Punishment, Not Compassion
Suicide provided eunuchs with one of the few ways in which they could determine when they would permanently exit the system. Far from a solitary act, a eunuch’s suicide posed a risk to the imperial court, his family members, and his fellow eunuchs. This examination of how the Qing dealt with eunuch suicides provides insight into palace–eunuch labor relations, the complexities of unfree status, and further evidence of eunuchs pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior as they attempted to express a degree of agency and self-determination in their lives. Qing suicide regulations reveal that eunuchs did not have the right to leave their positions whenever they chose, especially when it involved the possibility of leaving the palace for good through suicide.
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