Henry Rothschild, Wu Zhao:
Share via Email Empress Dowager Cixi: Nevertheless, a few dozen political murders — without counting the deaths further afield in suppressed rebellions and more distant wars — is not nothing. Her victims included the emperor Guangxu's son's favourite concubine, thrown down a well, and Guangxu himself, by then deposed by her, dispatched with arsenic on the eve of her own death to ensure that he made no comeback.
This approving biography advances a vigorous defence of a woman whom history has often demonised as a venal reactionary: History often has trouble giving powerful women their due and correctives are in order, but Chang's admiration for her subject can sometimes seem a little unqualified: Had she lived just a little longer, China might have become a stable constitutional monarchy.
Where does the truth lie in Cixi's much told story? Her talents were highly regarded by many statesmen and officials who encountered or served her. She managed to steer the increasingly leaky ship of the Qing state through serious internal rebellions, foreign incursions and wars, trying to make the best of a weak position.
Though protocol confined her to palace life and limited ritual journeys, she was eager to learn about foreign countries, customs and fashions and cultivated a shrewd strategic understanding of the world. That Cixi was a remarkable woman is not in doubt.
Born in into a family of Manchu government officials, she entered the Forbidden City as a concubine to the emperor Xianfeng. Although graded third rank, her standing in court improved in when she bore a son, a helpful move for a woman in China, even today.
The young emperor Xianfeng was facing enormous problems: Cixi began to offer the emperor unwanted advice, inspiring in him the prophetic fear that she might interfere in state affairs after his death. To keep her under control, on his deathbed he set up an eight-man regency to run China.
Formally, Cixi had no power, but she succeeded in mounting a coup against the regents with Empress Zhen, the late emperor's principal wife, before he was buried. Cixi falsely accused the regents of forging the emperor's will, and in the first of what would be a substantial list of Cixi fatalities, ordered the suicide of the most important two.
Since she could never sit on the throne herself, her continued power depended on the emperor being a child. In this, one might say, she had a lot of luck.
Her own son died as a teenager in and another child, her three-year-old nephew, succeeded as Emperor Guangxu. Cixi promptly adopted him, though, bizarrely, she instructed him to address her as "my royal father".
It was not a warm relationship.
She reluctantly "retired" in and devoted herself to building a pleasure ground on the outskirts of Beijing. It was not the last of her. InGuangxu, who had good reason to dislike his "royal father" launched a radical reform programme under the guidance of two former imperial scholars, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, and against the resistance of the more conservative elements at court.
Kang — portrayed here one-dimensionally as a scheming upstart — persuaded the emperor that Cixi was an obstacle that had to be neutralised. Those reformers who did not escape were executed. Also executed were two entirely innocent men, whose trials Cixi had stopped to prevent the emperor's role in the plot to assassinate her becoming public.The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell (Picador, ); 2) China: Alive in the Bitter Sea by Fox Butterfield; 3) China: A New History by John K.
Fairbank; 4) China's Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History by Charles O. Hucker; 5) In Search of Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence; 6) The Chan's Great .
Aug 21, · Watch video · The Han Dynasty ruled China from B.C. to A.D. Though tainted by deadly dramas within the royal court, it is also renowned for .
In , Wu officially declared herself Empress and named her reign the “Zhou Dynasty.” The name was in reference to a fiefdom her father hailed from, but was also a reference to an earlier dynasty from which Wu often claimed a lineage.
The novels Empress Orchid () and The Last Empress (), by Anchee Min 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 (). Guangxu, the second to last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, is best known for his unsuccessful attempt to modernize China by instituting reforms to the system of government in , the so-called Hundred Days Reform aimed to adopt a constitutional monarchy.
Empress Dowager Cixi. Cixi stands out as infamous in Qing Dynasty history (ruling –). Past the smoke and screens, she lived as a powerful ruler behind two of the last emperors, and had a hand in imperial court policy in the last several decades of the Qing Dynasty.