In 1996, Xinhua News Agency issued a message stating that Sun Yaoting, China's last eunuch, had passed away. The relics he donated have become an important collection in the eunuch culture museum.China's last eunuch Sun Yaoting (left) together with the abbot of Beijing's Guanghua Temple. The photo was taken in 1994.
Sun was born in Jinghai County in north China's Tianjin city. In the past, Jinghai was a backward place and people lived desperate lives. If a poor man wanted to live a better life, being a eunuch was considered a shortcut to prosperity. Fathers often would castrate their sons so that they could enter service in the imperial palace. Sun’s father thought that this was the only way possible for Sun Yaoting to earn a living.
In 1916, Pu Yi, China's last emperor albeit abdicated, recruited eunuchs openly in the countryside. Via a middleman called Ren Dexiang, Sun Yaoting finally enrolled into Palace service.
His luck held all the way from his entry into the Forbidden City. Sun was promoted to serve Wan Rong, the country's last empress. In 1924, during the war between warlords, the imperial family and Sun were expelled from the Palace. Soon afterwards Sun concluded his career as a palace eunuch.
Being as a eunuch for eight years, Sun Yaoting could do nothing but act as a servant. He failed to find a job in rural areas and was forced to rely on his brothers' assistance.
He escaped from the discrimination in the countryside and returned to Beijing two years later. There he settled down at the Xinglong Temple where over 40 eunuchs lived. Sun grubbed for a living by picking up coal cinders and waste on the streets. Although life was difficult, he experienced less discrimination.
After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the government began to provide a monthly subsidy, 16 yuan, to eunuchs as their living expenses. Soon, Sun was given a job in a temple as a cashier. He worked there for six years with a monthly wage of 35 yuan, later it increased to 45 yuan.
In 1996, Sun died at age 96.
(China.org.cn December 7, 2007)