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Lao Ai (; died 238 BCE) was an
imposter An impostor (also spelled imposter) is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often through means of disguise. Their objective is usually to try to gain financial or social advantages through social engineering (security), social engineerin ...
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot ...

eunuch
and official of the
State of Qin Qin () was an during the . Traditionally dated to 897 BC, it took its origin in a reconquest of western lands previously lost to the ; its position at the western edge of permitted expansion and development that was unavailable to its rivals in ...
during the late
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
. Allegedly falsifying his castration in order to gain entry into the court of Qin, he became the favorite of
Queen Dowager Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an Chinese surname#Xing, ancestral name of the Zhou dynasty, Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a pr ...
, the mother of
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dyna ...
, later the First Emperor of China. He was enfeoffed as Marquis of Changxin (長信侯). After a conspiracy to incite rebellion was uncovered, he was executed by Qin Shi Huang. Since the conspiracy and downfall of Lao Ai, his sexual misdeeds have become a fixture in the traditional moralizing discourse of intellectuals in
imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
, and his very name, which signifies "lustful misdeed" in
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
, has become a byword for illicit sexual relationships in the classical Chinese language.


Biography

According to
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
's ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', Lao Ai had a giant
penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' () is the primary sexual organ that male animals use to inseminate females (or hermaphrodites) during Copulation (zoology), copulation. Such organs occur in many animals, both #Vertebrates, vertebrate ...

penis
, being of such size that it could be used as an
axle An axle or axletree is a central shaft for a rotating A rotation is a circular movement of an object around a center (or point) of rotation. The plane (geometry), geometric plane along which the rotation occurs is called the ''rotation p ...

axle
for a wooden carriage. This ability drew the attention of Lü Buwei, who was having an affair with Queen Dowager Zhao, mother to King Zheng of Qin (later
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dyna ...
), and Lü plotted to make use of Lao's sexual prowess to ingratiate himself with the Queen Dowager. During the formative years of King Zheng's reign, Lü Buwei ended his affair with the Queen Dowager and gave Lao Ai to her. Lü and the Queen organised a false castration in order to facilitate Lao Ai's admission to the Queen's palace as a eunuch. After moving to the provisional capital Yong, Lao Ai fathered two children by the queen and gave himself the
diminutive A diminutive is a root word A root (or root word) is the core of a word that is irreducible into more meaningful elements. In morphology, a root is a morphologically simple unit which can be left bare or to which a prefix A prefix is an aff ...
"false father". Lao Ai profited from his status and gathered over one thousand servants and followers. In 238 BCE, following the royal proclamation announcing Lao Ai's status as an imposter lover consorting with the Queen Dowager, with plans to secretly father the next king, Lao Ai was investigated. During this time, he attempted a
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for "blow of state"), often shortened to coup in English, (also known as an overthrow) is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a politic ...
with a small number of followers, using the Queen Dowager's seal to gain legitimacy. Without popular support, military training, numbers or sufficient organisation, Lao Ai's followers were quickly defeated. Lao Ai was punished by being
dismembered '' by Dieric Bouts Dismemberment refers, in general terms, to the act of cutting, tearing, pulling, wrenching or otherwise relieving the limbs from a living thing. It has been practiced upon human beings as a form of capital punishment, especial ...
and torn apart by five horses and the Queen Dowager was imprisoned in her palace and her two sons were killed. Followers were exiled to the former state of
Shu Shu may refer to: China * Sichuan, China, officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) * Shu (state) (conquered by Qin in 316 BC), an ancient state in modern Sichuan * Shu Han (221–263) during the Three Kingdoms Period * Western Shu (405–413), also k ...
.


Historicity

The historicity of Lao Ai has been doubted by modern historians, who consider that
Confucian , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...
ideologues, who were in favor with the
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...

Han
court during the composition of the ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', had the ulterior motive of portraying
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dyna ...
, a foe of Confucians who had in 212 BCE, as a
bastard Bastard may refer to: Parentage * Illegitimate child, a child born to unmarried parents ** Bastard (law of England and Wales), illegitimacy in English law Places * Bastard Township, Ontario, Canada People People with the name * Bastard (surname) ...
. Supporters of this theory point out that Lao Ai's name appears etymologically fanciful: the characters used to write Lao Ai literally mean "lustful misdeed" in
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
, and that his defining characteristic, his large penis (in Chinese ), can also be taken to mean "great conspiracy". Given that
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
, author of the historical work that canonized this traditional account of Lao Ai, was himself subject to the punishment of castration some years before, skeptically minded historians believe that the story of Lao Ai is meant to be understood allegorically, as a "personified phallus" who represented "a basic threat to the transmission of the imperial bloodline and hence the purity of the 'united cosmos.'" The story of Lao Ai was also told by Yu Xiao-yu, the 16th-century author of ''Chronicles of Many States During the Age of Spring and Fall,'' the length of which was nearly tripled by Fung Lung Mong (1574–1646), after which the book was then known as ''Stories of East Chou's Many States''.


Popular culture

In Manga
Kingdom Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy * A realm ruled by: **A king, during the reign of a male monarch **A queen regnant, during the reign of a female monarch Taxonomy * Kingdom (biology), a category in biological taxonomy Arts an ...
, he was given to
Lady Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an ancestral name of the Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a princess of either the Zhou dynasty ...
as Lü Buwei's "gift" to her. He joined the coup, as King of Ai, their own "state" and tried to eliminate Qin, reluctantly leading the bloodthirsty Qin traitor
Fan Wuji Huan Yi was a general of the state of Qin in the late Warring States period (5th cent.-221 BCE). General Pang Nuan of Zhao occupied several towns of the state of Yan in 236 BCE, whereupon Yan asked the state of Qin for help. Huan Yi, Yang Duan, a ...
and other generals. He was caught in the disastrous retreat, and executed in the aftermath.


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Lao Ai
Year of birth unknown This category (and within its own specific purpose, the analogous :Year of death unknown) is intended for placement in biographical entries about deceased individuals, primarily from antiquity (although, in some cases, reaching into the 19th centur ...
238 BC deaths Qin (state)
3rd-century BC Chinese people {{CatAutoTOC 3rd-century BC Asian people, Chinese 3rd century BC in China, People Chinese people by century, *97 3rd-century BC people by nationality, Chinese Han dynasty people ...