宦官 (Huànguān), eunuchs – men who were castrated while young and therefore never went through puberty – have historically acted as court officials in many countries – and China was no exception.
Peaking during the Míng Dynasty (1368-1644), the emperor’s court was to a great extent run and managed by eunuchs.
These high-voiced men were never suspected of dallying with the concubines, and were considered less likely to want to undermine the emperor because they - for obvious reasons – wouldn’t be able to start a dynasty of their own.
Because of their closeness to the emperor, some eunuchs achieved huge political power and have on occasion effectively governed China. One of the most notorious, Wèi Zhōngxián, ran the empire undisturbed while the emperor amused himself with carpentry.
The last imperial eunuch was castrated shortly before the last emperor was overthrown in 1911 (gah! the timing!) and lived until 1996.
If you carry the empress, you can also whisper in her ear… Wikimedia Commons