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The Ten Attendants, also known as the Ten Eunuchs, were a group of influential
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 2 ...

eunuch
-officials in the imperial court of
Emperor Ling Emperor Ling of Han (156 – 13 May 189), personal name Liu Hong, was the 12th and last powerful Emperor of China, emperor of the Han dynasty#Eastern Han, Eastern Han dynasty. Born the son of a lesser Marquess, marquis who descended directly fro ...

Emperor Ling
( 168–189) in
Eastern Han#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...
China. Although they are often referred to as a group of 10, there were actually 12 of them and all held the position of ''zhong changshi'' (中常侍; "Central Regular Attendant") in Emperor Ling's imperial court. The 12 were: Zhang Rang (張讓), Zhao Zhong (趙忠), Xia Yun (夏惲), Guo Sheng (郭勝), Sun Zhang (孫璋), Bi Lan (畢嵐), Li Song (栗嵩), Duan Gui (段珪), Gao Wang (高望), Zhang Gong (張恭), Han Kui (韓悝) and Song Dian (宋典).(張讓者,潁川人;趙忠者,安平人也。 ... 是時讓、忠及夏惲、郭勝、孫璋、畢嵐、栗嵩、段珪、高望、張恭、韓悝、宋典十二人,皆為中常侍, ...) ''Houhanshu'' vol. 78.


Early years

Two of the eunuchs, Zhang Rang (張讓) and Zhao Zhong (趙忠), started serving in the Han imperial palace as attendants holding the rank of ''jishi shengzhong'' (給事省中). Zhang Rang was from
Yingchuan Commandery Yingchuan Commandery ( zh, 潁川郡) was a Chinese commandery In the Middle Ages, a commandery (rarely commandry) was the smallest administrative division of the European landed estate, landed properties of a Military order (religious society), mi ...
(潁川郡; around present-day
Xuchang Xuchang (; postal: Hsuchang) is a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi main urban area. A prefectu ...

Xuchang
,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China, in the Central China, central part of the country. Henan is often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou (), which literally means "central plain" or "midlan ...

Henan
) while Zhao Zhong was from Anping Commandery (安平郡; around present-day Jizhou,
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, f ...
). They were promoted to '' xiao huangmen'' (小黃門) during the reign of Emperor Huan ( 146–168). In 159, Zhao Zhong participated in a coup against
Liang Ji Liang Ji (梁冀) (died 159), courtesy name Bozhuo (伯卓), was a politician and military commander of Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established ...
, a highly influential general who monopolised state power in the 150s, and succeeded in ousting him from power. In recognition of Zhao Zhong's efforts, Emperor Huan enfeoffed him as a marquis of a chief district (都鄉侯). In 165, Zhao Zhong was promoted to a secondary marquis (關內侯) and allowed to draw an annual salary of 1,000 ''hu'' of grain.


During Emperor Ling's reign

During the reign of
Emperor Ling Emperor Ling of Han (156 – 13 May 189), personal name Liu Hong, was the 12th and last powerful Emperor of China, emperor of the Han dynasty#Eastern Han, Eastern Han dynasty. Born the son of a lesser Marquess, marquis who descended directly fro ...

Emperor Ling
( 168–189), Zhao Zhong and Zhang Rang rose to the position of ''zhong changshi'' (中常侍) and received marquis titles from the emperor. They were also close allies of two other influential eunuchs, Cao Jie (曹節; died 181) and Wang Fu (王甫; died 179). After Cao Jie's death, Zhao Zhong assumed the appointment of Empress's Chamberlain (大長秋). Around the time, Zhang Rang and Zhao Zhong, along with ten others – Xia Yun (夏惲), Guo Sheng (郭勝), Sun Zhang (孫璋), Bi Lan (畢嵐), Li Song (栗嵩), Duan Gui (段珪), Gao Wang (高望), Zhang Gong (張恭), Han Kui (韓悝) and Song Dian (宋典) – all held the position of ''zhong changshi'' (中常侍), in addition to marquis titles. Their relatives and associates, who were spread throughout the various provinces and commanderies of the Han Empire, were notorious for corruption. Zhang Rang instructed Bi Lan to serve the area near the Luoyang palace with running water, and so Bi Lan built chain pumps and suction pumps outside the Peace Gate.


Yellow Turban Rebellion

When the
Yellow Turban Rebellion The Yellow Turban Rebellion, also translated as the Yellow Scarves Rebellion, was a peasant revolt This is a chronological list of conflicts in which peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited l ...

Yellow Turban Rebellion
broke out in 184, an official Zhang Jun (張鈞) wrote a
memorial A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for the memory or the commemoration of something, usually an influential, deceased person or a historical, tragic event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or works of art such a ...
to Emperor Ling, blaming the Ten Attendants and their relatives and associates for the corruption that fuelled the grievances which led to the rebellion. He urged Emperor Ling to execute the Ten Attendants and make it known throughout the Han Empire, so as to appease the common people's anger. When Emperor Ling showed the eunuchs the memorial, they removed their hats and shoes, knelt down, begged the emperor to imprison them and expressed their willingness to donate their wealth to fund the army in quelling the rebellion. The emperor ordered them to put on their hats and shoes, and continue with what they were doing previously. He then chided Zhang Jun, "You're mad! Are there no good ones among the Ten Attendants?" Zhang Jun submitted another memorial similar to the previous one, but the memorial never made it to Emperor Ling's desk. Emperor Ling later ordered the Minister of Justice (廷尉) and Imperial Secretaries (御史) to investigate
Zhang Jue Zhang Jue (; died 184) was the leader of the Yellow Turban Rebellion during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He was said to be a follower of Taoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphas ...
and his Taiping Sect (太平道), who started the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Zhang Rang and the eunuchs secretly instructed the investigators to frame Zhang Jun for learning the ways of the Taiping Sect; Zhang Jun was imprisoned and tortured, and eventually died in prison. The eunuchs themselves were, in fact, secretly in contact or collaborating with Zhang Jue. After two eunuchs, Feng Xu (封諝) and Xu Feng (徐奉), were caught and executed, an angry Emperor Ling scolded the eunuchs, "You often say the officials were up to no good. Some of them have been imprisoned while others were executed. Now they are the ones who prove to be useful for the Empire, while you're the ones working with Zhang Jue. So whom should I execute?" The eunuchs begged for mercy and pushed the blame to Wang Fu (王甫) and
Hou Lan Hou Lan (died 172) was a eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the ...
(侯覽). Emperor Ling then let them off.


Corruption

Zhang Rang had a number of housekeepers to help him manage his household. His housekeepers built networks with other influential persons and accepted bribes. There was one Meng Tuo (孟佗) from
Fufeng Commandery Fufeng ( zh, 扶風), also known as You Fufeng ( zh, 右扶風), was a historical region located in modern western Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the C ...
(扶風郡) who gave all his family fortune as a gift to one of Zhang Rang's housekeepers. The housekeeper, grateful for the generous gift, asked him what he wanted in return. Meng Tuo said that all he wanted was to meet Zhang Rang. Around the time, there were many people seeking an audience with Zhang Rang; these people, bringing along carts filled with gifts, formed a long queue outside Zhang Rang's residence. Meng Tuo showed up late so he could not enter. To his surprise, the housekeeper, whom he befriended, came out to welcome him like an honoured guest and instructed the servants to carry him into Zhang Rang's residence. The other visitors saw that and thought that he was a special friend of Zhang Rang, so they eagerly showered him with gifts to flatter him. When Meng Tuo met Zhang Rang later, he gave some of the gifts he received to the latter, who was delighted. Zhang Rang later helped Meng Tuo become the Inspector (刺史) of
Liang Province Liang Province or Liangzhou () was a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdi ...
. In 185, when a fire broke out in the southern part of the imperial palace, the Ten Attendants suggested to Emperor Ling to levy a tax of ten
mace Mace may refer to: Arts and entertainment * Mace (G.I. Joe), a fictional character in the G.I. Joe universe * Mace, a fictional character in the 1995 film ''Strange Days (film), Strange Days'' * Mace, a fictional character in the 2007 film ''Sunsh ...
s from every ''mu'' of farmland to raise funds for rebuilding the palace. Emperor Ling then ordered the officials in Taiyuan (太原), Hedong (河東) and Didao (狄道) commanderies to transport wood and patterned rocks to
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
(the imperial capital) as construction materials. When the shipments reached the palace, the eunuchs who received them scolded the labourers for delivering materials of poor quality, and insisted on paying them far below market prices – to as low as a tenth of the market price. They then resold the materials to other eunuchs, who refused to buy. Over time, the accumulated piles of wood started decaying. The construction works were thus delayed for years. In order to please Emperor Ling, some regional officials levied heavier taxes and forced the people to produce greater quantities of construction materials – this led to greater resentment from the common people. Emperor Ling often said, "Regular Attendant Zhang (Rang) is my father, Regular Attendant Zhao (Zhong) is my mother." As the eunuchs were highly trusted and favoured by Emperor Ling, they behaved lawlessly and abused their power. They even built lavish mansions for themselves in the same design as the imperial palace. When Emperor Ling once visited Yong'anhou Platform (永安侯臺), a high viewing platform, the eunuchs were worried that he would see their mansions and become suspicious. Thus, they told him, "Your Majesty shouldn't put yourself on higher ground. If you do so, the people will scatter." The emperor believed them and stopped visiting high towers and viewing platforms. In 186, Emperor Ling tasked the eunuchs Song Dian (宋典) and Bi Lan (畢嵐) with overseeing new construction projects, including a new palace hall, four large bronze statues, four giant bronze bells and water-spouting animal sculptures, among others. He also ordered
coin A coin is a small, flat, (usually, depending on the country or value) round piece of metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hell ...
s to be minted and widely circulated. Many people perceived this to be a display of the emperor's extravagance, and pointed to signs showing that the coins will eventually scatter everywhere. This turned out to be true when chaos broke out in Luoyang after Emperor Ling's death. Emperor Ling appointed Zhao Zhong as "General of Chariots of Cavalry" (車騎將軍) but removed him from office after some 100 days.


Downfall of the eunuch faction

When Emperor Ling became critically ill in 189, he secretly entrusted his younger son,
Liu Xie Liu Xie (, fl. 5th century), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, a ...
, then about eight years old, to a close aide and eunuch,
Jian Shuo Jian Shuo (died 189) was the leader of the eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce e ...
. Upon the emperor's death, Jian Shuo attempted to install Liu Xie on the throne but his plan failed. Emperor Ling's older son, the 13-year-old
Liu Bian Liu Bian (176 – 6 March 190), also known as Emperor Shao of Han and the Prince of Hongnong, was the 13th emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty in China. He became emperor around the age of 13 upon the death of his father, Emperor Ling of Han, Em ...
, became emperor instead and was known as Emperor Shao. Empress Dowager He (Emperor Shao's mother) and General-in-Chief
He Jin He Jin () (died 22 September 189), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere ...
(Empress Dowager He's brother) became the regents ruling on behalf of the underage emperor. In the summer of 189, after Jian Shuo learnt that He Jin and his subordinates were plotting to eliminate him, he tried to persuade his fellow eunuchs to join him in his plan to assassinate He Jin. However, they were persuaded by Guo Sheng, who was close to Empress Dowager He, to reject Jian Shuo's idea. He Jin subsequently had Jian Shuo arrested and executed, and then took control of the military units previously under Jian's command. In the autumn of 189,
Yuan Shao Yuan Shao (, ; died 28 June 202), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere ...

Yuan Shao
suggested to He Jin to eliminate the eunuch faction and consolidate power. Empress Dowager He immediately rejected the idea because it required her to interact with men on a regular basis, which she found offensive and immodest. Empress Dowager He's mother (the Lady of Wuyang) and He Miao (何苗) had been bribed by the eunuchs to protect them, so they also strongly opposed He Jin's plan, saying that they owed much to the eunuchs. (Empress Dowager He had become Emperor Ling's consort because the eunuchs helped her.) He Jin then heeded an alternative suggestion from Yuan Shao: he secretly instructed a few provincial military officials or warlords (
Dong Zhuo Dong Zhuo () (died 22 May 192), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere ...
,
Wang Kuang Wang Kuang (died 191), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere The E ...
,
Qiao Mao Qiao Mao () (died 190), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere The Eas ...
and
Ding Yuan Ding Yuan () (died 189), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, a ...
) to lead their troops to the vicinity of
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
, the imperial capital, and openly demand that the eunuchs be executed – in the hope of pressuring Empress Dowager He to take action against the eunuchs. Empress Dowager He initially refused to harm the eunuchs, but as Dong Zhuo's forces approached Luoyang, she ordered the eunuchs to leave the palace and return to their marquisates. (Many of the eunuchs had been made marquises by Emperor Ling.) Empress Dowager He's younger sister married Zhang Rang's (adopted) son. Zhang Rang pleaded with her to help him, so she informed her mother (the Lady of Wuyang), who in turn spoke to Empress Dowager He. The empress dowager relented and summoned the eunuchs back to the palace. Around September 189, the eunuchs hatched a plot to assassinate He Jin. They issued a fake imperial order in Empress Dowager He's name, instructing He Jin to enter the palace to meet her. On 22 September 189, He Jin fell into an ambush and died at the hands of the eunuchs, who declared him guilty of treason. After He Jin's death, his subordinates Wu Kuang (吳匡) and Zhang Zhang (張璋), along with
Yuan Shao Yuan Shao (, ; died 28 June 202), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere ...

Yuan Shao
,
Yuan Shu Yuan Shu () (died 199), courtesy name Gonglu, was a Chinese military general, politician, and warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty. He rose to prominence following the collapse of the Han central government in 189. He declared h ...

Yuan Shu
and others, led their troops to storm the palace and kill the eunuchs in revenge. They indiscriminately slaughtered anyone who looked like a eunuch; some young men who had no facial hair, in desperation, dropped their pants in front of the soldiers to prove that they were not eunuchs. During the attack, the eunuchs took Empress Dowager He, Emperor Shao and the Prince of Chenliu (Liu Xie) hostage and tried to flee from the palace up the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
toward
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between ...
. Lu Zhi intercepted the eunuch Duan Gui (段珪) and saved the empress dowager from him. He Miao, who was sympathetic towards the eunuchs, was killed by Wu Kuang and Dong Zhuo's younger brother, Dong Min (董旻). Over 2,000 people died in the attack.(匡遂引兵與董卓弟奉車都尉旻攻殺苗,弃其屍於苑中。紹遂閉北宮門,勒兵捕宦者,無少長皆殺之。或有無須而誤死者,至自發露然後得免。死者二千餘人。) ''Houhanshu'' vol. 69. Zhang Rang and some 10 other eunuchs managed to bring Emperor Shao and the Prince of Chenliu to the riverbank, with imperial forces led by Lu Zhi and Min Gong (閔貢) hot on their heels. Zhang Rang turned to Emperor Shao and tearfully said, "We're going to be destroyed and chaos will break out in the Empire. Your Majesty, please take care of yourself!" He then threw himself into the river and drowned.


In ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''

The Ten Attendants appear at the beginning of the 14th-century historical novel ''
Romance of the Three Kingdoms ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' () is a 14th-century historical novel Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Although the term is commonly used as a synonym for the histori ...
'', which romanticises the events leading to the
end of the Han dynasty The end of the Han dynasty refers to the period of Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as ...
and through the
Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Cao Wei, Wei, Shu Han, Shu, and Eastern Wu, Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the End of the Han dynasty, end of the Han dynasty#East ...

Three Kingdoms
period of China. The ten listed in the novel were: * Feng Xu (封諝), executed in 184 for conspiring with the *
Jian Shuo Jian Shuo (died 189) was the leader of the eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce e ...
(蹇碩), killed by Guo Sheng for attempting to assassinate
He Jin He Jin () (died 22 September 189), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere ...
* Zhao Zhong (趙忠), killed by
Yuan Shu Yuan Shu () (died 199), courtesy name Gonglu, was a Chinese military general, politician, and warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty. He rose to prominence following the collapse of the Han central government in 189. He declared h ...

Yuan Shu
and Wu Kuang (吳匡) * Guo Sheng (郭勝), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang * Xia Yun (夏惲), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang * Cheng Kuang (程曠), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang * Zhang Rang (張讓), drowned * Duan Gui (段珪), killed by Min Gong (閔貢) *
Hou Lan Hou Lan (died 172) was a eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the ...
(侯覽) * Cao Jie (曹節) Five of these ten eunuchs were not among the historical Ten Attendants: Cheng Kuang is a fictional character; Feng Xu and Jian Shuo existed historically, but were not listed among the Ten Attendants in the ''
Book of the Later Han The ''Book of the Later Han'', also known as the ''History of the Later Han'' and by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It ...
''; Hou Lan and Cao Jie died in 172 and 181 respectively so they could not have been present when the events of the novel took place.


In popular culture

The Ten Attendants appear in
Koei Koei Co., Ltd. was a Japanese video game publisher, video game developer, developer, and distributor founded in 1978 in video gaming, 1978. The company is known for its ''Dynasty Warriors'' games based on the novel ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms ...

Koei
's ''
Dynasty Warriors is a series of hack and slash action game, action video games created by Omega Force and Koei. The series is a spin-off of Koei's turn-based strategy ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms (video game series), Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' series, ba ...
'' video game series, specifically in '' Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends'' (
Dong Zhuo Dong Zhuo () (died 22 May 192), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere ...
's story mode), '' Dynasty Warriors 5: Xtreme Legends'', and ''
Dynasty Warriors 8 is a hack and slash video game and the eighth official installment of the ''Dynasty Warriors is a series of hack and slash action game, action video games created by Omega Force and Koei. The series is a spin-off of Koei's turn-based strategy ...
: Xtreme Legends'' (
Lü Bu Lü Bu () (died 7 February 199), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere T ...
's story mode and Ambition Mode).


See also

*
Lists of people of the Three Kingdoms The following are lists of people significant to the Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Cao Wei, Wei, Shu Han, Shu, and Eastern Wu, Wu. The Three Kingdoms period ...


References

;Citations {{reflist ;Bibliography * Fan, Ye. ''
Book of the Later Han The ''Book of the Later Han'', also known as the ''History of the Later Han'' and by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It ...
'' (''Houhanshu''). * Luo, Guanzhong. ''
Romance of the Three Kingdoms ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' () is a 14th-century historical novel Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Although the term is commonly used as a synonym for the histori ...
'' (''Sanguo Yanyi''). * . ''
Zizhi Tongjian ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle recording Chinese history from 403 BC to 959 AD, covering 16 dynasties and spanning almost 1 ...
''. Eunuchs during the end of the Han dynasty Articles about multiple people in pre-Tang China Corruption in China