The Life of Empress Dowager Cixi2016-03-14 11:14:54Share:
Empress Dowager Cixi was born in 1835 to a Manchurian middle class family. Her father was a provincial official in south china. In 1851, at the age of 16, she was selected as one of the palace maids for Emperor Xianfeng. With the help of the eunuchs, she was gradually favored by the emperor, and her position in the palace was gradually upgraded too. Later, she was made a concubine of the fifth rank.
Since she had more opportunities to stay with the emperor than other concubines, she gave birth to a son in 1856, the only son of the emperor, and then she was raised to an“ imperial concubine” of the second rank.
In 1860, when the Anglo-French allied forces invaded Beijing, Emperor Xianfeng escaped to the summer mountain resort in Rehe, Chengde today, with his wife and concubines.
However, in 1861, Emperor Xianfeng died of illness in Rehe, so his six year old only son Zai Chun succeeded the throne with the reign title “Tong Zhi”. Owing to her son’s enthronement, Cixi was upgraded and given the title of empress dowager. Since the boy emperor was only six years old, according to the will of the deceased emperor, the little emperor had eight ministers to assist him. However , the ambitious Empress Dowager Cixi tried her best to get rid of the officials around her son. She staged a palace coup, usurped the power, and begin ruling together with empress dowager Ci’an , the first wife of emperor Xianfeng. A yellow gauze curtain was hung between the boy emperor and the two empress dowagers. While the boy emperor sat on the throne in the front, Empress Dowager Cixi would tell him what to say and what to do from behind. In this way, he was actually a puppet emperor with all the important decisions made by the empress dowagers behind the curtain. This way of ruling the state affairs was called “holding court behind the curtain” in the history of the Qing Dynasty.
In 1873, at the age of 18, Emperor Tongzhi got married and began to rule the country by himself. But unfortunately, in 1874, the young emperor died of a serious illness, small pox, at the age of 19. Since emperor Tongzhi had no son , an adopted prince should be chosen for him, who later became the emperor. But Empress Dowager Cixi chose her younger sister’s son, a boy of four years old, as her adopted son to be the successor; he later became Emperor Guangxu. In this way, she could once again continue to sit behind the curtain, controlling everything. Soon afterwards, Emperor Tongzhi’s wife, empress Aluteshi, suffered from persecutions by Empress Dowager Cixi and she committed suicide by swallowing some gold. Empress Dowager Cixi had three ambitious: power ,pleasure and luxury. In order to make the power fall in her own hand alone, she poisoned Ci’an, the first wife of Emperor Xianfeng, to death in 1881.
In 1898, when Emperor Guangxu was twenty-eight years old, he accepted the reforms advocated by some famous scholars for the modernization of china. When he tried to carry out the reform policy, Empress Dowager Cixi, with the political and military power in her hand, was strongly against the reform movement. She declared that she “would rather lose the country than carry out the reform”. The reform movement lasted only 103 days and then was brutally suppressed by Empress Dowager Cixi. So, in Chinese history, the movement was also known as the “100-day reform.” After that, Emperor Guangxu was kept under house arrest for ten years until his death in 1908. and then, Empress Dowager Cixi, tearing away the curtain, began to rule directly by herself with Emperor Guangxu, an emperor in name only, sitting by her side.
Empress Dowager Cixi died in 1908 at the age of 73, just one day after Emperor Guangxu’s death. She ruled china for a total of 48 years, plunging china into disasters and humiliations unparalleled in china’s history.
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