The life and legend of the last empress of China...



Family Background, early life and influences
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Cixi, also known as the Dragon Empress was one of the most formidable women in history and was one of the three Empresses to rule China. She was famed for her beaty, charm and confident personality. Cixi was described as either a great friend to people or a terrible enemey. She was very hungry for power, ruthless and extremely skilled in court politics. She rose from a middle class family to a dowager empress, changing and affecting chinese life forever.
Cixi was born on November 29th, 1835 to the parents of the middle ranks Manchu society and her given name was Yenhonala, meaning little Orchid.She was the oldest of four children and had two brothers and a sister.
Cixi's father, was a minor Manchu official, but had a “bloodline of the ruling race" which gave Cixi and her sister the eligibility to serve in the Forbidden City as maidservants or concubines to the emperor. This was considered a great honour for chinese women back then.
In September, 1851 Cixi participated in the selection process for concubines (mistress) for the new Emperor with sixty other Manchu girls and by the time she was 17 she was one of the concubines of the Emperor Xiangfeng."Tzu-Hsi", meaning kindly and virtuous was her court name. When the emperor chose to sleep with her, she was escorted to his room and left naked at the foot of the bed. This was a form of safety precaution to ensure that no weapons were brought into the emperors room. The emperor had many wives and concubines, but only Tzu-Hsi gave him a son. In 1855, the Lady Yehenara became pregnant and on 27th April 1856, she gave birth to Tongzhi, the only male heir of the emperor. After the birth of their only son, Cixi immediately moved up in the court and upon the death of her husband she was given the title of "Empress of the Western Palace".

Career/Occupation and major noteworthy achievements
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Cixi was taking power as empress, weilding enormous power and opposing any foreign influence on China.

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was a key turning point of her reign. The Boxer Rebellion was named after the secret society of the "Righteous and Harmonious Fists" who were poor Chinese who blamed Westerners for their poor standing of living. First organized in 1898, they may have been secretly supported by Tzu-Hsi's government. The empress saw the Boxer Rebellion as her solution to getting rid of the foreigners so she secretly supported them. In 1900, Empress Cixi declared war on the foreigners and called on all the Qing officials to support the Boxers. Roaming in bands, the Boxers wandered through northeast China, killing foreigners and destroying their property. They also attacked Chinese who became Christians. These Boxers thought themselves to be protective by spirit and believed themselves to be invincible to foreigners’ bullets.

With the support of Empress Cixi, the Boxers surrounded foreigners’ residence and cut off all their accesses to the outside world and the foreigners began to worry. Rumors going around about the murder of these captive foreigners led Western powers to join hand. Foreigners (Americans, Germans, British, French, etc) met in Dagu Fort. They attacked and destroyed Dagu Fort and Beijing. The Boxers were forced to release all the captive foreigners and the West also demanded leader of the Boxers to be killed. Empress Cixi and her party fled north to the city of Sian and they took the emperor along with them. The Boxer Rebellion killed at least 250 foreigners and the Qing government was forced to sign the Peace of Beijing Treaty. The treaty imposed heavy fines on China and amended trade treaties in favor of the West.

This treaty increased Chinese people’s anger at the Qing government, including Empress Cixi.

In 1901, Empress Dowager Cixi returned to the Forbidden City with a whole new outlook and because of the Boxer Rebellion's failure, she radically changed her policies. Like Emperor Guangxu, the she now favored westernizing China. Now holding Emperor Guangxu captive, Empress Cixi ordered railroads to be built and modernized schools and other Western innovations. Cixi’s government also outlawed the "slicing" of people (killing people with a thousand small cuts), and the smoking of opium, some of her most major reforms. Any soldiers who were caught smoking would be killed. She was now in favor of modernizing China and making moral and social reforms.

Death
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Empress Dowager Cixi was the kind of person who would put her own interests ahead of the nation’s. She was very corrupted. She used military funds to build herself a summer palace, hold banquets, bought jewels and other luxuries for herself while the country was going through a financial crisis. She seized whatever she wanted and killed anyone blocking her way, or threatened her position.

Empress Cixi died of stroke on the fifteenth of November 1908 however On 4 November 2008, forensic tests were reported that the death of the Emperor Cixi was caused by arsenic poisoning.
She died in the Hall of Graecful Bird at the middle Sea of Zhongnanhai. Her death came only a day after the death of her newphew Guangxu Emperor. Before she died, she changed the rule of succession. The heir of the throne would be chosen by the successor instead of having the eldest son to automatically receives the throne. Having changed the rule, Cixi chose the three-year old P'u Yi as the next in line to the throne.

Upon her death she was buried in splendor, covered in diamonds.

Cixi’s legacy and her impacts on history
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Cixi's legacy is clearly an important one. Whether the people liked her or not does not take away the pivotal role she played in the history of China. During her life in politics, Tzu-Hsi was clever and masterful. Her narrow-mindedness in government policy delayed what China needed to do to keep pace with the rest of the world in the late 1800's. By the time she realized, it was too late. Therefore, many historians believe that Tzu-Hsi's success in the politics of her country helped put an end to any realistic hope of a modernized China.
The importance of Empress Cixi's life however should not be underestimated, as it was she who effectively ruled China during the half century form the birth of her son until her death at the age of seventy three and as mentioned above she had a great political ability; in her strategies and in practice. Cixi completely failed to see China's need to adapt to a new reality and opposed any reforms, and prevented Gunagxu from invoking reforms to China.

Timeline of Cixi’s life and significant events
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Photo Gallery/Poster
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Cixi- The dragon Empress


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|| AHUI-PROVINCE
BEIJING
BOXER
CHINA
CIXI
CONCUBINE
CORRUPT
DRAGON
EMPRESS
REBELLION
RUTHLESS
YENHONALA




Cixi's secret message


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TRUE OR FALSE: WHICH ONE IS IT? (answers are at the end of all the activities)
1. Cixi was a caring and loving person who always put others before herself
2. Cixi Became a concubine at the age of 17

3. Cixi was one of three wives to give the emperor a son
4. Cixi killed the emperor and became empress

5. Cixi died by falling into the middle sea of Zhongnanhai


Cixi's life (answers are at the bottom of all activites)


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Across
3. another word for mistress
5. Cixi's given name
6. meaning auspicious
7. killing people with a thousand cuts
Down
1. meaning kindly and virtuous, her court name
2. Cixi supported this because she felt it was a way to get rid of the foreigners
4. meaning collective stable


Fallen Phrases


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ANSWERS:

Cixi's secret message:


She seized whatever she wanted and killed anyone blocking her way, or threatened her position

TRUE AND FALSE:

1. False
2. True
3. True
4. False
5. False

Cixi's life (crossword):

Across
3. another word for mistress- concubines
5. Cixi's given name- Yenhonala
6. meaning auspicious- Qixinag
7. killing people with a thousand cuts- slicing
Down
1. meaning kindly and virtuous, her court name- Tzu-Hsi
2. Cixi supported this because she felt it was a way to get rid of the foreigners- Boxers Rebellion
4. meaning collective stable- Tongzhi

Fallen Phrase:

The emperor had many wives and concubines but only Cixi gave him a son.
Primary Sources
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PRIMARY SOURCE 1:

Identify the source in your own caption: what is it? When and where was it made from? What does this quote tell us about Cixi?
This quote has originated from Katharine Carl’s published book, “With the empress Dowager”, after she spent 10 months with the Empress to paint her portrait in 1903, and then decided to write about her experiences with the Empress. In her book, Katharine Carl describes the Empress Dowager Cixi as a kind and considerate woman and her graceful movements and charm resulted in an “unusually attractive personality”. Along with this Katharine also made a note of Empress Dowager’s loyalty by describing a case she observed. Katharine described it as,

"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//**. 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//** (government office)."
This quote portrays Cixi from a very different perspective to how she has generally been portrayed throughout history. Cixi had a reputation for being hungry for power; scheming and destroyed anyone who threatened her position; whereas Katharine Carl creates a totally different perspective and image of Cixi by saying she was, “kind” and “considerate”. This quote shows another side of Cixi by showing her care towards her maids, instead of showing her ambitious side where she is fighting for power and to rule China.

PRIMARY SOURCE 2:

File:Z-West Dowager Empress's Corpse.PNG
File:Z-West Dowager Empress's Corpse.PNG


Identify the source in your own caption: what is it? When and where was it made from? What does this quote tell us about Cixi?

This source portrays the empress Dowagers corpse after her death. This primary source in itself, does not provide us with too much information about
Cixi the empress but as we know it Cixi died at the age of 73 after many long reigning years. forensic tests in the later years found the cause of Cixi's death to
be the result of asenic poisoning.

PRIMARY SOURCE 3:

File:The Portrait of the Qing Dynasty Cixi Imperial Dowager Empress of China by an Imperial Painter 3.JPG
File:The Portrait of the Qing Dynasty Cixi Imperial Dowager Empress of China by an Imperial Painter 3.JPG


Identify the source in your own caption: what is it? When and where was it made from? What does this quote tell us about Cixi?
We know this painting is a primary source as this is Katharine Carls, who spent sometime with the Empress in 1903 to paint her portrait for the St.Louise Exposition. This oil painting of the Dowager Empress shows a young, fair women elegently positioned. Empress Cixi was one to take advantage of her position, she dressed elaborately and spent a great deal of money on diamonds and banquets to spoil herself. Even though the empress is elaborately and traditionally dressed, the portrait gives off a sort off innocent feel as all one can see is a young, fair woman elegeantly positioned for the portrait. There is no hunger for power addressed in her eyes, and if one did not know the background information of the Empress, one can easily assume from this portrait that Empress Cixi was a kind, gentle woman who was fond of dressing up. The reason for this may be that Katharine Carl desrcibed Empress Cixi as a "Kind" and caring woman who hard an unusual charm about her and this is how she has depicted her in this portrait.


Annotated Bibliography:
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www.facebook.com/.../**Cixi-The-Dragon**-**Empress**/153918051340592 last visited: 28/07/11

http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/tzuhsi.html last visited: 30/07/11

http://www.slideshare.net/bright9977/cixi-sworn-over-dragon last visited: 30/07/11

http://www.chinapage.com/biography/cixi.html last visited: 31/08/11

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_Cixi last visited: 31/07/11

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/rulers19thcentury/p/cixi.htm last visited: 31/07/11

Overview:

Overall my sites were very reliable as they all consisted of the same information and the dates were comparativel the same, therefore accurate. Wikipedia was able to provide me with a brief overview of the type of person Cixi was and why she was so famous. Then i went to compare this on other sites and found the information was farely accurate as displayed on wikipedia. Surpsingly enough, facebook was also a great deal of help and one of my valuable sources. On this facebook page, i read the perspectives of a young woman named Natasha Yim and how she viewed and portrayed Empress Cixi. I was not able to get my hands on her book but as i typed in the name of her book in different search engines i underrstood a great deal about Cixi that i already did not know. The thing i liked most about Natasha's form of writing was that she did not have a baised point of view and occassionaly throughout her description's of Cixi she would ask rhetorical questions so that the reader would be able to make their own judgement on Cixi.

The second website provided me with an in-depth into Empress Cixi's life about how she slowly rose from a concubine of the King to one of the longest reigning Empress's China has ever had. The Slideshare website provided me with many significant dates and images that i was able to use in my photo gallery.

BY SALONI MISRA
ELECTIVE HISTORY- MISS WATSON :)