Min et al.
Supplemental Information The lifespan of Korean eunuchs Kyung-Jin Min, Cheol-Koo Lee, Han-Nam Park
Supplemental Material and Methods
Genealogy records during the Chosun Dynasty Maintaining genealogy records was important because these records provided proof of belonging to the Yang-Ban (Noble) class, and only the Yang-Ban class owned these records. Each family kept its own genealogy records, which were passed down through numerous generations. The firstborn son of each family took the responsibility of maintaining the record and continued recording the genealogy and family line. Se-Gye-Do records the direct family history from the progenitor, which become the basis for the larger genealogy record publication. This record was published under the strict rules of Confucian ideology and under the monitoring of the council of family members.
Measurement of eunuchs’ lifespan We examined the lifespan of Korean eunuchs by analyzing the Yang-Se-Gye-Bo (養世系譜). Eunuchs maintained their lineage by adopting 1 or 2 boys who had lost their testicles and/or penises. Because the birth /death dates of the eunuchs were expressed using the sexagenary cycle, which is repeated over 60-year periods (i.e., AD 1700 and AD 1760 are expressed in the same cycle), the lifespan of the eunuchs could be deduced only when the 1
Min et al. record contained the King’s name and the ruling year. For example, Yoon-Muk Lee was born in the seventeenth year of King Young-Jo's reign (AD 1741) and died in the sixteenth year of King Soon-Jo's reign (AD 1816).
Verification of eunuchs’ lifespan with other records The longevity of eunuchs was verified by cross checking the records contained in the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty (http://sillok.history.go.kr/main/main.jsp) and the Diary of the Royal Secretariat (http://sjw.history.go.kr/main/main.jsp). The Annals of the Chosun Dynasty (1893 volumes) are daily accounts on national affairs and the activities of the state. The Diary of the Royal Secretariat (3245 volumes) recorded the King’s public life and his interactions with the bureaucracy on a daily basis. There were 8 records and 47 records of the eunuchs in the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty and the Diary of the Royal Secretariat respectively, confirming total 48 eunuchs’ survival (Table S2). For example, according to the annals, DaeEui Yang (1759-1834, eunuch ID 14-10-1), son of Yoon-Muk Lee, was sentenced to exile because of a fire in the palace in 1830. Therefore, this verifies that he was alive until 1830, which is 4 years before his recorded age at death. It was confirmed that 26 eunuchs were alive at least 10 years before their recorded ages at death according to the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty and/or the Diary of the Royal Secretariat.
Caste system and government officials of Chosun Dynasty The Chosun Dynasty followed a caste system consisting of, in the descending order of authority, the Yang-ban, Jung-in, Sang-min, and Chun-min castes. The Yang-ban consisted of the ruling class or nobles and was the only class whose members could become government officials. Members of this class could become government officials after passing the state-sponsored civil service exams called Gwa-geo. There were 18 ranks among the 2
Min et al. government officials: Jung 1–9 pum and Jong 1–9 pum. Jung 1 pum was the highest rank, Jong 1 pum was the second highest, and Jong 9 pum was the lowest.
Organization of eunuchs in the Royal court There was a special organization called the “Nae-She-Bu” in the royal palace with approximately 140 eunuchs. These eunuchs were responsible for several duties in the royal court, including guarding the gates, managing food supplies, running errands for the King, cleaning, and performing other maintenance works. Except for the Royal family members and eunuchs, no other male was allowed to stay the night inside the palace. Around 60 eunuchs ranked between Jong 2 pum and Jung 9 pum would be on duty in the Royal court. The other 80 eunuchs, who did not have an official rank, also stayed in the Royal court awaiting vacancy and supporting the eunuchs on duty. The ranked eunuchs were paid on the basis of their ranks.
Choice of control families for the lifespan comparison In order to eliminate socio-economic factors that could have affected lifespan, the lifespan of the eunuchs was compared to the lifespan of men from other Yan-ban families with a similar socio-economic status. To exclude genetic factors that could have affected the lifespan, we compared the lifespan of eunuchs with multiple Yan-ban families including the Mok, Shin, and Seo families. The Seo family members were mostly martial officers (muban) [S1]. The Mok and Shin families were mostly civil administrators (munban) with high ranks like Jwa-Eui-Jung (prime minister, Jung 1 pum) and Yi-Jo-Pan-Seo (minister of public administration, Jung 2 pum) [S2, S3]. Only the Yang-Ban class owned genealogy records, and the lifespan of non-eunuch families was obtained from their genealogy records. The raw data for the Mok and Shin families were provided by Ki-Soon Lee (Hongik University) and the 3
Min et al. raw data for the Seo family was obtained from Han (1992) [S1].
Supplemental References S1. Han,Y.K. (1992). Childbirth and longevity of a family in late Chosun Dynasty. 韓國史學論叢. 532. S2. Lee, K.S. (1998). Changes in family size of Mok family in late Chosun Dynasty. 12th Conference of the Chosun dynasty history association. 1. S3. Lee, K.S. (2001). Marriage, Childbirth and Longevity of Shin family in late Chosun Dynasty. The Journal for the Studies of Korean History. 10, 75.
Table S1. Average lifespan of eunuchs and non-eunuchs in the Chosun Dynasty of Korea. Average lifespan is denoted with mean ± S.E. Average
Year of p value*
70.0 ± 1.76
Non-Eunuchs (Mok family)
55.6 ± 0.53
Non-Eunuchs (Shin family)
52.9 ± 0.45
Non-Eunuchs (Seo family)
50.9 ± 2.16
*We performed an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) using SAS for p values. We compared the lifespans between the eunuch and each Yang-ban family group by entering each person’s birth year as a continuous co-variable (covariate) into the ANCOVA model.
Min et al. Table S2. Verification of eunuch’s lifespan by use of other records. Bold indicates that the eunuch was alive at least 10 years before his recorded age at death according to the records in Annals of the Chosun Dynasty and/or the Diary of the Royal Secretariat.
Record Record Year in Year in Annals Diary of of the the Royal Chosun Secretariat Dynasty 1755-1842 1779
Survived Years in Yang-SeGye-Bo
Record Year in Annals of the Chosun Dynasty 1613
Record Year in Diary of the Royal Secretariat
Survived Years in Yang-SeGye-Bo