Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall

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Beijing has so many interesting museums; for example the Watermelon Museum, The Bee Museum, The Museum of Ethnic Costumes and The Beijing Tap Water Museum to name but a few, and with a spare Sunday in Beijing, I decided on the Eunuch Museum which is located about 40 minutes out of Beijing and said to be the world’s ‘only’ Eunuch Museum.

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The museum first opened to the public in 1998 and am told is mainly visited by foreigners, and with only another two foreigners at the museum on the day we went I guess it could be correct.  Entry fee is 8 RMB (@ $1.50).

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Pang Zianhui, the curator of the museum said the primary function of the museum is to record the lives of eunuchs and it does just that.  The grounds include a tomb of eunuch Tian Yi who was castrated at age nine and commenced his tenure at the Beijing Imperial Palace  (today’s Forbidden City) under the Jiajing Emperor.  Tian, it is said, carved a remarkable nice in the Ming Dynasty where he served three emperors in a row rising from the bottom rung of the job ladder to become a second-grade official within the royal hierarchy.  Tian passed away in 1605 at age 72 and upon his death, the emperor is said to of ceased court work for three days and asked his craftsman to build an underground coffin chamber for Tian, proclaiming imperial glory that few men received.

Tian’s tomb remains the last completely preserved eunuch tomb in Beijing.  Tian’s good reputation afforded him to not experience the same fate as other eunuchs i.e. their bodies were dug out of their graves after their death even though they lived powerfully when alive.  Tian’s tomb today, is completely empty as it was raided during the Cultural Revolution and all the treasures were stolen.

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The museum was once the Cixiang Nunnery, inhabited by monks and nuns and the eunuchs who guarded Tian Ti’s tomb.  After the fall of the Ming Dynasty, many Qing Dynasty eunuchs donated money to improve the Nunnery out of their admiration for Tian Yi.  Some eunuchs went to the nunnery to become monks after they were driven out of the palace due to their advanced age.  The came to protect Tian tomb and spend the later part of their lives at the nunnery.

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At the entrance to the museum grounds there are two huge statues of Tian, one as a scholar and the other dressed as a warrior, both 3m high.  Again it is said that after Tian died, 259 eunuchs came to pay tribute to him ad their names are inscribed on a stone column that stands nearby.

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The actual museum comprises five rooms, and the room that caused a great amount of wincing was the graphical rendition of the actual ‘operation’ which was performed without anaesthetic and involved the young boy being held/tied down to stop struggling.  We also saw one of the knives, albeit now rusty, which was used for the procedure.

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A good couple of hours to spend on a Sunday if you have the time whilst in Beijing.