Eunuchs in Southeast Asia: In the Realm of Yadanarbon in Burma

Yin Min Myat1 & May Su Ko2

1Mandalay University, Myanmar

2Yangon University, Myanmar

Eunuchs are often considered as a sample of heterosexual people within Burmese society. And they are often known as Main Ma Soe in Burmese courts, which can be directly translated to ‘the one who governs the women’. The interpretation of this definition can differ according to the perspective of different authors. The presence of such roles in the Burmese monarchy remain in the shadows, due to the lack of evidence or the lack of acknowledgement. Eunuchs are known to have played a significant role in Asia monarchies especially in the Chinese courts and Muslim Harems. Such roles are mainly concerned with the harems and those who served as a eunuch had to be castrated in accordance with the responsibilites of their role. In Asian eunuch history, many previous studies have been done for the Chinese imperial eunuchs and those people often played an important role in terms of both politics and palace affairs . However, the study of the eunuchs within the South East Asia monarchies is poorly understood, and very few studies have undertaken in this field. A previous study focusing on Southeast Asian eunuchs mentioned that the number of eunuchs in Buddhist countries were relatively lower than those in Asia harems, providing fewer to no evidence of the existence of this role in the courts. Fortunately, the existence of eunuchs in the Burmese court during the Yadanarpon period has been proven, with clear photographic evidence of a eunuch (The chief eunuch of the Yadanarpon Dynasty). This paper will mainly focus on the study of eunuchs during the Yadanarbon dynasty, the time when Theravada Buddhism flourished, and many cultural norms and traditions were influenced by the religion.