The Ten Attendants, also known as the Ten Eunuchs, were a group of influential eunuch-officials in the imperial court of Emperor Ling (r. 168–189 CE) in the Eastern Han dynasty of China. Although they are often referred to as a group of 10, there were actually 12 of them and all held the position of zhong changshi (中常侍; "Central Regular Attendant") in Emperor Ling's imperial court.
The 12 were: Zhang Rang (張讓), Zhao Zhong (趙忠), Xia Yun (夏惲), Guo Sheng (郭勝), Sun Zhang (孫璋), Bi Lan (畢嵐), Li Song (栗嵩), Duan Gui (段珪), Gao Wang (高望), Zhang Gong (張恭), Han Kui (韓悝) and Song Dian (宋典).
Two of the eunuchs, Zhang Rang (張讓) and Zhao Zhong (趙忠), started serving in the Han imperial palace as attendants holding the rank of jishi shengzhong (給事省中). Zhang Rang was from Yingchuan Commandery (潁川郡; around present-day Xuchang, Henan) while Zhao Zhong was from Anping Commandery (安平郡; around present-day Jizhou, Hebei). They were promoted to xiao huangmen (小黃門) during the reign of Emperor Huan (r. 146–168). In 159, Zhao Zhong participated in a coup against Liang Ji, a highly influential general who monopolised state power in the 150s, and succeeded in ousting him from power. In recognition of Zhao Zhong's efforts, Emperor Huan enfeoffed him as a marquis of a chief district (都鄉侯). In 165, Zhao Zhong was promoted to a secondary marquis (關內侯) and allowed to draw an annual salary of 1,000 hu of grain.
During Emperor Ling's reign
During the reign of Emperor Ling (r. 168–189), Zhao Zhong and Zhang Rang rose to the position of zhong changshi (中常侍) and received marquis titles from the emperor. They were also close allies of two other influential eunuchs, Cao Jie (曹節; died 181) and Wang Fu (王甫; died 179). After Cao Jie's death, Zhao Zhong assumed the appointment of Empress's Chamberlain (大長秋). Around the time, Zhang Rang and Zhao Zhong, along with ten others – Xia Yun (夏惲), Guo Sheng (郭勝), Sun Zhang (孫璋), Bi Lan (畢嵐), Li Song (栗嵩), Duan Gui (段珪), Gao Wang (高望), Zhang Gong (張恭), Han Kui (韓悝) and Song Dian (宋典) – all held the position of zhong changshi (中常侍), in addition to marquis titles. Their relatives and associates, who were spread throughout the various provinces and commanderies of the Han Empire, were notorious for corruption.
Yellow Turban Rebellion
When the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in 184, an official Zhang Jun (張鈞) wrote a memorial to Emperor Ling, blaming the Ten Attendants and their relatives and associates for the corruption that fuelled the grievances which led to the rebellion. He urged Emperor Ling to execute the Ten Attendants and make it known throughout the Han Empire, so as to appease the common people's anger.
When Emperor Ling showed the eunuchs the memorial, they removed their hats and shoes, knelt down, begged the emperor to imprison them and expressed their willingness to donate their wealth to fund the army in quelling the rebellion. The emperor ordered them to put on their hats and shoes, and continue with what they were doing previously. He then chided Zhang Jun, "You're mad! Are there no good ones among the Ten Attendants?" Zhang Jun submitted another memorial similar to the previous one, but the memorial never made it to Emperor Ling's desk. Emperor Ling later ordered the Minister of Justice (廷尉) and Imperial Secretaries (御史) to investigate Zhang Jiao and his Taiping Sect (太平道), who started the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Zhang Rang and the eunuchs secretly instructed the investigators to frame Zhang Jun for learning the ways of the Taiping Sect; Zhang Jun was imprisoned and tortured, and eventually died in prison.
The eunuchs themselves were, in fact, secretly in contact or collaborating with Zhang Jiao. After two eunuchs, Feng Xu (封諝) and Xu Feng (徐奉), were caught and executed, an angry Emperor Ling scolded the eunuchs, "You often say the officials were up to no good. Some of them have been imprisoned while others were executed. Now they are the ones who prove to be useful for the Empire, while you're the ones working with Zhang Jiao. So who should I execute?" The eunuchs begged for mercy and pushed the blame to Wang Fu (王甫) and Hou Lan (侯覽). Emperor Ling then let them off.
Zhang Rang had a number of housekeepers to help him manage his household. His housekeepers built networks with other influential persons and accepted bribes. There was one Meng Tuo (孟佗) from Fufeng Commandery (扶風郡) who gave all his family fortune as a gift to one of Zhang Rang's housekeepers. The housekeeper, grateful for the generous gift, asked him what he wanted in return. Meng Tuo said that all he wanted was to meet Zhang Rang. Around the time, there were many people seeking an audience with Zhang Rang; these people, bringing along carts filled with gifts, formed a long queue outside Zhang Rang's residence. Meng Tuo showed up late so he could not enter. To his surprise, the housekeeper, whom he befriended, came out to welcome him like an honoured guest and instructed the servants to carry him into Zhang Rang's residence. The other visitors saw that and thought that he was a special friend of Zhang Rang, so they eagerly showered him with gifts to flatter him. When Meng Tuo met Zhang Rang later, he gave some of the gifts he received to the latter, who was delighted. Zhang Rang later helped Meng Tuo become the Inspector (刺史) of Liang Province.
In 185, when a fire broke out in the southern part of the imperial palace, the Ten Attendants suggested to Emperor Ling to levy a tax of ten maces from every mu of farmland to raise funds for rebuilding the palace. Emperor Ling then ordered the officials in Taiyuan (太原), Hedong (河東) and Didao (狄道) commanderies to transport wood and patterned rocks to Luoyang (the imperial capital) as construction materials. When the shipments reached the palace, the eunuchs who received them scolded the labourers for delivering materials of poor quality, and insisted on paying them far below market prices – to as low as a tenth of the market price. They then resold the materials to other eunuchs, who refused to buy. Over time, the accumulated piles of wood started decaying. The construction works were thus delayed for years. In order to please Emperor Ling, some regional officials levied heavier taxes and forced the people to produce greater quantities of construction materials – this led to greater resentment from the common people.
Emperor Ling often said, "Regular Attendant Zhang (Rang) is my father, Regular Attendant Zhao (Zhong) is my mother." As the eunuchs were highly trusted and favoured by Emperor Ling, they behaved lawlessly and abused their power. They even built lavish mansions for themselves in the same design as the imperial palace. When Emperor Ling once visited Yong'anhou Platform (永安侯臺), a high viewing platform, the eunuchs were worried that he would see their mansions and become suspicious. Thus, they told him, "Your Majesty shouldn't put yourself on higher ground. If you do so, the people will scatter." The emperor believed them and stopped visiting high towers and viewing platforms.
In 186, Emperor Ling tasked the eunuchs Song Dian (宋典) and Bi Lan (畢嵐) with overseeing new construction projects, including a new palace hall, four large bronze statues, four giant bronze bells and water-spouting animal sculptures, among others. He also ordered coins to be minted and widely circulated. Many people perceived this to be a display of the emperor's extravagance, and pointed to signs showing that the coins will eventually scatter everywhere. This turned out to be true when chaos broke out in Luoyang after Emperor Ling's death. Emperor Ling appointed Zhao Zhong as "General of Chariots of Cavalry" (車騎將軍) but removed him from office after some 100 days.
Downfall of the eunuch faction
When Emperor Ling became critically ill in 189, he secretly entrusted his younger son, Liu Xie, then about eight years old, to a close aide and eunuch, Jian Shuo. Upon the emperor's death, Jian Shuo attempted to install Liu Xie on the throne but his plan failed. Emperor Ling's older son, the 13-year-old Liu Bian, became emperor instead and was known as Emperor Shao. Empress Dowager He (Emperor Shao's mother) and General-in-Chief He Jin (Empress Dowager He's brother) became the regents ruling on behalf of the underage emperor.
In the summer of 189, after Jian Shuo learnt that He Jin and his subordinates were plotting to eliminate him, he tried to persuade his fellow eunuchs to join him in his plan to assassinate He Jin. However, they were persuaded by Guo Sheng, who was close to Empress Dowager He, to reject Jian Shuo's idea. He Jin subsequently had Jian Shuo arrested and executed, and then took control of the military units previously under Jian's command. In the autumn of 189, Yuan Shao suggested to He Jin to eliminate the eunuch faction and consolidate power. Empress Dowager He immediately rejected the idea because it required her to interact with men on a regular basis, which she found offensive and immodest. Empress Dowager He's mother (the Lady of Wuyang) and He Miao (何苗) had been bribed by the eunuchs to protect them, so they also strongly opposed He Jin's plan, saying that they owed much to the eunuchs. (Empress Dowager He became Emperor Ling's consort because the eunuchs helped her.)
He Jin then heeded an alternative suggestion from Yuan Shao: he secretly instructed a few provincial military officials or warlords (Dong Zhuo, Wang Kuang, Qiao Mao and Ding Yuan) to lead their troops to the vicinity of Luoyang, the imperial capital, and openly demand that the eunuchs be executed – in the hope of pressuring Empress Dowager He to take action against the eunuchs. Empress Dowager He initially refused to harm the eunuchs, but as Dong Zhuo's forces approached Luoyang, she ordered the eunuchs to leave the palace and return to their marquisates. (Many of the eunuchs were made marquises by Emperor Ling.) Empress Dowager He's younger sister married Zhang Rang's (adopted) son. Zhang Rang pleaded with her to help him, so she informed her mother (the Lady of Wuyang), who in turn spoke to Empress Dowager He. The empress dowager relented and summoned the eunuchs back to the palace.
In the eighth lunar month of 189, the eunuchs hatched a plot to assassinate He Jin. They issued a fake imperial order in Empress Dowager He's name, instructing He Jin to enter the palace to meet her. He Jin fell into an ambush and died at the hands of the eunuchs, who declared him guilty of treason. After He Jin's death, his subordinates Wu Kuang (吳匡) and Zhang Zhang (張璋), along with Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu and others, led their troops to storm the palace and kill the eunuchs in revenge. They indiscriminately slaughtered anyone who looked like a eunuch; some young men who had no facial hair, in desperation, dropped their pants in front of the soldiers to prove that they were not eunuchs. During the attack, the eunuchs took Empress Dowager He, Emperor Shao and the Prince of Chenliu (Liu Xie) hostage and tried to flee from the palace. Lu Zhi intercepted the eunuch Duan Gui (段珪) and saved the empress dowager from him. He Miao, who was sympathetic towards the eunuchs, was killed by Wu Kuang and Dong Zhuo's younger brother, Dong Min (董旻). Over 2,000 people died in the attack.
Zhang Rang and some 10 other eunuchs managed to bring Emperor Shao and the Prince of Chenliu to the riverbank, with imperial forces led by Lu Zhi and Min Gong (閔貢) hot on their heels. Zhang Rang turned to Emperor Shao and tearfully said, "We're going to be destroyed and chaos will break out in the Empire. Your Majesty, please take of yourself!" He then threw himself into the river and drowned.
The Ten Attendants appear at the beginning of the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which romanticises the events leading to the end of the Han dynasty and through the Three Kingdoms period of China. The ten listed in the novel were:
- Feng Xu (封諝), executed in 184 for conspiring with the Yellow Turban rebels
- Jian Shuo (蹇碩), killed by Guo Sheng for attempting to assassinate He Jin
- Zhao Zhong (趙忠), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang (吳匡)
- Guo Sheng (郭勝), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang
- Xia Yun (夏惲), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang
- Cheng Kuang (程曠), killed by Yuan Shu and Wu Kuang
- Zhang Rang (張讓), drowned
- Duan Gui (段珪), killed by Min Gong (閔貢)
- Hou Lan (侯覽)
- Cao Jie (曹節)
Five of these ten eunuchs were not among the historical Ten Attendants: Cheng Kuang is a fictional character; Feng Xu and Jian Shuo existed historically, but were not listed among the Ten Attendants in the Book of the Later Han; Hou Lan and Cao Jie died in 172 and 181 respectively so they could not have been present when the events of the novel took place.
In popular culture
The Ten Attendants appear in Koei's Dynasty Warriors video game series, specifically in Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends (Dong Zhuo's story mode), Dynasty Warriors 5: Xtreme Legends, and Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends (Lü Bu's story mode).
- (張讓者，潁川人；趙忠者，安平人也。 ... 是時讓、忠及夏惲、郭勝、孫璋、畢嵐、栗嵩、段珪、高望、張恭、韓悝、宋典十二人，皆為中常侍， ...) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (少皆給事省中，桓帝時為小黃門。忠以與誅梁兾功封都鄉侯。延熹八年，黜為關內侯，食本縣租千斛。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (靈帝時，讓、忠並遷中常侍，封列侯，與曹節、王甫等相為表裏。節死後，忠領大長秋。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- Beck, B.J. Mansvelt (2008). "The fall of Han". In Twitchett, D.; Fairbank, J.K. The Cambridge History of China. Volume 1: The Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C.–A.D. 220. Cambridge University Press. pp. 317–376.
- (是時讓、忠及夏惲、郭勝、孫璋、畢嵐、栗嵩、段珪、高望、張恭、韓悝、宋典十二人，皆為中常侍，封侯貴寵，父兄子弟布列州郡，所在貪殘，為人蠹害。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (黃巾旣作，盜賊糜沸，郎中中山張鈞上書曰：「竊惟張角所以能興兵作亂，萬人所以樂附之者，其源皆由十常侍多放父兄、子弟、婚親、賔客典據州郡，辜榷財利，侵掠百姓，百姓之冤無所告訴，故謀議不軌，聚為盜賊。宜斬十常侍，縣頭南郊，以謝百姓，又遣使者布告天下，可不須師旅，而大寇自消。」) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (天子以鈞章示讓等，皆免冠徒跣頓首，乞自致洛陽詔獄，並出家財以助軍費。有詔皆冠履視事如故。帝怒鈞曰：「此真狂子也。十常侍固當有一人善者不？」) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (鈞復重上，猶如前章，輒寢不報。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (詔使廷尉、侍御史考為張角道者，御史承讓等旨，遂誣奏鈞學黃巾道，收掠死獄中。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (而讓等實多與張角交通。後中常侍封諝、徐奉事獨發覺坐誅，帝因怒詰讓等曰：「汝曹常言黨人欲為不軌，皆令禁錮，或有伏誅。今黨人更為國用，汝曹反與張角通，為可斬未？」皆叩頭云：「故中常侍王甫、侯覽所為。」帝乃止。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (讓有監奴典任家事，交通貨賂，威形諠赫。扶風人孟佗，資產饒贍，與奴朋結，傾竭饋問，無所遺愛。奴咸德之，問佗曰：「君何所欲？力能辦也。」曰：「吾望汝曹為我一拜耳。」時賔客求謁讓者，車恒數百千兩，佗時詣讓，後至，不得進，監奴乃率諸倉頭迎拜於路，遂共轝車入門。賔客咸驚，謂佗善於讓，皆爭以珍玩賂之。佗分以遺讓，讓大喜，遂以佗為涼州刺史。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (明年，南宮災。讓、忠等說帝令斂天下田畒稅十錢，以修宮室。發太原、河東、狄道諸郡材木及文石，每州郡部送至京師，黃門常侍輒令譴呵不中者，因強折賤買，十分雇一，因復貨之於宦官，復不為即受，材木遂至腐積，宮室連年不成。刺史、太守復增私調，百姓呼嗟。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (是時中常侍趙忠、張讓、夏惲、郭勝、段珪、宋典等皆封侯貴寵，上常言：「張常侍是我公，趙常侍是我母。」) Zizhi Tongjian vol. 58.
- (常云：「張常侍是我公，趙常侍是我母。」宦官得志，無所憚畏，並起第宅，擬則宮室。帝常登永安侯臺，宦官恐其望見居處，乃使中大人尚但諫曰：「天子不當登高，登高則百姓虛散。」自是不敢復升臺榭。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (明年，遂使鉤盾令宋典繕修南宮玉堂。又使掖庭令畢嵐鑄銅人四列於倉龍、玄武闕。又鑄四鐘，皆受二千斛，縣於玉堂及雲臺殿前。又鑄天祿蝦蟇，吐水於平門外橋東，轉水入宮。又作翻車渴烏，施於橋西，用灑南北郊路，以省百姓灑道之費。又鑄四出文錢，錢皆四道。識者竊言侈虐已甚，形象兆見，此錢成，必四道而去。及京師大亂，錢果流布四海。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (復以忠為車騎將軍，百餘日罷。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
- (六年，帝疾篤，屬協於蹇碩。碩旣受遺詔，且素輕忌於進兄弟，及帝崩，碩時在內，欲先誅進而立協。及進從外入，碩司馬潘隱與進早舊，迎而目之。進驚，馳從儳道歸營，引兵入屯百郡邸，因稱疾不入。碩謀不行，皇子辯乃即位，何太后臨朝，進與太傅袁隗輔政，錄尚書事。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (中平六年，帝崩，皇子辯即位，尊后為皇太后。太后臨朝。) Houhanshu vol. 10 (Part 2).
- (進素知中官天下所疾，兼忿蹇碩圖己，及秉朝政，陰規誅之。 ... 進乃使黃門令收碩，誅之，因領其屯兵。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (袁紹復說進曰：「前竇武欲誅內寵而反為所害者， ... 我柰何楚楚與士人對共事乎？」進難違太后意，且欲誅其放縱者。紹以為中官親近至尊，出入號令，今不悉廢，後必為患。而太后母舞陽君及苗數受諸宦官賂遺，知進欲誅之。數白太后，為其障蔽。又言：「大將軍專殺左右，擅權以弱社稷。」太后疑以為然。中官在省闥者或數十年，封侯貴寵，膠固內外。進新當重任，素敬憚之，雖外收大名而內不能斷，故事乆不決。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (紹等又為畫策，多召四方猛將及諸豪傑，使並引兵向京城，以脅太后。進然之。 ... 遂西召前將軍董卓屯關中上林苑，又使府掾太山王匡東發其郡強弩，并召東郡太守橋瑁屯城皐，使武猛都尉丁原燒孟津，火照城中，皆以誅宦官為言。太后猶不從。 ... 進於是以紹為司隷校尉，假節，專命擊斷；從事中郎王允為河南尹。紹使洛陽方略武吏司察宦者，而促董卓等使馳驛上，欲進兵平樂觀。太后乃恐，悉罷中常侍小黃門，使還里舍，唯留進素所私人，以守省中。諸常侍小黃門皆詣進謝罪，唯所措置。進謂曰：「天下匈匈，正患諸君耳。今董卓垂至，諸君何不早各就國？」袁紹勸進便於此決之，至于再三。進不許。紹又為書告諸州郡，詐宣進意，使捕案中官親屬。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (進謀積日，頗泄，中官懼而思變。張讓子婦，太后之妹也。讓向子婦叩頭曰：「老臣得罪，當與新婦俱歸私門。惟受恩累世，今當遠離宮殿，情懷戀戀，願復一入直，得暫奉望太后、陛下顏色，然後退就溝壑，死不恨矣。」子婦言於舞陽君，入白太后，乃詔諸常侍皆復入直。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (八月，進入長樂白太后，請盡誅諸常侍以下，選三署郎入守宦官廬。諸宦官相謂曰：「大將軍稱疾不臨喪，不送葬，今欻入省，此意何為？竇氏事竟復起邪？」又張讓等使人潛聽，具聞其語，乃率常侍段珪、畢嵐等數十人，持兵竊自側闥入，伏省中。及進出，因詐以太后詔召進。入坐省闥，讓等詰進曰：「天下憒憒，亦非獨我曹罪也。先帝甞與太后不快，幾至成敗，我曹涕泣救解，各出家財千萬為禮，和恱上意，但欲託卿門戶耳。今乃欲滅我曹種族，不亦太甚乎？卿言省內穢濁，公卿以下忠清者為誰？」於是尚方監渠穆拔劔斬進於嘉德殿前。讓、珪等為詔，以故太尉樊陵為司隷校尉，少府許相為河南尹。尚書得詔板，疑之，曰：「請大將軍出共議。」中黃門以進頭擲與尚書，曰：「何進謀反，已伏誅矣。」) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (進部曲將吳匡、張璋，素所親幸，在外聞進被害，欲將兵入宮，宮閤閉。袁術與匡共斫攻之，中黃門持兵守閤。會日暮，術因燒南宮九龍門及東西宮，欲以脅出讓等。讓等入白太后，言大將軍兵反，燒宮，攻尚書闥，因將太后、天子及陳留王，又劫省內官屬，從複道走北宮。尚書盧植執戈於閣道䆫下，仰數段珪。段珪等懼，乃釋太后。太后投閣得免。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (匡遂引兵與董卓弟奉車都尉旻攻殺苗，弃其屍於苑中。紹遂閉北宮門，勒兵捕宦者，無少長皆殺之。或有無須而誤死者，至自發露然後得免。死者二千餘人。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (張讓、段珪等困迫，遂將帝與陳留王數十人步出穀門，奔小平津。公卿並出平樂觀，無得從者，唯尚書盧植夜馳河上，王允遣河南中部掾閔貢隨植後。貢至，手劔斬數人，餘皆投河而死。明日，公卿百官乃奉迎天子還宮，以貢為郎中，封都亭侯。) Houhanshu vol. 69.
- (讓等數十人劫質天子走河上。追急，讓等悲哭辭曰：「臣等殄滅，天下亂矣。惟陛下自愛！」皆投河而死。) Houhanshu vol. 78.
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