Empress Dowager Cixi

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Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后) was born in 1835 to a Manchu official named Huizheng of the Manchu Yehe Nara Clan in Anhui Province. She was a member of the Plain Yellow Banner division under the Eight Banners, an administrative system for Manchu families. In 1852, Cixi participated in a selection for concubines and was selected on that occasion. After being selected for the emperor's bed, she was promoted to the position of "Noble Person" (gui ren).

Empress Dowager with the wives of some Western envoys

In 1856, Cixi gave birth to Tongzhi, thus obtaining an elevation to "Noble Consort" (gui fei), which was a consort of the fourth rank. In 1857, she was further elevated to "Noble Imperial Consort Yi."

In 1861, Emperor Xianfeng died at the Rehe palace, and his 6-year-old son Zaichun ascended the throne. Both the Empress Consort and Noble Consort Yi (Cixi) were then elevated to the title of "Empress Dowager."

Cixi was her appellation title, she was also called Empress Dowager Nara.

By the time of Emperor Xianfeng's death, the Empress Dowager Cixi launched a palace coup and had Minister Su Shun beheaded. After that, Cixi became the first and only Qing Dynasty Empress to rule from "behind the curtain" for over 48 years (1861-1809).

The main incidents in her life were:

She used Western troops and Zeng Guofan's local armed units as tools to suppress the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and other minority uprisings in provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Shaanxi and Gansu.

She approved the industry program to import knowledge and technology from Western powers in order to maintain the otherwise falling condition of the nation and save the rule of the Qing Dynasty.

She was subservient to foreign countries and signed a series of humiliating treaties.

She launched a coup d'état that strangled the Hundred Days' Reform.

She colluded with the West and betrayed the Boxers.

In her later years, she was obliged to publish "the draft program on constitution" and proclaimed the implementation of a "new deal," in an attempt solely for the purpose of resisting the growing revolution.

Empress Dowager Cixi died on November 15, 1908, and she was buried amidst the Eastern Qing Tombs, east of the tomb of Emperor Xianfeng.

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