Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi

Overview
Empress Dowager Cixi1 [t͡sʰɨɕi] (29 November 1835 – 15 November 1908), of the Manchu Yehenara
Nara (clan)
Nara is a major Manchu clan. The Hūlun Four States -- Hada , Ula , Hoifa and Yehe -- were ruled by this clan...

 clan, was a powerful and charismatic figure who became the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 in China for 47 years from 1861 to her death in 1908.

Selected by the Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

 as an imperial concubine in her adolescence, she climbed the ranks of Xianfeng's harem and gave birth to a son who became the Tongzhi Emperor
Tongzhi Emperor
The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

 upon Xianfeng's death.
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Empress Dowager Cixi1 [t͡sʰɨɕi] (29 November 1835 – 15 November 1908), of the Manchu Yehenara
Nara (clan)
Nara is a major Manchu clan. The Hūlun Four States -- Hada , Ula , Hoifa and Yehe -- were ruled by this clan...

 clan, was a powerful and charismatic figure who became the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 in China for 47 years from 1861 to her death in 1908.

Selected by the Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

 as an imperial concubine in her adolescence, she climbed the ranks of Xianfeng's harem and gave birth to a son who became the Tongzhi Emperor
Tongzhi Emperor
The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

 upon Xianfeng's death. Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency over her young son with the Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

. Cixi then consolidated control and established near-absolute rule over the dynasty. She installed her nephew as the Guangxu Emperor
Guangxu Emperor
The Guangxu Emperor , born Zaitian of the Aisin-Gioro clan, was the eleventh emperor of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, under Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898...

 in 1875. A conservative ruler who refused to adopt Western models of government, Cixi rejected reformist views on government and placed Guangxu under house arrest in later years for supporting reformers. However, she supported technological and military modernization of China's armies. After Ronglu
Ronglu
Ronglu was a Manchu statesman and general during the late Qing dynasty. Born into the powerful Guwalgiya clan of the Plain White Banner in the Eight Banners, he was cousin to Yehenara Lan, who later became Empress Dowager Cixi...

 sabotaged the Chinese army during the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 against the Eight-Nation Alliance
Eight-Nation Alliance
The Eight-Nation Alliance was an alliance of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States whose military forces intervened in China to suppress the anti-foreign Boxers and relieve the siege of the diplomatic legations in Beijing .- Events :The...

, external and internal pressures led Cixi to attempt institutional changes and appoint reform-minded officials. Ultimately, the Qing Dynasty collapsed a few years after her death.

Historians from both Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 and Communist backgrounds have generally portrayed her as a despot and villain responsible for the fall of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, but in recent years other historians have suggested that she was a scapegoat for problems beyond her control, a leader no more ruthless than others, and even an effective if reluctant reformer in the last years of her life.

Early years


The origins of Empress Dowager Cixi are unclear, but most biographies agree that she was the daughter of Huizheng (惠徵), an official from the Manchu Yehenara
Nara (clan)
Nara is a major Manchu clan. The Hūlun Four States -- Hada , Ula , Hoifa and Yehe -- were ruled by this clan...

 (葉赫那拉) clan, and his principal wife, who belonged to the Manchu Fuca (富察) clan. Huizheng was a member of the Bordered Blue Banner of the Eight Banners
Eight Banners
The Eight Banners were administrative divisions into which all Manchu families were placed. They provided the basic framework for the Manchu military organization...

 and served in Shanxi Province
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

 before later becoming Commissioner of Anhui Province
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

.

It is generally accepted that she spent most of her early life in Anhui Province
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 before moving to Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 sometime between her third and fifteenth birthday. According to biographers, her father was dismissed from the civil service in 1853, two years after Cixi entered the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

, for allegedly not resisting the Taiping Rebellion
Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty...

 in Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 Province and deserting his post. Some biographers even claim that he was beheaded for his crime.

In 1851, Cixi participated in the selection process for concubines for the new Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

 alongside sixty other Manchu girls. This process was supervised by the Imperial Dowager Consort Kangci. Cixi was one of the few girls selected to stay and was created a Preparative Concubine (秀女). In May 1851, after being selected for the emperor's bed, she was promoted to the rank of Worthy Lady Yi (懿貴人), or concubine of the fifth rank. In 1854, she was again promoted to the rank of Imperial Concubine Yi (懿嬪).

In 1855, the Lady Yehenara (as Cixi's name was recorded upon entering the Forbidden City) became pregnant, and on 27 April 1856, she gave birth to Zaichun
Tongzhi Emperor
The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

, the Xianfeng Emperor's
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

 only son. Soon afterward, she was elevated to the rank of Consort Yi (懿妃), or consort of the fourth rank.

In 1857, when her son reached his first birthday, Cixi was elevated to the rank of Noble Consort Yi (懿貴妃). The rank of Noble Consort placed Cixi second in rank only to the Empress
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 among the ladies of the imperial household.

Death of the Xianfeng Emperor


In September 1860, British and French troops attacked Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 during the closing stages of the Second Opium War
Second Opium War
The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty of China, lasting from 1856 to 1860...

, and by the following month had burned the Emperor's exquisite Old Summer Palace
Old Summer Palace
The Old Summer Palace, known in China as Yuan Ming Yuan , and originally called the Imperial Gardens, was a complex of palaces and gardens in Beijing...

 to the ground. The attack, under the command of Lord Elgin
James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin
Sir James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine, KT, GCB, PC , was a British colonial administrator and diplomat...

, was mounted in retaliation for the arrest on 18 September of British diplomatic envoy Harry Parkes
Harry Smith Parkes
Sir Harry Smith Parkes was a 19th century British diplomat who worked mainly in China and Japan...

 and the torture and execution of a number of western hostages. The Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

 and his entourage, including Cixi, fled Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 for the safety of Rehe
Chengde
Chengde , previously known as Jehol or Re He , is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden and palace formerly used by the Qing emperors as summer residence...

 in Manchuria. On hearing the news of the destruction of the Old Summer Palace, the Xianfeng Emperor (who was already showing signs of dementia) fell into a depression, turned heavily to alcohol and drugs, and became seriously ill.

On 22 August 1861 the Xianfeng Emperor died at Rehe Palace in the city of Rehe
Chengde
Chengde , previously known as Jehol or Re He , is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden and palace formerly used by the Qing emperors as summer residence...

 (now Chengde
Chengde
Chengde , previously known as Jehol or Re He , is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden and palace formerly used by the Qing emperors as summer residence...

, Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

). Before his death, he summoned eight of his most prestigious ministers, headed by Sushun
Sushun
Sushun ; Styled: Yuting was born in the Manchu Aisin-Gioro Clan as the sixth son of Ulgungga , the Prince Zheng....

, Zaiyuan, and Duanhua
Duanhua
Duanhua was a Manchu noble of the Bordered Blue Banner from the Aisin-Gioro clan. Until several days before his death he held the title of Prince Zheng, inherited as one of the eight "iron-cap" princes....

, and named them the "Eight Regent Ministers" to direct and support the future Emperor. His heir, the son of Noble Consort Yi (future Empress Dowager Cixi), was only five years old. On his deathbed, the Xianfeng Emperor summoned his Empress and Noble Consort Yi, and gave each of them a stamp. He hoped that when his son ascended the throne, his Empress and Noble Consort Yi would cooperate in harmony and, together, help the young emperor to grow and mature. It was also meant as a check on the power of the eight regents . Upon the death of the Xianfeng Emperor, his Empress Consort
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

, aged 25, was elevated to the title Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 (popularly known as the East Empress Dowager because she lived in the Eastern Zhong-Cui Palace), and Noble Consort Yi, aged 27, was elevated to the title Empress Dowager Cixi (popularly known as the West Empress Dowager because she lived inside the Western Chuxiu Palace).

Xinyou Coup: Ousting Sushun


By the time of the Xianfeng Emperor's death, Empress Dowager Cixi had become a shrewd strategist. In Rehe
Chengde
Chengde , previously known as Jehol or Re He , is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden and palace formerly used by the Qing emperors as summer residence...

, while waiting for an astrologically favorable time to transport the coffin back to Peking, Empress Dowager Cixi plotted to grab power. Cixi's position as the lower Empress Dowager was neither influential nor legitimate when it came to political power. In addition, the young emperor was not yet an entity to be taken into political consideration. As a result, it became necessary for her to ally herself with other powerful figures. Taking advantage of the naïveté and good nature of the late emperor's principal wife, the Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

, Cixi suggested that they become co-reigning Empress Dowagers, with powers exceeding the Eight Regent Ministers.

Tensions grew between the Eight Regent Ministers, headed by Sushun
Sushun
Sushun ; Styled: Yuting was born in the Manchu Aisin-Gioro Clan as the sixth son of Ulgungga , the Prince Zheng....

, and the two Empress Dowagers. The ministers did not appreciate Cixi's interference in political matters, and the frequent confrontations left the Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 in a frustrated state, to the point where she refused to come to court audiences, leaving Empress Dowager Cixi to deal with the ministers alone. Secretly, Empress Dowager Cixi began collecting the support of talented ministers, soldiers, and others who were ostracized by the Eight Regent Ministers for personal or political reasons. Among them was Prince Gong, who had great ambitions and was at that time excluded from the power circle, and the Prince Chun, the sixth and seventh sons of the Daoguang Emperor, respectively. While she aligned herself with these Princes, a memorial
Petition
A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer....

 came from Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 asking for Cixi to "listen to politics behind the curtains", i.e., asking Cixi to become the ruler. The same petition also asked Prince Gong to enter the political arena as a principal "aide to the Emperor."

When the Emperor's funeral procession left for Beijing, Cixi took advantage of her alliances with Prince Gong and Prince Chun. She and the boy Emperor returned to the capital before the rest of the party, along with Zaiyuan and Duanhua, two of the principal regents, while Sushun was left to accompany the deceased Emperor's procession. Cixi's early return to Beijing meant that she could plot further with Prince Gong, and ensure that the power base of the Eight Regent Ministers was divided between Sushun and his allies, Zaiyuan and Duanhua
Duanhua
Duanhua was a Manchu noble of the Bordered Blue Banner from the Aisin-Gioro clan. Until several days before his death he held the title of Prince Zheng, inherited as one of the eight "iron-cap" princes....

. History was re-written and the Regents were dismissed for having carried out incompetent negotiations with the "barbarians" which had caused Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

 to flee to Rehe
Chengde
Chengde , previously known as Jehol or Re He , is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden and palace formerly used by the Qing emperors as summer residence...

 "greatly against his will," among other charges. Empress Dowager Cixi and Prince Gong produced a document called the "Eight Guilts of Regent Ministers," which included allegations such as altering the late Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

's wills, causing his death, and stealing power from the two Empress Dowagers.

To show the world that she had high moral standards, Empress Dowager Cixi executed only three of the eight regent ministers. Prince Gong had suggested that Sushun and others be executed by the most painful method, known as slow slicing, but Dowager Cixi declined the suggestion and ordered that Sushun be beheaded, while the other two also marked for execution, Zaiyuan and Duanhua, were given white silks to allow them to commit suicide. In addition, Cixi refused outright the idea of executing the family members of the ministers, as would be done in accordance with Imperial tradition of an alleged usurper. Ironically, Qing Imperial tradition also dictated that women and princes were never to engage in politics. In breaking with tradition, Cixi became the first and only Qing Dynasty Empress to rule from "behind the curtains" (垂簾聽政).

This palace coup is known as the "Xinyou Palace Coup" in China after the name of the year 1861 in the Sexagenary cycle
Sexagenary cycle
The Chinese sexagenary cycle , also known as the Stems-and-Branches , is a cycle of sixty terms used for recording days or years. It appears, as a means of recording days, in the first Chinese written texts, the Shang dynasty oracle bones from the late second millennium BC. Its use to record years...

.

New era

Empress Dowager Cixi's
Provincial Appointments c.1863
Province Governor 中文
Zhejiang
Zhejiang
Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. The word Zhejiang was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital...

 
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang , spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty....

 
左宗棠
Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

 
Zheng Yuanshan  鄭元善
Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 
Li Xuyi  李續宜
Hubei
Hubei
' Hupeh) is a province in Central China. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Lake Dongting...

 
Yan Shusen  嚴樹森
Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 
Shen Baozhen  沈葆楨
Jiangsu
Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

 
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

 
李鴻章
Guangxi
Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...

 
Liu Changyou  劉長佑
Hunan
Hunan
' is a province of South-Central China, located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting...

 
Mao Hongbin  毛鴻賓


In November 1861, a few days following the coup, Cixi was quick to reward Yixin, the Prince Gong, for his help. He was made head of the General Affairs Office and the Internal Affairs Office, and his daughter was made a Gurun Princess, a title usually bestowed only on the Empress's first-born daughter. Yixin's allowance also increased twofold. However, Cixi avoided giving Yixin the absolute political power that princes such as Dorgon
Dorgon
Dorgon , also known as Hošoi Mergen Cin Wang, the Prince Rui , was one of the most influential Manchu princes in the early Qing Dynasty. He laid the groundwork for the Manchu rule of China.-Early life:Dorgon was born in Yenden, Manchuria , China...

 exercised during the Shunzhi Emperor
Shunzhi Emperor
The Shunzhi Emperor was the third emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the first Qing emperor to rule over China, which he did from 1644 to 1661. "Shunzhi" was the name of his reign period...

's reign. As one of the first acts from behind the curtains, Cixi (nominally along with Ci'an) issued two important Imperial Edicts on behalf of the Emperor. The first stated that the two Empresses Dowager were to be the sole decision makers "without interference," and the second changed the boy Emperor's era name from Qixiang (祺祥; "Auspicious") to Tongzhi (同治; "collective stable").

Cleaning up the Bureaucracy


Cixi's entrance as the absolute power figure in China came at a time of internal chaos and foreign challenges. The effects of the Second Opium War
Second Opium War
The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty of China, lasting from 1856 to 1860...

 were still hovering over the country, as the Taiping Rebellion
Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty...

 continued its seemingly unstoppable advance through China's south, eating up the Qing Empire bit by bit. Internally, both the national bureaucracy and regional authorities were infested with rampant corruption. 1861 happened to be the year of official examinations, whereby officials of all levels presented their political reports from the previous three years. Cixi decided that the time was ripe for a bureaucratic overhaul, where she personally sought audience with all officials above the level of provincial governor, who had to report to her personally. Cixi took on part of the role usually given to the Bureaucratic Affairs Department (吏部). Cixi also executed two prominent officials to serve as examples as a more immediate solution: Qingying, a military shilang who had tried to bribe his way out of demotion, and He Guiqing, then Viceroy of Liangjiang
Viceroy of Liangjiang
The Viceroy of Liangjiang , fully referred to as the Governor General of the two Yangtze Provinces and surrounding areas; Overseeing Military Affairs, Food Production; Manager of Waterways; Director of Civil Affairs , was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing Dynasty of China...

, who fled Changzhou
Changzhou
Changzhou is a prefecture-level city in southern Jiangsu province of the People's Republic of China. It was previously known as Yanling, Lanling, Jinling, and Wujin. Located on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, Changzhou borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the west, Zhenjiang to the...

 in the wake of an incoming Taiping army as opposed to trying to defend the city.

Another significant challenge Cixi faced was the increasingly decrepit state of the country's Manchu
Manchu
The Manchu people or Man are an ethnic minority of China who originated in Manchuria . During their rise in the 17th century, with the help of the Ming dynasty rebels , they came to power in China and founded the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China until the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which...

 elite. Since the beginning of the dynasty most major positions at court had been held by Manchus, and Emperors had generally shown contempt for powerful Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

. Cixi, again in a reversal of Imperial tradition, entrusted the country's most powerful military unit against the Taiping army into the hands of a Han Chinese, Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan was an eminent Han Chinese official, military general, and devout Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty in China....

. Additionally, in the next three years, Cixi appointed Han Chinese officials to become governors of all southern Chinese provinces, raising alarm bells in an administration traditionally fond of Manchu dominance.

Taiping Victory and Prince Gong


Under the command of Gen. Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan was an eminent Han Chinese official, military general, and devout Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty in China....

, the victorious Xiang Army
Xiang Army
The Xiang Army was a standing army organized by Zeng Guofan from existing regional and village militia forces tuanlian to contain the Taiping rebellion in China . The name is taken from the Hunan region where the Army was raised. The Army was financed through local nobles and gentry, as opposed...

 defeated the Taiping
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was an oppositional state in China from 1851 to 1864, established by Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion...

 Army in a hard-fought battle at Tianjing (present-day Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

) in July 1864. Zeng Guofan was rewarded with the title of "Marquess Yiyong, First Class," and his brother Zeng Guoquan, along with Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

 and Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang , spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty....

, all Han Chinese generals from the war, were rewarded respectively with their decorations and titles. With the Taiping threat receding, Cixi was focused on new internal threats to her power. Of special concern was the position of Yixin, the Prince Gong, and the Chief Policy Advisor (议政王) at Court. Yixin, whose loyalties stretched at least half of the country, also had effectively gathered under his command the support of all outstanding Han Chinese armies. In addition, Yixin controlled daily court affairs as the first-in-charge at the Grand Council
Grand Council
The Grand Council or Junjichu was an important policy-making body in the Qing Empire. It was established in 1733 by the Yongzheng Emperor...

 as well as the Zongli Yamen
Zongli Yamen
Zongli Yamen was the government body in charge of foreign affairs in imperial China during the late Qing dynasty. It was established by Prince Gong in 1861, following the Convention of Peking. It was abolished in 1901 and replaced with a Foreign Office of ministry rank.The former site of the...

, the de facto ministry of foreign affairs. With his increasing stature, Yixin was considered a serious threat to Cixi and her power.

Although the Prince was rewarded for his conduct and recommendation of Zeng Guofan before the Taiping defeat, Cixi was quick to move after Cai Shaoqi, a little-known official who was the recorder at court, who filed a memorial
Petition
A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer....

 asking for Yixin's resignation. Having built up a powerful base and a network of allies at court, Yixin considered the memorial insignificant. Cixi, however, took the memorial as a stepping stone to Yixin's removal. In April 1865, under the pretext that Yixin had "improper court conduct before the two Empresses," among a series of other charges, Yixin was dismissed from all his positions, but was allowed to keep his title. The dismissal, however, surprised the nobility and court officials, and brought about numerous petitions for his return. Yicong, Prince Tun, as well as Yixuan, the Prince Chun
Prince Chun
Prince Chun was a title of nobility created in 1850 by the Xianfeng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty for his younger half-brother Yixuan. When Yixuan first held the title, he was a Prince of the Second Rank , but was later promoted to a Prince of the First Rank...

, both sought their brother's reinstatement. Yixin himself, in an audience with the two Empresses, burst into tears . Bowing to popular pressure, Cixi allowed Yixin to return to his position as the head of the foreign ministry, but rid Yixin of his title of Chief Policy Advisor. Yixin would never return to political prominence again, and neither would the liberal and pro-reform policies of his time. Yixin's demotion showed Cixi's iron grip on Qing politics, and her lack of willingness to give up absolute power to anyone, including her most important ally in the Xinyou Coup, Prince Gong.

Foreign influence


China's loss in the Second Opium War
Second Opium War
The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty of China, lasting from 1856 to 1860...

 was undoubtedly a wake-up call for its imperial rulers. Cixi presided over a country whose military strategies, both on land and sea, and in terms of weaponry, were vastly outdated. In addition, there were significant difficulties in communications between China and the Western powers. Sensing an immediate threat from foreigners and realizing that China's agricultural-based economy could not hope to compete with the industrial prowess of the West, Cixi made a decision that for the first time in Imperial Chinese history, China would learn from Western powers and import their knowledge and technology. At the time, three prominent Han Chinese officials, Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan was an eminent Han Chinese official, military general, and devout Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty in China....

, Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

 and Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang , spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty....

, had all begun industrial programs in the country's southern regions. In supporting these programs, Cixi also decreed the opening of Tongwen Guan
Tongwen Guan
Tongwen Guan , or the School of Combined Learning was a government school for teaching Western languages , founded at Beijing, China in 1862 during the late-Qing Dynasty...

in 1862, a university-like institution in Beijing that hired foreigners as teachers and specialized in new-age topics such as astronomy and mathematics, as well as the English, French, and Russian languages. Groups of young boys were also sent abroad to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

China's "learn from foreigners" program quickly met with impediments. China's military institutions were in desperate need of reform, and Cixi's solution, under the advice of officials at court, was to purchase seven British warships. When the warships arrived in China, however, they carried with them boatloads of British sailors, all under British command. The Chinese were enraged at this "international joke," negotiations broke down between the two parties, and China returned the warships to Britain, where they were to be auctioned off. Scholars sometimes attribute the failure of China's foreign programs to Cixi's conservative attitude and old methods of thinking, and contend that Cixi would learn only so much from the foreigners, provided it did not infringe upon her own power. Under the pretext that a railway was too loud and would "disturb the Emperor's tombs," Cixi forbade its construction. When construction went ahead anyway in 1877 under Li Hongzhang's recommendation, Cixi asked that they be pulled by horse-drawn carts. Cixi was especially alarmed at the liberal thinking of people who had studied abroad, and saw that it posed a new threat to her power. In 1881, Cixi put a halt to sending children abroad to study, and withdrew her formerly open attitude towards foreigners.

Tongzhi's Marriage and Rule


In 1872, when the Emperor was 17, under the guidance of the Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 of the East, the Tongzhi Emperor
Tongzhi Emperor
The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

 was married to Lady Alute (the Jiashun Empress). Empress Jiashun Alute's grandfather had been an enemy of the Empress Dowager Cixi during the Xinyou Coup. From the beginning, the relationship between Cixi and the Empress was tense and often a source of irritation to Cixi.

Lady Alute was an Empress, the principal and legal wife of the Emperor. She was the favorite of the principal Empress Dowager Ci'an of the East, and of Ci'an's legal (if not maternal) son, the Emperor Tongzhi. Alute's spies once warned her to be more agreeable to the secondary Empress Dowager Cixi of the West, as Cixi was the one who truly held the power with Prince Gong. Empress Alute's reply was, "I am principal wife and empress, having been carried through the front door with pomp and circumstance, as mandated by our ancestors. The Empress Dowager Cixi was only a lowly concubine, having entered this house by the side door."

Emperor Tongzhi proceeded to spend most of his time with his new Empress Alute, who was always with Tongzhi's favorite mother, Empress Dowager Ci'an, at the expense of his four Imperial consorts and concubines, including the Lady Fuca, Noble Consort Hui, who was chosen by Cixi. Cixi became hostile to the Empress Alute and told her and her husband that they were both still young and should spend more time studying how to effectively manage the country. Cixi also spied on Tongzhi using eunuchs. After her warning was ignored, Empress Dowager Cixi ordered Tongzhi to concentrate on ruling the country, and Tongzhi purportedly spent several months following Cixi's order in isolation at Qianqing Palace
Palace of Heavenly Purity
The Palace of Heavenly Purity, or Qianqing Palace is a palace in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. It is the largest of the three halls of the Inner Court , located at the northern end of the Forbidden City...

.

The young Emperor, who could no longer cope with his grief and loneliness, grew more and more ill-tempered. He began to treat his servants badly and beat them for minor offenses. Under the combined influence of court eunuchs and Zaicheng, the eldest son of the Prince Gong, who was also Tongzhi's contemporary and best friend, Tongzhi would get out of the palace to seek pleasure in unrestricted parts of Beijing. For several evenings the Emperor disguised himself as a commoner and secretly spent the nights in the brothel
Brothel
Brothels are business establishments where patrons can engage in sexual activities with prostitutes. Brothels are known under a variety of names, including bordello, cathouse, knocking shop, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house, house of ill repute, house of prostitution, and bawdy house...

s of Beijing. The Emperor's sexual habits became common talk among court officials and commoners, and there are many records of Tongzhi's escapades.

Tongzhi received a rigorous education from four famous teachers of Cixi's own choosing, in addition to making Mianyu his supervisor. Namely, Li Hongzao, Qi Junzao, Weng Xincun (later his son Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe was a Chinese Confucian scholar and imperial tutor during the Qing dynasty. In 1856, he was awarded the highest degree in the imperial examinations and he subsequently became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy...

, and Woren) were all Imperial teachers who instructed the Emperor in the classics and various old texts for which the Emperor displayed little or no interest.

The pressure and stress put upon the young Emperor made him despise learning for the majority of his life. According to Weng Tonghe's diary, the Emperor could not read a memorial in full sentences by age sixteen. Worried about her son's inability, Cixi only pressured Tongzhi more. When he was given personal rule at age 18, in November 1873 (four years behind the usual custom), Tongzhi proved to be an incompetent Emperor.

Tongzhi made two important policy decisions during his short stint of rule, lasting from 1873 to 1875. First, he decreed that the Imperial Summer Palace, destroyed by the English and French in the Second Opium War, would be completely rebuilt under the pretext that it was a gift to Cixi and Ci'an. Historians also suggest that it was an attempt to drive Cixi from the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

 so he could rule without interference in policy or his private affairs.

The Imperial treasury was almost depleted at the time from internal strife and foreign wars, and as a result Tongzhi asked the Board of Finance to forage for the necessary funds, as well as members of the nobility and high officials to donate their share. Once construction began, Tongzhi checked its progress on a monthly basis, and would often spend days away from court, indulging himself in pleasures outside of the Forbidden City.

Feeling unease from the Emperor's neglect for national affairs, Princes Yixin and Yixuan (the 1st Prince Chun), along with the Court's top officials, submitted a joint memorial asking the Emperor to cease the construction of the Summer Palace, among other recommendations. Tongzhi, unwilling to submit to criticism, issued an Imperial Edict in August 1874 to rid Yixin of his Prince title and be demoted to become a commoner. Two days later, Yicong, Yixuan, Yihui, Jingshou, Yikuang, Wenxiang
Wenxiang
Wenxiang born October 16, 1818 in Liaoyang, died May 26, 1876). Manchu statesman during the late Qing dynasty. Wenxiang hailed from the Gûwalgiya clan and belonged to the Plain Red Banner in the Eight Banners in Mukden. In 1845, he obtained the highest degree in the imperial examinations and four...

, Baoju, and Grand Councilors Shen Guifen and Li Hongzao were all to be stripped of their respective titles and jobs.

Seeing the mayhem unfold from behind the scenes, Cixi and Ci'an made an unprecedented appearance at court directly criticizing the Emperor for his wrongful actions, and asked him to withdraw the Edict; Cixi said that "without Prince Gong, the situation today would not exist for you and me."

Feeling a grand sense of loss at court and unable to assert his authority, the Emperor returned to his former habits. It was rumored that the Emperor caught syphilis
Syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

 and became visibly ill. The doctors spread a rumor that the Emperor had caught smallpox, and proceeded to give medical treatment accordingly. Within a few weeks, on 13 January 1875, the Emperor died. The Jiashun Empress followed suit in March. Judging from a modern medical perspective the onset of syphilis comes in stages, thus the Emperor's quick death does not seem to reflect its symptoms. Therefore most historians maintain that Tongzhi did, in fact, die from smallpox. Regardless, by 1875, Cixi was back onto the helm of imperial power.

New Challenges



Tongzhi died without a male heir, a circumstance that created an unprecedented succession crisis in the dynastic line. Members of the generation above were considered unfit, as they could not, by definition, be the successor of their nephew. Therefore, the new Emperor had to be from a generation below or the same generation as Tongzhi. After considerable disagreement between the two Dowagers, Zaitian, the first-born of the 1st Prince Chun Yixuan and Cixi's sister, then aged four, was to become the new Emperor. 1875 was declared the era of Guangxu, or the reign of Glorious Succession. Young Zaitian was taken from his home and for the remainder of his life would be cut completely off from his family. While addressing Ci'an conventionally as Huang O'niang (Empress Mother), Zaitian was forced to address Cixi as Qin Baba (親爸爸; lit. "Biological Dad"), in order to enforce an image that she was the fatherly power figure in the house. The Guangxu Emperor began his education when he was aged five, taught by Imperial Tutor Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe was a Chinese Confucian scholar and imperial tutor during the Qing dynasty. In 1856, he was awarded the highest degree in the imperial examinations and he subsequently became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy...

, with whom he would develop a lasting bond.

The sudden death of Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 in April 1881 brought Cixi a new challenge. Ci'an took little interest in running state business, but was the decision maker in most family affairs. Owing to possible conflict between Cixi and Ci'an over the execution of An Dehai or a possible will from the late Xianfeng Emperor issued exclusively to Ci'an, rumours began circulating at court that Cixi had poisoned Ci'an . During March 1881 Ci'an fell ill and Cixi became the only regent at Court, and on the Imperial records, Ci'an appeared sick on the morning of 11 April, and was dead by the evening. The circumstances indeed looked suspicious. Because of a lack of evidence, however, historians are reluctant to believe that Ci'an was poisoned by Cixi, but instead choose to believe that the cause of death was a sudden stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

, as validated by traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

. Ci'an's death meant that the balanced power structure was now tipped completely in Cixi's favor, and Prince Gong's position was considerably weakened.

The once fierce and determined Prince Gong, frustrated by Cixi's iron grip on power, did little to question Cixi on state affairs, and supported Manchu involvement in the Sino-French War
Sino-French War
The Sino–French War was a limited conflict fought between August 1884 and April 1885 to decide whether France should replace China in control of Tonkin . As the French achieved their war aims, they are usually considered to have won the war...

. Cixi used China's loss in the war as a pretext for getting rid of Prince Gong and other important decision makers in the Grand Council
Grand Council
The Grand Council or Junjichu was an important policy-making body in the Qing Empire. It was established in 1733 by the Yongzheng Emperor...

 in 1885. She downgraded him to "advisor," and promoted the more easily influenced Yixuan, Prince Chun. After being appointed President of the Navy, Prince Chun, in a sign of unswerving loyalty to Cixi, but in reality a move to protect his son, the new Emperor, moved funds from the military to reconstruct the Imperial Summer Palace outside of Beijing city as a place for Cixi's retirement. Prince Chun did not want Cixi to interfere with his son Guangxu's affairs once he came of age. Cixi showed no opposition to the construction of the palace.

For her sixtieth birthday in 1895, Empress Dowager Cixi was given ten million taels of silver, which many believe was used to furnish her Summer Palace
Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is a palace in Beijing, China. The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water....

. Although the Chinese Navy had recently lost most of its modern warships in the 1894 First Sino-Japanese War
First Sino-Japanese War
The First Sino-Japanese War was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Korea...

, and urgently needed the money to rebuild a high-tech fleet, it is a common misconception that Empress Dowager Cixi instead chose to use the money for her own pleasure. In fact, the sum of money would have been used to pay for public events and as gifts to the many favorite princes, courtiers, viceroys, governors, mayors, magistrates, and other officials as payment for their services. And, Empress Dowager Cixi canceled her celebration, which upset many nobles, gentry and others who had expected generous payment.

The Guangxu Emperor's accession


Guangxu technically gained the right to rule at the age of 16 in 1887 after Cixi issued an edict for Guangxu to have his accession to rule ceremony. Because of her prestige and power, however, court officials voiced their opposition to Guangxu's personal rule, citing the Emperor's youth as the main reason. Shiduo, Yixuan, and Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe was a Chinese Confucian scholar and imperial tutor during the Qing dynasty. In 1856, he was awarded the highest degree in the imperial examinations and he subsequently became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy...

, each with a different motive, asked Guangxu's accession to be postponed until a later date. Cixi, with her reputed reluctance, accepted the "advice" and legitimized her continued rule through a new legal document that allowed her to "aid" the Guangxu Emperor in his rule indefinitely.

Cixi would slowly let go of her iron grip on power as the court prepared for the Guangxu Emperor's wedding ceremony in 1889. By then the Guangxu Emperor was already 18, older than the conventional marital age for Emperors. Prior to the wedding, a large fire engulfed the Gate of Supreme Harmony at the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

, following a trend of natural disasters in recent years, which according to Chinese political theory meant that the current rulers were losing the "Mandate of Heaven
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

".

In another political move, Cixi forced Guangxu to choose Jingfen (later the Empress Dowager Longyu
Empress Dowager Longyu
Empress Xiao Ding Jing ; is better known as the Empress Dowager Longyu , . Also , she had the nickname was Xizi (喜子). Empress Xiao Ding Jing was the Qing Dynasty Empress Consort of the Guangxu Emperor who ruled China from 1875 till 1908...

), her niece, to become the Empress, against Guangxu's will. In later years, however, Guangxu would prefer to spend more time with Consort Zhen, neglecting his Empress, much to Cixi's dismay. In 1894, Cixi, citing intervention in political affairs as the main reason, but in reality fearful that Consort Zhen had become a liberal influence on the Emperor, flogged and punished Consort Zhen. Even after Guangxu began formal rule at age 19, Cixi continued to influence his decisions and actions, despite residing for a period of time at the Imperial Summer Palace
Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is a palace in Beijing, China. The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water....

 which she had ordered Guangxu's father to construct, with the official intention not to intervene in politics. Guangxu paid visits to her, along with the entourage of court officials, every second or third day, where major political decisions would be made.

Hundred Days' Reform


After taking power, the Guangxu Emperor
Guangxu Emperor
The Guangxu Emperor , born Zaitian of the Aisin-Gioro clan, was the eleventh emperor of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, under Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898...

 was more reform-minded than the conservative-leaning Empress Dowager Cixi. After a humiliating defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War
First Sino-Japanese War
The First Sino-Japanese War was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Korea...

 of 1894, during which China's Beiyang
Beiyang
The term Beiyang originated toward the end of the Qing Dynasty, and it referred to the coastal areas of Zhili , Liaoning, and Shandong in northeast China....

 Navy was crushed by the Japanese forces, the Qing government faced numerous unprecedented challenges internally and abroad, with its very existence at stake. Under the influence of reformers Kang Youwei
Kang Youwei
Kang Youwei , was a Chinese scholar, noted calligrapher and prominent political thinker and reformer of the late Qing Dynasty. He led movements to establish a constitutional monarchy and was an ardent Chinese nationalist. His ideas inspired a reformation movement that was supported by the Guangxu...

 and Liang Qichao
Liang Qichao
Liang Qichao |Styled]] Zhuoru, ; Pseudonym: Rengong) was a Chinese scholar, journalist, philosopher and reformist during the Qing Dynasty , who inspired Chinese scholars with his writings and reform movements...

, Guangxu believed that by learning from constitutional monarchies like Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 and Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, China would become more powerful politically and economically. In June 1898, the Guangxu Emperor began the Hundred Days' Reform
Hundred Days' Reform
The Hundred Days' Reform was a failed 104-day national cultural, political and educational reform movement from 11 June to 21 September 1898 in late Qing Dynasty China. It was undertaken by the young Guangxu Emperor and his reform-minded supporters...

 (戊戌变法), aimed at a series of sweeping changes politically, legally, and socially. For a brief time, after the supposed retirement of the Empress Dowager Cixi, the Guangxu Emperor issued edicts for a massive number of far-reaching modernizing reforms.

The reforms, however, were too sudden for a China still under significant neo-Confucian influence, and displeased Cixi as it served as a serious check on her power. Some government and military officials warned Cixi that the ming-shih (reformation bureau) had been geared toward conspiracy. Allegations of treason against the Emperor, as well as suspected Japanese influence within the reform movement, including a suspicious visit from the Japanese Prime Minister, led Empress Dowager Cixi to resume the role of regent and once again take control of the country.

In another coup d'etat
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

carried out by General Ronglu
Ronglu
Ronglu was a Manchu statesman and general during the late Qing dynasty. Born into the powerful Guwalgiya clan of the Plain White Banner in the Eight Banners, he was cousin to Yehenara Lan, who later became Empress Dowager Cixi...

's personnel on 21 September 1898, the Guangxu Emperor was taken to Ocean Terrace, a small palace on an island in the middle of Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai is an area in central Beijing, China adjacent to the Forbidden City which serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council of the People's Republic of China. The term Zhongnanhai is closely linked with the central government and senior Communist...

 linked to the rest of the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

 with only a controlled causeway. Empress Dowager Cixi would follow with an edict dictating the Guangxu Emperor's total disgrace and "not being fit to be Emperor". The Guangxu Emperor's reign had effectively come to an end.

A crisis followed in the Qing court on the issue of abdication. However, bowing to increasing western pressure and general civil discontent over the issue, Cixi did not forcibly remove Guangxu from the throne, although she attempted crowning Punji, a boy of fourteen who was from a close branch of the Imperial family, as the crown prince
Crown Prince
A crown prince or crown princess is the heir or heiress apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. The wife of a crown prince is also titled crown princess....

. The Guangxu era nominally continued until 1908, but the Emperor lost all honours, respect, power, and privileges, including his freedom of movement. Most of his supporters, including his former tutor Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe
Weng Tonghe was a Chinese Confucian scholar and imperial tutor during the Qing dynasty. In 1856, he was awarded the highest degree in the imperial examinations and he subsequently became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy...

, and the man he had recommended, Kang Youwei
Kang Youwei
Kang Youwei , was a Chinese scholar, noted calligrapher and prominent political thinker and reformer of the late Qing Dynasty. He led movements to establish a constitutional monarchy and was an ardent Chinese nationalist. His ideas inspired a reformation movement that was supported by the Guangxu...

, were exiled, while six prominent reformers led by Tan Sitong
Tan Sitong
Tan Sitong , courtesy name Fusheng, pseudonym Zhuangfei , was a well-known Chinese politician, thinker and revolutionist in the late Qing Dynasty who was in support of reform; he was however, finally executed because of the failure of the reformation...

 were executed in public by Empress Dowager Cixi. Kang continued to work for a more progressive Qing Empire while in exile, remaining loyal to the Guangxu Emperor and hoping eventually to restore him to power. His efforts would prove to be in vain.

The Boxer Uprising and Late Qing Reforms


In 1900, the Boxer Uprising
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 broke out in northern China. Perhaps fearing further foreign intervention, Cixi threw in her support to these anti-foreign bands, making an official announcement of her support for the movement and a formal declaration of war on the European powers. The Manchu
Manchu
The Manchu people or Man are an ethnic minority of China who originated in Manchuria . During their rise in the 17th century, with the help of the Ming dynasty rebels , they came to power in China and founded the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China until the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which...

 General Ronglu
Ronglu
Ronglu was a Manchu statesman and general during the late Qing dynasty. Born into the powerful Guwalgiya clan of the Plain White Banner in the Eight Banners, he was cousin to Yehenara Lan, who later became Empress Dowager Cixi...

 deliberately sabotaged the performance of the Imperial army during the rebellion. When Dong Fuxiang's Muslim troops were able and eager to destroy the foreign military forces in the legations, Ronglu stopped them from doing so. The Manchu prince Zaiyi was xenophobic and was friends with Dong Fuxiang
Dong Fuxiang
Dong Fuxiang , a Chinese, was born Gansu, China. He commanded an army of Chinese Muslim soldiers, which included the later Ma clique generals Ma Anliang and Ma Fuxiang. According to the Western calendar, his birth date is in 1839.- Religion :Conflicting accounts are given about his religion and...

. Zaiyi wanted artillery for Dong Fuxiang's troops to destroy the legations. Ronglu blocked the transfer of artillery to Zaiyi and Dong, preventing them from destroying the legations. When artillery was finally supplied to the Imperial Army and Boxers, it was only done so in limited amounts, Ronglu deliberately held back the rest of them. The Chinese forces defeated the Allied Western invasion force at the Battle of Langfang
Battle of Langfang
The Seymour Expedition, also known as the First Intervention, was an attempt by a multi-national military force to march to Beijing and protect the diplomatic legations and foreign nationals in the city from attacks by Boxers in 1900...

 and scored numerous small victories around Tianjin
Tianjin
' is a metropolis in northern China and one of the five national central cities of the People's Republic of China. It is governed as a direct-controlled municipality, one of four such designations, and is, thus, under direct administration of the central government...

 such as the Battle of Beicang
Battle of Beicang
The Battle of Beicang , during the Boxer Rebellion, was fought August 5, 1900 between the Eight Nation Alliance and the Chinese army. The Chinese army was forced out of its prepared entrenchments and retreated to Yangcun. The Eight-Nation Alliance army at Beicang consisted of Japanese, Russian,...

. Due to the fact that Moderates at the Qing court tried to appease the foreigners by moving the Kansu braves out of their way, the Allied army was able to march into Beijing and seize the capital.

During the war, Cixi displayed concern about China's situation and foreign aggression, saying, "Perhaps their magic is not to be relied upon; but can we not rely on the hearts and minds of the people? Today China is extremely weak. We have only the people's hearts and minds to depend upon. If we cast them aside and lose the people's hearts, what can we use to sustain the country?" The Chinese people were almost unanimous in their support for the Boxers, due to the Western Allied invasion.
During the Battle of Peking
Battle of Peking
The Battle of Peking, or the Relief of Peking, was the battle on 14–15 August 1900 in which a multi-national force relieved the siege of foreign legations in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion...

, the Entire Chinese Imperial Court, including the Empress Dowager and Emperor Guangxu, safely escaped from Beijing and evacuated to Xi'an in Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

 province, deep beyond protective mountain passes where the foreigners could not reach. The Foreigners were unable to pursue, and had no such orders to do so, so they decided no action should be taken. The Muslim Kansu Braves protected the Imperial Court from the foreigners, Xi'an was deep in Chinese Muslim territory. Several foreigners commented that the Chinese shrewdly outsmarted the foreign forces, and succeeded in making the foreigners look stupid by escaping from their grasp, where they could not attack them. The Qing dynasty was by no means defeated when the Allies took control of Beijing. They Allies had to temper their demands they sent in a message to Xi'an to get the Dowager Empress to agree with them, among them was that China did not have to give up any land at all. Many of the Dowager Empress's advisers in the Imperial Court insisted that the war be carried on against the foreigners, arguing that China could defeated the foreigners since it was disloyal and traitorous people within China who allowed Beijing and Tianjin to be captured by the Allies, and the interior of China was impenetrable. Dong Fuxiang
Dong Fuxiang
Dong Fuxiang , a Chinese, was born Gansu, China. He commanded an army of Chinese Muslim soldiers, which included the later Ma clique generals Ma Anliang and Ma Fuxiang. According to the Western calendar, his birth date is in 1839.- Religion :Conflicting accounts are given about his religion and...

 was also recommended by them to continue fighting. The Dowager was practical, and decided that the terms were generous enough for her to acquiesce and stop the war, when she was assured of her continued reign after the war. The Western powers needed a government strong enough to suppress further anti-foreign movements but too weak to act on its own; they supported the continuation of the Qing, rather than allowing it to disintegrate. Cixi turned once more to Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

 to negotiate. Li was agreed to sign the Boxer Protocol
Boxer Protocol
The Boxer Protocol was signed on September 7, 1901 between the Qing Empire of China and the Eight-Nation Alliance that had provided military forces plus Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands after China's defeat in the intervention to put down the Boxer Rebellion at the hands of the...

, which demanded the presence of an international military force in Beijing and the payment of £
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

67 million (almost $333 million) in war reparations
War reparations
War reparations are payments intended to cover damage or injury during a war. Generally, the term war reparations refers to money or goods changing hands, rather than such property transfers as the annexation of land.- History :...

. The U.S. used its share of the war indemnity to fund the creation of China's prestigious Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University , colloquially known in Chinese as Qinghua, is a university in Beijing, China. The school is one of the nine universities of the C9 League. It was established in 1911 under the name "Tsinghua Xuetang" or "Tsinghua College" and was renamed the "Tsinghua School" one year later...

. The Emperor and the Empress Dowager did not return to the capital from Xi'an until January 1902.

Upon their return, however, the Empress Dowager made a remarkable reversal, wooing the powers she had attempted to destroy and supporting the policies she had suppressed. First she invited the wives of the diplomatic corps for an afternoon tea in the Forbidden City, had her portrait painted in oils, and promoted the very reformist officials who had resisted her orders in 1900, principally Yuan Shikai
Yuan Shikai
Yuan Shikai was an important Chinese general and politician famous for his influence during the late Qing Dynasty, his role in the events leading up to the abdication of the last Qing Emperor of China, his autocratic rule as the second President of the Republic of China , and his short-lived...

. High officials were dispatched to Japan and Europe to gather facts and draw up plans for sweeping administrative reforms in law, education, government structure, and social policy, many of which were modeled on the reforms of the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

. The abolition of the examination system in 1905 was only the most visible of these sweeping reforms. Ironically, Cixi sponsored the implementation of a reform program more radical than the one proposed by the reformers she had beheaded in 1898.

In 1903, a strategy emerged to use photographic portraiture to rehabilitate her public image. Cixi allowed a young aristocratic photographer named Xunling to take elaborately staged shots of her and her court, designed to convey imperial authority, aesthetic refinement, and religious piety. As the only photographic series taken of Cixi—the supreme leader of China for more than forty-five years—it represents a unique convergence of Qing court pictorial traditions, modern photographic techniques, and Western standards of artistic portraiture. The rare glass plates have been blown up into full-size images, included in the exhibition "The Empress Dowager" at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery joins the Freer Gallery of Art to form the Smithsonian Institution's national museums of Asian art. The Sackler celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2012....

, Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

, Washington, D.C.

Death and final resting place


Empress Dowager Cixi died in the Hall of Graceful Bird at the Middle Sea of Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai is an area in central Beijing, China adjacent to the Forbidden City which serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council of the People's Republic of China. The term Zhongnanhai is closely linked with the central government and senior Communist...

 on 15 November 1908, after having installed Puyi
Puyi
Puyi , of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, was the last Emperor of China, and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing Dynasty. He ruled as the Xuantong Emperor from 1908 until his abdication on 12 February 1912. From 1 to 12 July 1917 he was briefly restored to the throne as a nominal emperor by the...

 as the new Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 on November 14. Her death came only a day after the death of the Guangxu Emperor
Guangxu Emperor
The Guangxu Emperor , born Zaitian of the Aisin-Gioro clan, was the eleventh emperor of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, under Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898...

.

On 4 November 2008, forensic tests were reported that the death of the Emperor was caused by acute arsenic poisoning. China Daily quoted a historian, Dai Yi, who speculated that Cixi may have known of her imminent death and may have worried that Guangxu would continue his reforms after her death. CNN has recently reported that the level of arsenic in his remains were 2,000 times higher than that of ordinary people.

Empress Dowager Cixi was interred amidst the Eastern Qing Tombs , 125 km (77.7 mi) east of Beijing, in the Dong Dingling , along with Empress Dowager Ci'an. More precisely, Empress Dowager Ci'an lies in the Pu Xiang Yu Ding Dong Ling (literally: the "Tomb East of the Ding Ling Tomb in the Broad Valley of Good Omen"), while Empress Dowager Cixi built herself the much larger Pu Tuo Yu Ding Dong Ling (literally: the "Tomb East of the Ding Ling Tomb in the Potala Valley"). The Dingling tomb (literally: the "Tomb of quietude") is the tomb of the Xianfeng Emperor, the spouse of Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 and Empress Dowager Cixi, which is located indeed west of the Ding Dong Ling. The Putuo Valley owes its name to Mount Putuo
Mount Putuo
Mount Putuo is an island southeast of Shanghai, in Zhoushan prefecture of Zhejiang province, China. It is famous in Chinese Buddhism, and is considered the bodhimanda of Avalokitesvara , a revered Bodhisattva in many parts of East Asia...

, one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China
Sacred Mountains of China
The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into two groups, one associated with Taoism and the other with Buddhism. The group associated with Taoism is known as the Five Great Mountains , whereas the group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism .The sacred...

.

Empress Dowager Cixi, unsatisfied with her tomb, ordered its destruction and reconstruction in 1895. The new tomb was a lavish grandiose complex of temples, gates, and pavilions, covered with gold leaf, and with gold and gilded-bronze ornaments hanging from the beams and the eaves. In July 1928, Empress Dowager Cixi's tomb was occupied by warlord and Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 general Sun Dianying
Sun Dianying
Sun Diangying was one of the minor warlords during the Warlord Era.-Biography:...

 and his army who methodically stripped the complex of its precious ornaments, then dynamited the entrance to the burial chamber, opened Empress Dowager Cixi's coffin, threw her corpse (said to have been found intact) on the floor, and stole all the jewels contained in the coffin, as well as the massive pearl that had been placed in Empress Dowager Cixi's mouth to protect her corpse from decomposing (in accordance with Chinese tradition). Urban legend states that the large pearl on Empress Dowager Cixi's crown was offered by Sun Dianying to Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 and ended up as an ornament on the gala shoes of Chiang's wife, Soong May-ling
Soong May-ling
Soong May-ling or Soong Mei-ling, also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek or Madame Chiang was a First Lady of the Republic of China , the wife of Generalissimo and President Chiang Kai-shek. She was a politician and painter...

, but this is unconfirmed.

After 1949, the complex of Empress Dowager Cixi's tomb was restored by the People's Republic of China, and it is still today one of the most impressive imperial tombs of China.

Family

  • Paternal Great-Grandfather
    • Yehenara Jilang A (葉赫那拉·吉郎阿)
  • Paternal Grandfather
    • Yehenara Jingrui (葉赫那拉·景瑞)
  • Father
    • Yehenara Huizheng (葉赫那拉·惠徵) (29 September 1805 - ?), Manchu official of the Blue Bordered Banner, served in Shanxi Province before becoming Commissioner of Anhui
  • Mother
    • Lady Fuca (富察氏), Huizheng's primary wife, daughter of Fuca Huixian (富察·惠顯)
  • Husband
    • Xianfeng Emperor
      Xianfeng Emperor
      The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

      , father of the Tongzhi Emperor
      Tongzhi Emperor
      The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

  • Son
    • Tongzhi Emperor
      Tongzhi Emperor
      The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...


Siblings and their descendants

    • 1st younger sister: Yehenara Wanzhen (葉赫那拉·婉貞) (13 September 1841 – 19 June 1896), married Yixuan, 1st Prince Chun
      Yixuan, 1st Prince Chun
      Yixuan, 1st Prince Chun was a prince of the Qing Dynasty, the last reigning dynasty of China. He was the father of the dynasty's penultimate emperor, the Guangxu Emperor, and the paternal grandfather of China's last emperor, Puyi.-Birth and early life:Aisin Gioro Yi Xuan was born a son of the...

      • 1st son: Zairong (載瀚) (1 February 1865 – 9 December 1866)
      • 2nd son: Zaitian (載湉) (14 August 1871 – 14 November 1908), became the Guangxu Emperor
        Guangxu Emperor
        The Guangxu Emperor , born Zaitian of the Aisin-Gioro clan, was the eleventh emperor of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, under Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898...

      • 3rd son: unnamed (13 February 1875 – 14 February 1875)
      • 4th son: Zaiguang (載洸) (28 November 1880 – 18 May 1884)
    • 2nd younger sister: Lady Yehenara (葉赫那拉氏), married Yixun (奕勛) (second younger brother of Yikuang, Prince Qing
      Yikuang, Prince Qing
      Yikuang, the Prince Qing , was a Manchu prince of the late Qing Dynasty, who was the first premier of China...

      )
    • 1st younger brother: Yehenara Zhaoxiang (葉赫那拉·照祥)
      • Son: Yehenara Deshan (葉赫那拉·德善)
    • 2nd younger brother: Yehenara Guixiang (葉赫那拉·桂祥)
      • 1st daughter: Yehenara Jingrong (葉赫那拉·靜榮), married Zaize, Duke of Zhen
        Zaize
        Zaize was a Manchu noble Aisin Gioro clan. Born Zaijiao, he was the grandson of Mianyu, Prince Hui, younger brother of the Daoguang Emperor...

         in 1894
      • 2nd daughter: Yehenara Jingfen (葉赫那拉·靜芬) (1868 – 22 February 1913), married her first cousin, the Guangxu Emperor
        Guangxu Emperor
        The Guangxu Emperor , born Zaitian of the Aisin-Gioro clan, was the eleventh emperor of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, under Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898...

         on 26 February 1889 and became Empress Dowager Longyu
        Empress Dowager Longyu
        Empress Xiao Ding Jing ; is better known as the Empress Dowager Longyu , . Also , she had the nickname was Xizi (喜子). Empress Xiao Ding Jing was the Qing Dynasty Empress Consort of the Guangxu Emperor who ruled China from 1875 till 1908...

         (known posthumously as Empress Xiao Ding Jing)
      • 3rd daughter: Yehenara Jingfang (葉赫那拉·靜芳), married Zaiyi
        • Son: Pujun (溥儁) (1885–1942)
          • 1st son: Yuwei (毓巍) (September 1908 – May 1998)
            • 1st son: Henglu (恆祿)
            • 2nd son: Hengyu (恆玉)
            • 3rd son: Hengjun (恆均)
              • Son: Luowei (羅偉)
          • 2nd son: Yuling (毓嶺)
      • 1st son: Yehenara Deheng (葉赫那拉·德恒), courtesy name Jianting (健亭)
        • 1st daughter: Yehenara Shumin (葉赫那拉·淑敏)
        • 2nd daughter: Yehenara Shuqin (葉赫那拉·淑琴)
        • Son: Yehenara Enxian (葉赫那拉·恩賢)
      • 2nd son: Yehenara Deqi (葉赫那拉·德祺), courtesy name Shouzhi (壽芝)
        • 1st daughter: Yehenara Xixian (葉赫那拉·希賢)
        • 2nd daughter: Yehenara Xiyan (葉赫那拉·希嬿)
        • 1st son: Yehenara Enyin (葉赫那拉·恩印)
        • 2nd son: Yehenara Enxian (葉赫那拉·恩顯)
        • 3rd son: Yehenara Enmin (葉赫那拉·恩民)
        • 4th son: Yehenara Enzhi (葉赫那拉·恩植)
    • 3rd younger brother: Yehenara Fuxiang (葉赫那拉·福祥)
      • Son: Yehenara Dekui (葉赫那拉·德奎), courtesy name Wenbo (文伯)
        • 1st daughter: Yehenara Enhua (葉赫那拉·恩華)
        • 2nd daughter: Yehenara Enxiu (葉赫那拉·恩秀)
        • 1st son: Yehenara Enquan (葉赫那拉·恩銓)
        • 2nd son: Yehenara Enhui (葉赫那拉·恩輝)
        • 3rd son: Yehenara Enyao (葉赫那拉·恩耀)
        • 4th son: Yehenara Enguang (葉赫那拉·恩光)

Names of Empress Dowager Cixi


The name by which she is most frequently known and the name used in most modern texts is simply "Cixi", which is neither her birth name nor family name. It is an "honorific name" given to her in 1861 after her son ascended the throne. Empress Dowager Cixi's name at birth is not known, although a recent book published by one of Cixi's brother's descendants seems to suggest that it was Xingzhen (杏貞). The first occurrence of her name is at the time she entered the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

 in September 1851, where she was recorded as "the Lady Yehenara, daughter of Huizheng" . Thus, she was called by her clan's name, the Yehe-Nara
Nara (clan)
Nara is a major Manchu clan. The Hūlun Four States -- Hada , Ula , Hoifa and Yehe -- were ruled by this clan...

 clan, as was customary for Manchu girls. On entering the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

, she was a preparative concubine .

After her sexual union with the Xianfeng Emperor
Xianfeng Emperor
The Xianfeng Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro I Ju, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.-Family and his early years:...

, she was made a concubine of the fifth rank Noble Person, a.k.a. "Worthy Lady" , and was given the name Yi (懿,meaning "good", "exemplary", "virtuous"). Her name was thus "Noble Person of Yi", or Worthy Lady Yi . At the end of December 1854 or the beginning of January 1855, she was promoted to concubine of the fourth rank, Imperial Concubine , so that her new name was Imperial Concubine Yi .

On 27 April 1856, Yehenara gave birth to a son, the only son of Xianfeng, and was immediately made Noble Consort Yi" . Finally, in February 1857 she was again elevated and made "Noble Imperial Consort Yi" .

In the end of August 1861, following the death of the Xianfeng Emperor, her five-year-old son became the new Emperor, known as the Tongzhi Emperor
Tongzhi Emperor
The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

. Empress Dowager Cixi, as biological mother of the new emperor, was officially made Divine Mother Empress Dowager . She was also given the honorific name Cixi , meaning "Motherly and Auspicious". As for the Empress Consort, she was made "Mother Empress Dowager" , a title giving her precedence over Empress Dowager Cixi, and she was given the honorific name Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an
Empress Dowager Ci'an , popularly known in China as the East Empress Dowager , and officially known posthumously as the Empress Xiao Zhen Xian , was the second Empress Consort of the Xianfeng Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China, and then Empress Dowager after 1861...

 , meaning "Motherly and Calm".

On 7 occasions after 1861, Empress Dowager Cixi was given additional honorific names (two Chinese characters at a time), as was customary for Emperors and Empresses, until by the end of her reign her name was a long string of 16 characters starting with Cixi (as Empress Dowager she had the right to nine additions, giving a total of 20 characters, had she lived long enough for it). At the end of her life, her official name was:


which reads: "The Current Divine Mother Empress Dowager Ci-Xi Duan-You Kang-Yi Zhao-Yu Zhuang-Cheng Shou-Gong Qin-Xian Chong-Xi of the Great Qing Empire".

The short form was The Current Divine Mother Empress Dowager of the Great Qing Empire
At the time, Empress Dowager Cixi was addressed as "Venerable Buddha" ,literally "Master Old Buddha", a term used for all the Emperors of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

. At official and ceremonial occasions, the phrase Long Live the Empress Dowager for ten thousand years , which is by convention, only used by Emperors. The convention for Empress Dowagers of imperial China was usually Long live for one thousand years.

At her death in 1908, Empress Dowager Cixi was given a posthumous name
Posthumous name
A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia after the person's death, and is used almost exclusively instead of one's personal name or other official titles during his life...

 which combines the honorific names that she gained during her lifetime with new names added just after her death. This is the name that is usually used on official documents to refer to an Empress. This long form of the posthumous name is:
  • ,

which reads: Empress Xiao-Qin Ci-Xi Duan-You Kang-Yi Zhao-Yu Zhuang-Cheng Shou-Gong Qin-Xian Chong-Xi Pei-Tian Xing-Sheng Xian. This long name is still the one that can be seen on Cixi's tomb today. The short form of her posthumous name is: Empress Xiao Qin Xian (孝欽顯皇后).

Historical opinions


The traditional view of the Empress Dowager Cixi was that of a devious despot
Despotism
Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy...

 who contributed in no small part to China's slide into corruption, anarchy, and revolution. During Cixi's time, she used her power to accumulate vast quantities of money, bullion, antiques and jewelry, using the revenues of the state as her own. By the end of her reign she had amassed a huge personal fortune, stashing away some eight and a half million pounds sterling in London banks. The lavish palaces, gardens and lakes built by Cixi were hugely extravagant at a time when China was verging on bankruptcy. The recent discovery that her nephew died of acute arsenic poisoning casts a sinister shadow on the events of her reign, as do the many examples of her ruthless elimination of enemies throughout her life, from Sushun and his entourage to the martyrs of the 100 Days' Reform to Empress Alute and the Pearl Concubine, whether or not the details were embellished by critics.

Katharine Carl


Katharine Carl spent some ten months with the Empress Dowager Cixi in 1903 to paint her portrait for the St. Louis Exposition
St. Louis Exposition
St. Louis Exposition can refer to either:*Saint Louis Exposition *Louisiana Purchase Exposition...

. Two years later she published a book about her experience, titled With the Empress Dowager. In the book's introduction, Carl says she wrote the book because "After I returned to America, I was constantly seeing in the newspapers (and hearing of) statements ascribed to me which I never made."

In her book, Katharine Carl describes the Empress Dowager Cixi as a kind and considerate woman for her station. Empress Dowager Cixi, though shrewd, had great presence, charm, and graceful movements resulting in "an unusually attractive personality". Carl wrote of the Dowager's love of dogs and of flowers, as well as boating, Chinese opera
Chinese opera
Chinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE...

 and her Chinese water pipes and European cigarettes. Carl also made note of Empress Dowager Cixi's loyalty, describing the case of "a Chinese woman who nursed Her Majesty through a long illness, about twenty-five years since, and saved her life by giving her mother's milk to drink. Her Majesty, who never forgets a favor, has always kept this woman in the Palace. Being a Chinese, she had bound feet
Foot binding
Foot binding was the custom of binding the feet of young girls painfully tight to prevent further growth. The practice probably originated among court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread to upper class families and eventually became common among all classes. The tiny narrow feet were...

. Her Majesty, who cannot bear to see them even, had her feet unbound and carefully treated, until now she can walk comfortably. Her Majesty has educated the son, who was an infant at the time of her illness, and whose natural nourishment she partook of. This young man is already a Secretary in a good yamen
Yamen
A yamen is any local bureaucrat's, or mandarin's, office and residence of the Chinese Empire. The term has been widely used in China for centuries, but appeared in English during the Qing Dynasty....

 (government office)."


Sterling Seagrave


Seagrave argues that most of the more sensational stories of Empress Dowager Cixi's life can be traced to the boasting, self-important "Wild Fox" Kang Youwei
Kang Youwei
Kang Youwei , was a Chinese scholar, noted calligrapher and prominent political thinker and reformer of the late Qing Dynasty. He led movements to establish a constitutional monarchy and was an ardent Chinese nationalist. His ideas inspired a reformation movement that was supported by the Guangxu...

 and his cronies who, never having met the Empress Dowager, concocted stories of plots and poisonings and passed them on to the Western press. Many other "details" of her life are based on accounts by J. O. P. Bland and known forger Edmund Backhouse
Sir Edmund Backhouse, 2nd Baronet
Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, 2nd Baronet was a British oriental scholar and linguist whose work exerted a powerful influence on the Western view of the last decades of the Qing Dynasty. Since his death, however, it has been established that some of his sources were forged, though it is not clear...

. As life in the Forbidden City remained a mystery for most Westerners, these stories created by Kang and Backhouse (some up to 30 years after the supposed events) were used by many 20th century historians to paint a misleading picture of the Empress Dowager.

In contrast, Seagrave portrays Empress Dowager Cixi as a woman stuck between the xenophobic Ironhats faction, made up of Manchu nobility wanting to maintain Manchu dominance and remove Western influences from China at all cost, and more moderate influences trying to cope with China's problems on a more realistic footing, such as Prince Gong in her earlier days. The Empress Dowager, Seagrave argues, did not crave power but simply acted to balance these influences and protect the Dynasty as best she could.

Lei Chia-sheng


According to research by Professor Lei Chia-sheng (雷家聖), during the Hundred Days' Reform
Hundred Days' Reform
The Hundred Days' Reform was a failed 104-day national cultural, political and educational reform movement from 11 June to 21 September 1898 in late Qing Dynasty China. It was undertaken by the young Guangxu Emperor and his reform-minded supporters...

 (戊戌变法), former prime minister of Japan Itō Hirobumi
Ito Hirobumi
Prince was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan , genrō and Resident-General of Korea. Itō was assassinated by An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist who was against the annexation of Korea by the Japanese Empire...

 (伊藤博文) arrived in China on 11 September 1898. Almost at the same time, British missionary Timothy Richard was invited to Beijing by Kang Youwei. Richard suggested that China should hand over some political power to Itō in order to help push the reforms further. On 18 September, Richard convinced Kang Youwei to adopt a plan by which China would join a federation composed of China, Japan, the United States, and England. This suggestion did not reflect the policies of the countries concerned. It was Timothy Richard’s (and perhaps Itō Hirobumi's) trick to convince China to hand over national rights. Kang Youwei nonetheless asked fellow reformers Yang Shenxiu (楊深秀) and Song Bolu (宋伯魯) to report this plan to the Guangxu Emperor. On 20 September, Yang sent a memorial to this effect to the Emperor. In another memorial written the next day, Song Bolu also advocated the formation of a federation and the sharing of the diplomatic, fiscal, and military powers of the four countries under a hundred-man committee. Lei Chia-sheng argues that the plot was the reason why Cixi, who had just returned from the Summer Palace on Sept. 19, decided to put an end to the reforms with the 21 September coup.

Still according to Lei Chia-sheng's findings, on 13 October, British ambassador Sir C. MacDonald reported to his government about the Chinese situation, saying that Chinese reforms had been damaged by Kang Youwei and his friends’ actions. British diplomat Baurne claimed in his own report that Kang was a dreamer who had been seduced by Timothy Richard’s sweet words. Baurne thought Richard was a plotter. The British and American governments were unaware of the "federation" plot, which seems to have been Timothy Richard’s personal idea. Because Richard's partner Itō Hirobumi had been Prime Minister of Japan, the Japanese government might have known about Richard's plan, but there is no evidence to this effect.

Princess Der Ling


Der Ling, whose Christian name was Elisabeth Antoinette, was born in Beijing in June 1885 and died in Berkeley, California in November 1944. She was the eldest daughter of Yu Keng, an official of the Chinese-Martial (hanjun) Plain White Banner, and his wife, Louisa Pierson, daughter of an American merchant in Shanghai and his Chinese consort.

When Der Ling's father was recalled from Paris, where he had been Chinese minister, in 1903, Der Ling, her sister Rong Ling (later the wife of General Dan Paochao) and their mother were summoned by Cixi to become court ladies - something between ladies in waiting and translators/hostesses for when the Empress Dowager had foreign female guests from Beijing's Legation Quarter.

Der Ling served at court from March 1903 till October 1905, and married an American, Thaddeus Cohu White, in 1907.

After Cixi's death in 1908, Der Ling professed to be so angered by what she saw as false portraits of Cixi appearing in books and periodicals that she wrote her own account of serving "Old Buddha," which she called "Two Years in the Forbidden City." This book appeared in 1911, just before the fall of the Qing Dynasty, and was a popular success.

In this book, Cixi is not the monster of depravity depicted in the popular press and in the second and third hand accounts left by foreigners who had lived in Beijing, but an aging woman who loved beautiful things, had many regrets about the past and the way she had dealt with the many crises of her long reign, and apparently trusted Der Ling enough to share many memories and opinions with her.

It was clearly Cixi's favouritism toward Der Ling, including permitting her to wear a "princess button" on her hat, that prompted Der Ling in later years, when seeking an English equivalent to her office at court, to add "Princess" to her name, a move that undermined her credibility in China even as it drove up her stock when she went before the American public in the 1920s to give lectures about life at court with the semi-legendary Cixi. Der Ling ultimately wrote a full-length biography of Cixi titled 'Old Buddha.'

Der Ling would go on to write seven more books about this relatively brief period in her youth when she had been close to the centre of failing imperial Chinese power, and sharing this personal history and her habit of promoting herself and her writings caused most of her family to turn against her. All of this has made it difficult to assess Der Ling's contribution to late Qing historiography. But the fact remains that she was the first woman of Cixi's own ethnic background to live with and observe her and then write about what it was like; if many of Der Ling's recollections smack of the every day minutiae of a court that throve on details and form, her writings are no less valuable for focusing on them, particularly as life within the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace was a closed book for most people in China, let alone in the rest of the world. It was misunderstanding of much of what emanated from the throne that created so many of the problems Cixi has been wholly blamed for.

Starting with Sterling Seagrave's biography of Cixi, 'Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China', Der Ling and her reminiscences of the imperial court have been rehabilitated in recent years, in tandem with reassessments of the Empress Dowager herself. In January 2008, Hong Kong University Press published the first biography of Der Ling, 'Imperial Masquerade: The Legend of Princess Der Ling'.

Other sources


She appears frequently in ceremonies described in the diaries of Sir Ernest Satow for 1900–06 when Satow was British envoy in Peking.

Another well known biography, although widely criticized, is "China Under The Empress Dowager" by J. O. P. Bland and Edmund Backhouse
Sir Edmund Backhouse, 2nd Baronet
Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, 2nd Baronet was a British oriental scholar and linguist whose work exerted a powerful influence on the Western view of the last decades of the Qing Dynasty. Since his death, however, it has been established that some of his sources were forged, though it is not clear...

. Backhouse was later found to have forged some of his source materials when he wrote this work. This is a book that gave rise to much of the negative perspective of the dowager empress.

Succession


See also

  • Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers
    Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers
    Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers was a 1900 declaration of war against the colonising powers: Russia, America, England, Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, and Holland simultaneously. This declaration of war was one of the direct cause of the Boxer...

  • Imperial Decree on events leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol
    Imperial Decree on events leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol
    The Imperial Decree on events leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol is a royal decree issued by the Qing Dynasty in the name of Guangxu Emperor, as an official imperial statement on historical events such as Boxer Rebellion, Eight-Nation Alliance and Battle of Peking and Siege of the...

  • 1900 National Upheaval
    1900 National Upheaval
    1900 National Upheaval is a book published in 1923, written by Li Xishen , a Qing Dynasty author. The book gives a detailed account of major events around the time of the Boxer Rebellion, and is widely quoted by Chinese historian Hou Yijiat and Professor Yuan Weishi...


In popular culture

  • Pearl S. Buck
    Pearl S. Buck
    Pearl Sydenstricker Buck also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu , was an American writer who spent most of her time until 1934 in China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932...

    's novel Imperial Woman
    Imperial Woman
    Imperial Woman is a novel by Pearl S. Buck first published in 1956.Imperial Woman is a fictionalized biography of Ci-xi , who was a concubine of the Xianfeng Emperor and on his death became the de facto head of the Qing Dynasty until her death in 1908 .The story of Tzu Hsi is the story of the last...

    chronicles the life of the Empress Dowager from the time of her selection as a concubine until near to her death. Empress Dowager Cixi is portrayed as a stern, motivated woman who stands to the old ways of life and government and resists the changes brought by westerners. Empress Dowager Cixi's actions on behalf of the two Emperors that she raised and her own actions are all accounted for and rationalized as being for the good of her people and her country.

  • The novels Empress Orchid
    Empress Orchid
    Empress Orchid is a novel by Anchee Min which was first published in Great Britain in 2004. It is written in first person and is a sympathetic account of the life of Empress Dowager Cixi - from her humble beginnings to her rise as the Empress Dowager.Names within the story are different in...

    (2004) and The Last Empress
    The Last Empress (novel)
    The Last Empress is a historical novel by Anchee Min that provides a sympathetic account of the life of Empress Dowager Cixi , from her rise to power as Empress Tzu-Hsi, until her death at 72 years of age...

    (2007), by Anchee Min
    Anchee Min
    Anchee Min is a Chinese-American painter, photographer, musician, and author who lives in San Francisco and Shanghai...

     portray the life of Empress Dowager Cixi from a first-person perspective.

  • The Noble Concubine Yi is featured in George McDonald Fraser's novel, Flashman and the Dragon
    Flashman and the Dragon
    Flashman and the Dragon is a 1985 novel by George MacDonald Fraser. It is the eighth of the Flashman novels.-Plot introduction:Presented within the frame of the supposedly discovered historical Flashman Papers, this book describes the bully Flashman from Tom Brown's Schooldays...

    (1985).

  • The 1968 novel Wij Tz'e Hsi Keizerin Van China (We, Tz'e Hsi, Empress of China) by Dutch author Johan Fabricius
    Johan Fabricius
    Johan Fabricius was a Dutch writer, journalist and adventurer.Fabricius was born in Bandung, Java. He wrote approximately 60 books, among them many books for children. He is well known for writing the historical children's book "De scheepsjongens van Bontekoe" , which was reprinted 28 times as of...

     is a fictional diary of the Empress.

  • Cixi is portrayed by actresses Flora Robson
    Flora Robson
    Dame Flora McKenzie Robson DBE was an English actress, renowned as a character actress, who played roles ranging from queens to villainesses.-Early life:...

     in the 1963 film 55 Days At Peking
    55 Days at Peking
    55 Days at Peking is a 1963 historical epic film starring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven, made by Samuel Bronston Productions, and released by Allied Artists. The movie was produced by Samuel Bronston and directed by Nicholas Ray, Andrew Marton , and Guy Green...

    and by Lisa Lu
    Lisa Lu
    Lisa Lu is a Chinese-American actress and documentary producer.-Life and career:Lu was born in Peking, China . Beginning in her teens, she was active in Chinese opera, or Kunqu, before emigrating to the United States...

     in the 1987 film "The Last Emperor
    The Last Emperor
    The Last Emperor is a 1987 biopic about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for the screenplay written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci. Independently produced by Jeremy Thomas, it was directed by Bertolucci and released in 1987 by Columbia Pictures...

    ".

  • Forbidden City: Portrait of An Empress
    Forbidden City: Portrait of An Empress
    Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress is a Singapore Musical that tells the story of China's Legendary Empress Dowager Cixi. It was staged by the Singapore Repertory Theatre originally on 17-19 October 2002 at the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, as part of its opening festival, and back again in...

    , a Singapore musical that tells the story of Empress Dowager Cixi, was staged by the Singapore Repertory Theatre
    Singapore Repertory Theatre
    The Singapore Repertory Theatre is the first Singapore-based professional theatre group which was founded in 1993. It is reputed to be the leading English language theatres in whole of Asia...

     originally on 17–19 October 2002.

  • The China Central Television
    China Central Television
    China Central Television or Chinese Central Television, commonly abbreviated as CCTV, is the major state television broadcaster in mainland China. CCTV has a network of 19 channels broadcasting different programmes and is accessible to more than one billion viewers...

     production Towards the Republic
    Towards the Republic
    Towards the Republic, also known as For the Sake of the Republic and Zou Xiang Gong He, is a Chinese historical television series first broadcast on CCTV in China from April to May 2003...

    portrayed Empress Dowager Cixi as a capable ruler, albeit not entirely positive, for the first time in the history of Mainland Chinese television, although it also clearly demonstrated her political views as very conservative.

External links