An Dehai

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An Dehai
Portrait photograph of An Dehai
An Dehai in an undated photograph
Born 1844
Died 12 September 1869 (aged 24 or 25)
Jinan, Shandong Province, China
Occupation palace eunuch
Known for Favourite of Empress Dowager Cixi

An Dehai (Chinese: ; pinyin: Ān hǎi; Wade–Giles: An Te-hai, 1844 – 12 September 1869) was a palace eunuch at the imperial court of the Qing dynasty. In the 1860s, he became the confidant of Empress Dowager Cixi and was subsequently executed as part of a power struggle between the empress dowager and Prince Gong.[1][2]

In 1869, Empress Dowager Cixi sent An on a mission to the Imperial Textile Factory in Nanjing.[1] On this trip, An travelled on the Grand Canal with a conspicuous display of imperial authority.[1] This was an open violation of palace rules, which prohibited palace eunuchs from leaving the capital without authorisation on the penalty of death, so as to prevent eunuchs from gaining too much power.[2] When An and his entourage reached Shandong Province, the governor Ding Baozhen reported his behaviour back to the Forbidden City.[1][2] Led by Prince Gong, who disliked An, the Grand Council ordered the execution of the eunuch.[2] Empress Dowager Ci'an seemed to have supported the decision whereas Empress Dowager Cixi, who favoured An, did not intervene on the eunuch's behalf.[2] According to one explanation, Empress Dowager Cixi was attending a performance of Beijing opera at the time that the decision was taken and had requested not to be disturbed.[2] As a result, An and six other eunuchs in his entourage were beheaded[1] near the Ximizhi Spring in a Guandi Temple in Jinan. The other members of An's group were made slaves and banished to Heilongjiang in the far northeastern corner of the Qing Empire.[1] An's execution was likely part of a broader power struggle between Empress Dowager Cixi and Prince Gong.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Rawski, Evelyn S. (February 5, 2001). Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. University of California Press. p. 466. ISBN 0520228375. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Haw, Stephen G. (November 30, 2006). Beijing: A Concise History. Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia. Routledge. p. 224. ISBN 0415399068.