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Showing posts from July, 2018

Charles Pettit's 'Son of the Grand Eunuch' (1927) and the Rodgers & Hart adaptation 'Chee-Chee' (1928)

In Charles Pettit's early 20th-century novel Son of the Grand Eunuch, "His Excellency the Grand Eunuch, Li Pi Siao," is the powerful character whose commands incite all the action. A footnote suggests a historical basis: Li Pi Siao's predecessor was named Ngan Te Hai and was nicknamed Siao Ngan Eul. He was assassinated at Tsentsin in 1864 by order of the Empress of the East, Tsen Ngan. He was the favorite of the Empress of the West, Twen Hi, and had been despatched by her on a mission to buy her gowns. His murder occasioned a lifelong feud between the two Empresses. (p. 22) Pettit seems to be referring to the eunuch An Dehai who served Empress Dowager Cixi and was executed in 1869 with the consent of Empress Dowager Ci'an. His successor as the chief eunuch — whose character apparently is heavily fictionalized in this novel — was Li Lianying. Character On the opening pages, he is introduced wearing "long yellow gown" with "green dragons with