Wei Zhongxian

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Wei Zhongxian () (1568 – October 19, 1627) is considered by most historians as the most powerful and notorious eunuch in Chinese history. Originally a hoodlum and gambler, his initial name was Wei Si (魏四, literally, Wei Fourth). He took the step of becoming a eunuch and entering palace service to escape from his creditors, taking the name Li Jinzhong (李进忠). After entering the palace, he got into the service of Madam Ke (客氏), the wet-nurse of the future Ming emperor. The couple began manipulating the Tianqi Emperor, who renamed him Wei Zhongxian. The emperor's favour later gave Wei absolute power over the court.

Wei persecuted anyone who opposed his decisions, resulting in the death and imprisonment of many officials. He later proclaimed himself to be Nine-Thousand Years (九千歲) which meant that he was symbolically the second most important person in the country, just after the emperor, who is called the Ten-Thousand Years (萬歲). Wei also built many shrines (生祠) and erected god-like statues of himself in them. In 1627, his control of the court ended with the death of the Tianqi Emperor, whose brother and successor promptly eliminated him. He was forced to commit suicide (some sources say executed by strangulation) and his corpse was disembowelled.

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