An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

The Eight Tigers (ba hu 八虎)

Dec 2, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

The Eight Tigers (bahu 八虎) were a group of court eunuchs that controlled Emperor Wuzong 明武宗 (r. 1505-1521) of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644). The "Tigers" were Liu Jin 劉瑾, Ma Yongcheng 馬永成, Gao Feng 高鳳, Luo Xiang 羅祥, Wei Bin 魏彬, Qiu Ju 丘聚, Gu Dayong 谷大用 and Zhang Yongqing 張永情. As intimate attendants of the emperor, they knew well his desires and proclivities, and cared for his 'supply' with beautiful dancers, acrobats and falcons and dogs for hunting. In 1506 Minister of Revenue (hubu shangshu 戶部尚書) Han Wen 韓文, defying death, submitted a memorial to the throne, in which he suggested executing the "tigers". When Liu Jin heard of this, he beseeched the emperor not to abandon his most ardent supporters, and asserted that Han Wen intended to take advantage of his majesty's weakness. Wenzong believed the eunuch's slanders, and rewarded Liu with the post of Director of Ceremonial (silijian 司禮監), concurrently commander of the capital guards (tidu jingying 提督京營). Qiu Ju was made head of the Eastern Depot (dongchang 東廠, see changwei 廠衛), and Gu Dayong of the Western Depot (xichang 西廠). Han Wen and some other officials were dismissed. From then on the influence of the "eight tigers" on the Emperor was boundless, and whoever they desired to remove was accused of belonging to the "traitorous gang" (jiandang 奸黨) of court officials. Historical accounts say that more than one thousand officials were arrested, thrown into jail, dismissed or exiled. Liu Jin and his collaborators fell from power in 1510, when he was accused of rebellion.

Xue Hong 薛虹 et al., eds. (1998). Zhongguo huangshi gongting cidian 中國皇室宮廷辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 518.