The Empress Dowager Cixi in a sedan chair surrounded by eunuchs in front of Renshoudian, Summer Palace, Beijing, circa 1903–1905. Left front, Second Chief Eunuch Cui Yugui; right front, First Chief Eunuch Li Lianying. SMITHSONIAN PHOTOGRAPHY INITIATIVE.
Often at odds with Confucian officialdom, eunuchs were castrated male servants employed in the imperial household. The emperors, especially those who were mistrustful of their Confucian officials, relied on veritable armies of eunuchs