply of Ming Eunuchs.” In Journal of Asian History 25(2): 121-46. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/stable/41930824 (accessed 13 April 2021).
Van Vliet, Jeremias. 2005 . “A Short History of the Kings of Siam.” In Van Vliet’s Siam, edited by Chris Baker, Dhiravat na Pombejra, Alfons van der Kraan and David K. Wyatt. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp. 179-244.
Varthema, Ludivico di. 1863 . The Travels of Ludovico di Varthema in Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix, in Persia, India, and Ethiopia, A.D. 1503 to 1508. John Winter Jones, trans. New York: Burt Franklin, Publisher.
Wade, Geoff, trans. 2005. Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu: an open access resource, Singapore: Asia Research Institute and the Singapore E-Press, National University of Singapore, http://epress.nus.edu.sg/msl/ (accessed 26 August 2021).
Wales, H.G. Quaritch. 1992 . Siamese State Ceremonies. Richmond: Curzon Press.
Wyatt, David K. 1994b. “Family Politics in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Siam.” In Studies in Thai History: Collected Articles. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp. 98-106.
Wyatt, David K. 1994a. “A Persian Mission to Siam in the Reign of King Narai.” In Studies in Thai History: Collected Articles. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp. 90-97.