Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi
By Christina Lelon
Early Life
– Origins unclear
– Low ranking Machu family, father named Huizheng
• Member of blue banner of the eight banners
• Served in Shaxi prince
• Commisioner of Anhui Province
– Born Nov. 29, 1835
– LanKueu (Little Orchid) or Yu Lan (Jade Orchid)
– Relative insists her name was Xing’er, and she used Xingzhen during
– Either from: Yangtze Region, Changzhi, Shanxi, Suiyuan, Inner
Mongolia or Beijing
– Moved to Beijing somewhere between third and fifteenth birthday
– In September 1851 Cixi became a concubine for the Xianfeng Emperor
– Became pregnant and gave birth to the only male heir
Death of Xianfeng Emperor
• September 1860, Xianfeng Emperor fell into a
depression because of the destruction of his
Imperial Summer Palace Complex
• August 22, 1861, Xianfeng Emperor died
• Chose eight ministers and titled them the
“Eight Regent Ministers” to support his son,
who was five years old at the time
• Also gave the Empress and Cixi power, to
balance out the power of the Regent Ministers
Xinyou Coup
• While the Emperor’s body was being transported
to Peking, Empress Dowager Cixi plotted to gain
power by suggesting she and the Empress
become co-reigning Empress Dowagers
• Empress Cixi caused tension between ministers
and the Empress, and gained support from the
people, including Prince Gong
• Regents were dismissed from power for having
negotiated with barbarians
Regency over Guangxu Emperor
• In 1875, Zaitian, the first-born of Cixi’s sister, became
ruler at age four, and Cixi essentially ruled for him
• It is thought that Cixipoisioned the Empress, Ci’an, to
gain more power
• Even after he officially had power, Cixi made decisions
and ruled for him
• After Cixi retired, Zaitian began the Hundred Day’s
Reform, a period in which there was much political,
legal and social change
• This began the Boxer Uprising, which was a movement
towards traditional Chinese styles of rule
• Cixi died on November 15, 1908
• She installed Puyi as the new Emperor the
previous day, when the Guangxu Emperor,
Zaitian, died due to posioning
• The Empress, before she died, was unsatisfied
with her tomb and built a new one in 1985, which
was large and ornate
• Her tomb was later robbed in July, 1928, and all
the precious jewels and other items were stolen
So What?
• Cixi was important for many different reasons
– Woman doing a man’s job
– One of the most powerful women ever to come
out of China
– Last true Emperor or Empress of China
– Many Chinese regard her as the reason the
Dynasty fell and the reason other forms of
government began
• "Empress Dowager Cixi." May 8 2009. 18 May 2009
• “Cixi.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2009. Ecyclopaedia
Britannica Online. 17 May 2009.
• Upshur, Jiu-Hwa Lo. "Cixi." In Ackermann, Marsha E.,
Michael Schroeder, Janice J. Terry, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, and
Mark F. Whitters, eds. Encyclopedia of World History: Age
of Revolution and Empire, 1750 to 1900, vol. 4. New York:
Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Modern World History Online.
Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE53&iPin=WHIV061&SingleRecord=True (accesse
d May 18, 2009).