Lao Ai (Chinese: 嫪毐; pinyin: Lào Ǎi; died 238 BCE) was an imposter eunuch and official of the State of Qin during the late Warring States period. He was the lover of Queen Dowager Zhao, the mother of Qin Shi Huang, 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.
During the formative years of Qin Shi Huang's reign, Lü Buwei discontinued his affair with Queen Dowager Zhao, and gave Lao Ai to the Queen. Subsequently, the Queen and Lü Buwei organised a false castration in order to facilitate Lao Ai's presence with the Queen as a eunuch.
In 239 BCE, Lao Ai was profiting from his position. At his peak of influence, he had 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 with a small number of followers, falsely using the Queen Dowager's seal to gain legitimacy.
Without popular support, military training, numbers or sufficient organisation, Lao Ai's followers were quickly pacified. Lao Ai was punished by being dismembered 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 Shu kingdom.
- Knoblock, John; Riegel, Jeffrey (2000). The annals of Lü Buwei: a complete translation and study. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804733546.
- Mah, Adeline Yen (2002). A thousand pieces of gold: my discovery of China's character in its proverbs (1st ed.). San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 32–34. ISBN 0-06-000641-2.