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Thread: Empress dowager cixi

  1. #286
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    The second suggestion of Governor Li was to build a railroad in Shandong Province along the river. But many conservative courtiers opposed it. Their reasons were: (1) If the dike broke, the river would flood over the railroad. (2) Though transportation by train was faster than by ship, when the train was used instead of the ship, many people working on the ship would be out of job and became outlaws. (3) Although the train was convenient to convey the soldiers here and there during a war, if a meter of the rail was demolished, the whole line went dead. What was the use then? And it was impossible to guard the line from end to end. (4) If the designed railroad line must cut through some grave fields, the corpses would surely be dug up, which would damage the fengshui (something like geomancy. The theory is that the location of the grave and to which direction the grave faces will affect the fortune of the family.) and brought calamity to the families. The last one was the main point they wanted to make.
    Prince Yihuan could still remember that in 1865 the first railroad had been built in China. It had been outside the capital, built by a British merchant as a sample, only half a kilometer long. When it had begun to whistle and rumble, the crowds who had come to look had got in a panic, crying “Monster! Monster!” Qing government had ordered the whole thing taken apart and removed. The second railroad had been built by a British company in 1877, which ran from Shanghai to the outlet of the Wangpu River with freight carriages and passenger cars mixed. The business had been good, though there still were some conservative people calling it monster. Unfortunately it had run over a pedestrian who had died on the spot. It had duly occasioned a lot of protests and demonstrations. The Foreign Affairs Yamen had had to interfere and had purchased the railroad from the British company for two hundred eighty-five thousands taels of silver. Then the government had taken apart the trains and rails and sunk them in the sea. The third railroad had been constructed in 1881 near Tangshan Town for the coal mine. It lasted for nine kilometers to convey coal from the mine. Only the freight train was not drawn by a locomotive, but by horses and donkeys. A laughing stock among the foreigners.

  2. #287
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    The second suggestion of Governor Li was to build a railroad in Shandong Province along the river. But many conservative courtiers opposed it. Their reasons were: (1) If the dike broke, the river would flood over the railroad. (2) Though transportation by train was faster than by ship, when the train was used instead of the ship, many people working on the ship would be out of job and became outlaws. (3) Although the train was convenient to convey the soldiers here and there during a war, if a meter of the rail was demolished, the whole line went dead. What was the use then? And it was impossible to guard the line from end to end. (4) If the designed railroad line must cut through some grave fields, the corpses would surely be dug up, which would damage the fengshui (something like geomancy. The theory is that the location of the grave and to which direction the grave faces will affect the fortune of the family.) and brought calamity to the families. The last one was the main point they wanted to make.
    Prince Yihuan could still remember that in 1865 the first railroad had been built in China. It had been outside the capital, built by a British merchant as a sample, only half a kilometer long. When it had begun to whistle and rumble, the crowds who had come to look had got in a panic, crying “Monster! Monster!” Qing government had ordered the whole thing taken apart and removed. The second railroad had been built by a British company in 1877, which ran from Shanghai to the outlet of the Wangpu River with freight carriages and passenger cars mixed. The business had been good, though there still were some conservative people calling it monster. Unfortunately it had run over a pedestrian who had died on the spot. It had duly occasioned a lot of protests and demonstrations. The Foreign Affairs Yamen had had to interfere and had purchased the railroad from the British company for two hundred eighty-five thousands taels of silver. Then the government had taken apart the trains and rails and sunk them in the sea. The third railroad had been constructed in 1881 near Tangshan Town for the coal mine. It lasted for nine kilometers to convey coal from the mine. Only the freight train was not drawn by a locomotive, but by horses and donkeys. A laughing stock among the foreigners.

  3. #288
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    Chapter 38

    In 1886, the emperor was sixteen. It was the time that the empress dowager should let him handle the state affairs alone, though she was never willing to do so. But she had to, at least in name. When she made the declaration to the courtiers that she would return the power to the emperor, Yihuan, the emperor's biological father, begged her on his knees to postpone the return of power till the emperor was twenty years old and more mature. By tradition, when the adopted emperor reached the age to take over the power, the natural father couldn't occupy any office and must retire utterly from the political stage lest he should become an over-emperor and interfere with the administration of the state affairs of his biological son, the emperor.
    The other courtiers also implored West Empress Dowager to postpone it for a couple of years. But West Empress Dowager persisted in her decision. Yihuan and some courtiers sent in a written petition that when the emperor came into power, he must still ask for the opinions of West Empress Dowager before he made any decisions or appointed any officials and officers. West Empress Dowager was glad to accept it, because she would then return the power only in name, not in reality. The emperor was not happy, but he could say nothing.
    On February 15, 1887, the power-returning ceremony was held. The emperor got up very early. At four o'clock in the morning, accompanied by some officials, he went to the place where the portraits of the ancestors were hung and he kowtowed to the portraits. At half past eight o'clock, he went to see West Empress Dowager and kowtowed before her. At nine o'clock, he sat on the throne and all the courtiers kowtowed to him. His natural father was not present, of course. Then a statement was issued to the whole empire to that effect and a feast of celebration was given in the Forbidden City.

  4. #289
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    Chapter 38

    In 1886, the emperor was sixteen. It was the time that the empress dowager should let him handle the state affairs alone, though she was never willing to do so. But she had to, at least in name. When she made the declaration to the courtiers that she would return the power to the emperor, Yihuan, the emperor's biological father, begged her on his knees to postpone the return of power till the emperor was twenty years old and more mature. By tradition, when the adopted emperor reached the age to take over the power, the natural father couldn't occupy any office and must retire utterly from the political stage lest he should become an over-emperor and interfere with the administration of the state affairs of his biological son, the emperor.
    The other courtiers also implored West Empress Dowager to postpone it for a couple of years. But West Empress Dowager persisted in her decision. Yihuan and some courtiers sent in a written petition that when the emperor came into power, he must still ask for the opinions of West Empress Dowager before he made any decisions or appointed any officials and officers. West Empress Dowager was glad to accept it, because she would then return the power only in name, not in reality. The emperor was not happy, but he could say nothing.
    On February 15, 1887, the power-returning ceremony was held. The emperor got up very early. At four o'clock in the morning, accompanied by some officials, he went to the place where the portraits of the ancestors were hung and he kowtowed to the portraits. At half past eight o'clock, he went to see West Empress Dowager and kowtowed before her. At nine o'clock, he sat on the throne and all the courtiers kowtowed to him. His natural father was not present, of course. Then a statement was issued to the whole empire to that effect and a feast of celebration was given in the Forbidden City.

  5. #290
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    The emperor was seventeen now. It was high time for him to get married. West Empress Dowager would take care of it as the emperor's adopted mother. On January 20, 1888, she issued an order that all the preparations should begin for the emperor's marriage. On February 28, she gave another order that the Internal Revenue Ministry of the government should get ready five million taels of silver. On June 17, she announced her decision that the emperor's wedding would take place in February next year and after that she would let the emperor have full power, making decisions all by himself. On July 27, 1888, a formal statement was made to that effect. On September 3, she decided that the wedding day would be on February 26, 1889. So the selection of girls began in late September, 1888. At first there were ninety-six girls, but even before West Empress Dowager could look at all of them, the names of sixty-five girls were crossed out owing to some reason or the other, among whom three would get into marriage by the order of West Empress Dowager. On September 24, thirty-one girls gathered before West Empress Dowager and the emperor. Among them two girls were her nieces, which was against tradition. But West Empress Dowager didn't care about tradition and no one dared to stand up against her. It was the evening on that day because West Empress Dowager wanted to look at the girls under candlelight. And there were other two pairs of sisters. The process started from late in the evening and lasted till early in the next morning. As a result, sixteen girls were left after the first sifting. On September 28, four days later, only eight girls out of the remaining sixteen were chosen. These eight girls were told to live in the Forbidden City for close observation of their behavior. Then three girls out of the eight were sent home. One of the three was a niece of West Empress Dowager. The other niece remained. The emperor would choose the queen and two concubines from the five leftover girls.

  6. #291
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    Among the five girls, besides the other niece, who was twenty-one years old, well over the traditional age between thirteen and seventeen, the two pairs of sisters remained. One pair was the daughters of the governor of Jiangxi Province. The other pair was the daughters of a courtier in the capital. They were the only girls that had learned to write poetry. The eldest daughter of the governor of Jiangxi Province had been the royal concubine of the late Emperor Tongzhi, now a royal widow, the one that West Empress Dowager had liked best and had wanted her natural son to choose as his queen, but his natural son had chosen another girl. So this time West Empress Dowager selected the other two daughters. But her goal was to let her niece to be the queen, not one of the sisters. This pair of the sisters stayed for the night with their eldest sister, the royal widow. The eldest sister complained how she had lived alone even when Emperor Tongzhi had been alive. Any concubine in this status was called a widow with husband alive in the Forbidden City. So the sisters wished that they would not be selected. The eldest sister smiled, “it is easier not to be selected than you want to be selected.” She told her sisters that they should wear blue clothes, because West Empress Dowager didn't like the color blue, and they should act a little listlessly, but not too much. West Empress Dowager liked girls to look alive.

  7. #292
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    Among the five girls, besides the other niece, who was twenty-one years old, well over the traditional age between thirteen and seventeen, the two pairs of sisters remained. One pair was the daughters of the governor of Jiangxi Province. The other pair was the daughters of a courtier in the capital. They were the only girls that had learned to write poetry. The eldest daughter of the governor of Jiangxi Province had been the royal concubine of the late Emperor Tongzhi, now a royal widow, the one that West Empress Dowager had liked best and had wanted her natural son to choose as his queen, but his natural son had chosen another girl. So this time West Empress Dowager selected the other two daughters. But her goal was to let her niece to be the queen, not one of the sisters. This pair of the sisters stayed for the night with their eldest sister, the royal widow. The eldest sister complained how she had lived alone even when Emperor Tongzhi had been alive. Any concubine in this status was called a widow with husband alive in the Forbidden City. So the sisters wished that they would not be selected. The eldest sister smiled, “it is easier not to be selected than you want to be selected.” She told her sisters that they should wear blue clothes, because West Empress Dowager didn't like the color blue, and they should act a little listlessly, but not too much. West Empress Dowager liked girls to look alive.

  8. #293
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    On November 8, the five girls were lined before West Empress Dowager and the emperor. The niece stood foremost, who should stand behind others by tradition. The younger ones should stand in the front. The daughters of the governor were stationed near the emperor, a little behind the niece. They were beautiful girls while the niece was just ordinary. West Empress Dowager had often ordered that niece to come and live for a few days in the Forbidden City to play with the emperor when they were both children. She had thought that their relationship would have become from playmates to lifemates, but the emperor had never liked his cousin.
    When the emperor was told to give the symbol, a ruyi, to whichever girl he wanted to be his queen, he walked towards one of the governor's daughters, the beautiful pair, but not intended by West Empress Dowager as the queen. So she called, “Emperor.” Her voice a little too loud for the occasion and not without some irritation. The emperor was startled and turned his head aside to look at West Empress Dowager, who pointed to her niece with her mouth. The emperor was unhappy, but had to obey. He walked past the beautiful couple and handed the ruyi to the niece, who went down on her knees to take it.
    West Empress Dowager didn't let the emperor choose the concubines. She chose for him the daughters of the courtier. The elder girl was fifteen and the younger thirteen, named Concubine Jin and Concubine Zhen. The other two girls were returned to their parents. West empress Dowager was afraid that if she let the two beautiful girls stay in the Forbidden City also as concubines, the emperor would always go to their place and ignore her niece entirely.

  9. #294
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    On November 8, the five girls were lined before West Empress Dowager and the emperor. The niece stood foremost, who should stand behind others by tradition. The younger ones should stand in the front. The daughters of the governor were stationed near the emperor, a little behind the niece. They were beautiful girls while the niece was just ordinary. West Empress Dowager had often ordered that niece to come and live for a few days in the Forbidden City to play with the emperor when they were both children. She had thought that their relationship would have become from playmates to lifemates, but the emperor had never liked his cousin.
    When the emperor was told to give the symbol, a ruyi, to whichever girl he wanted to be his queen, he walked towards one of the governor's daughters, the beautiful pair, but not intended by West Empress Dowager as the queen. So she called, “Emperor.” Her voice a little too loud for the occasion and not without some irritation. The emperor was startled and turned his head aside to look at West Empress Dowager, who pointed to her niece with her mouth. The emperor was unhappy, but had to obey. He walked past the beautiful couple and handed the ruyi to the niece, who went down on her knees to take it.
    West Empress Dowager didn't let the emperor choose the concubines. She chose for him the daughters of the courtier. The elder girl was fifteen and the younger thirteen, named Concubine Jin and Concubine Zhen. The other two girls were returned to their parents. West empress Dowager was afraid that if she let the two beautiful girls stay in the Forbidden City also as concubines, the emperor would always go to their place and ignore her niece entirely.

  10. #295
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    After the selection, Big Princess said to West Empress Dowager that if she had desired her niece to be the queen, why she hadn't told the emperor directly so that he could choose as she had wished. Such awkward situation would not have happened. West Empress Dowager confessed that it had partly been her fault.
    On December 4, 1888, the emperor sent wedding things to the queen's family. The father of the selected queen was the brother of West Empress Dowager and had a title of duke. He was a useless man, smoking opium all the time. He wanted to hold a banquet at home and invited all the princes and courtiers, but was afraid that many invitees would not come, because they really looked down upon him. So he requested West Empress Dowager to order all of them come to the feast. But West Empress Dowager advised him to invite the courtiers only, not the princes, because princes were higher in rank than a duke. And West Empress Dowager said that it was not suitable to issue such an order. Her brother had to go along with what West Empress Dowager had suggested.
    On February 24, 1889, Concubines Jin and Zhen were carried into the Forbidden City, but could not see the emperor yet. February 26 was the long-fixed wedding date. The queen was carried into the Forbidden City in a magnificently-decorated royal palanquin. The royal couple went through a series of rituals. So when they were escorted into their bedroom, the emperor was so exhausted that he just fell asleep. Next day, the emperor should give a feast for the celebration of the wedding, but the emperor suddenly fell sick. Then a eunuch was sent to announce that the feast was called off. All the courtiers sensed that this was a bad omen. West Empress Dowager was unhappy because it made the queen's family look bad. She went to see the emperor to check if he was really sick. When she saw that the emperor looked sick, she could say nothing and just told him to take care. But celebration in general still went on and lasted till March 9.

  11. #296
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    After the selection, Big Princess said to West Empress Dowager that if she had desired her niece to be the queen, why she hadn't told the emperor directly so that he could choose as she had wished. Such awkward situation would not have happened. West Empress Dowager confessed that it had partly been her fault.
    On December 4, 1888, the emperor sent wedding things to the queen's family. The father of the selected queen was the brother of West Empress Dowager and had a title of duke. He was a useless man, smoking opium all the time. He wanted to hold a banquet at home and invited all the princes and courtiers, but was afraid that many invitees would not come, because they really looked down upon him. So he requested West Empress Dowager to order all of them come to the feast. But West Empress Dowager advised him to invite the courtiers only, not the princes, because princes were higher in rank than a duke. And West Empress Dowager said that it was not suitable to issue such an order. Her brother had to go along with what West Empress Dowager had suggested.
    On February 24, 1889, Concubines Jin and Zhen were carried into the Forbidden City, but could not see the emperor yet. February 26 was the long-fixed wedding date. The queen was carried into the Forbidden City in a magnificently-decorated royal palanquin. The royal couple went through a series of rituals. So when they were escorted into their bedroom, the emperor was so exhausted that he just fell asleep. Next day, the emperor should give a feast for the celebration of the wedding, but the emperor suddenly fell sick. Then a eunuch was sent to announce that the feast was called off. All the courtiers sensed that this was a bad omen. West Empress Dowager was unhappy because it made the queen's family look bad. She went to see the emperor to check if he was really sick. When she saw that the emperor looked sick, she could say nothing and just told him to take care. But celebration in general still went on and lasted till March 9.

  12. #297
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    Celebrations in the Forbidden City always involved opera performances. There was a royal cast for all the occasions, but after the death of East Empress Dowager, West Empress Dowager often got actors from outside the Forbidden City for a change. This time there was a new actor, just coming to the capital from Shanghai. West Empress Dowager was so fascinated by his performance that she decided to interview him after the performance. The actor had liked the operas as a child and learned it since very young. Then he had joined the army to fight the Peaceful Army and had been promoted to be a high-rank officer. When war had ended, he had returned to live in Shanghai, but sometimes he acted as a guest performer in some theater. As a rule an officer should not act in public and he was criticized for that. He then gave up his title as the officer and began to be an actor by profession. He became a famous actor. When he was told that West Empress Dowager would interview him, he was very excited, but he sighed, saying sarcastically, “When I risked my life to fight the Peaceful Army, no one treated me like that, but when I am only an actor, Empress Dowager wants to interview me.” Eunuch Li said to him, “You should know that there are so many officers like you, but there is only one actor like you. You should be satisfied.” So he assumed a happy attitude and went to see West Empress Dowager. She wanted to give back his title, but he refused, saying that it was unsuitable for an actor to have an official title. So West Empress Dowager gave him other things as a memento.

  13. #298
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    Celebrations in the Forbidden City always involved opera performances. There was a royal cast for all the occasions, but after the death of East Empress Dowager, West Empress Dowager often got actors from outside the Forbidden City for a change. This time there was a new actor, just coming to the capital from Shanghai. West Empress Dowager was so fascinated by his performance that she decided to interview him after the performance. The actor had liked the operas as a child and learned it since very young. Then he had joined the army to fight the Peaceful Army and had been promoted to be a high-rank officer. When war had ended, he had returned to live in Shanghai, but sometimes he acted as a guest performer in some theater. As a rule an officer should not act in public and he was criticized for that. He then gave up his title as the officer and began to be an actor by profession. He became a famous actor. When he was told that West Empress Dowager would interview him, he was very excited, but he sighed, saying sarcastically, “When I risked my life to fight the Peaceful Army, no one treated me like that, but when I am only an actor, Empress Dowager wants to interview me.” Eunuch Li said to him, “You should know that there are so many officers like you, but there is only one actor like you. You should be satisfied.” So he assumed a happy attitude and went to see West Empress Dowager. She wanted to give back his title, but he refused, saying that it was unsuitable for an actor to have an official title. So West Empress Dowager gave him other things as a memento.

  14. #299
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    The imperial nuptial cost more than four thousand taels of gold and more than four million eight hundred thousand taels of silver. It was the most expensive royal wedding in Qing Dynasty.
    Since the emperor didn't love the queen, who had been forced upon him against his will, he treated her only with due respect. He liked Concubine Zhen best, because she was so young and so naive that she often did or said funny things, which made the emperor delighted, but funny things often went against the palace rules.
    The emperor and Concubine Zhen had a lot of things to talk for mutual amusement. The emperor told Concubine Zhen something that had happened in the Forbidden City. The natural father of the emperor, Yihuan, was the seventh son of the late Emperor Xianfeng. Prince Cun was the fifth son, the uncle of the emperor, but now deceased. “He was a funny man.” said the emperor, “Once Empress Dowager was listening to some girls summoned from outside the Forbidden City, singing some folk tunes. This was against the tradition. Fifth Uncle went to see Empress Dowager, singing the same tunes all the way while entering the room. Empress Dowager became aware of the roundabout criticism and sent the singing girls away. Another time when Fifth Uncle wanted to present a special fish to Empress Dowager, a eunuch refused to report to Empress Dowager unless Fifth Uncle gave him some money. It is an old custom, but Fifth Uncle never liked it. So next time when Empress Dowager wanted to see Fifth Uncle, Fifth Uncle brought a fish himself and offered it to Empress Dowager in person. When Empress Dowager asked why Fifth Uncle didn't let a eunuch do it, Fifth Uncle told the story and the eunuch got a beating.”
    Concubine Zhen could write poetry. She had read many books, especially history books. She told the emperor a story from Song Dynasty. An emperor had had no son of his own and wanted to select his successor and heir from the sons of his imperial relatives. They should be good boys and under seven years old. Ten boys had been selected, but after sifting only two left, one lean and the other fat. He would have chosen one out of the two. When the boys had been standing before the emperor, the emperor had wanted to choose the fat one, because in the conception of the Chinese people, fat people meant they were fortunate ones. But just then a cat had wandered by. The fat boy had been always naughty and kicked the cat unconsciously out of habit while the lean boy had stood there quietly. Therefore, the emperor had decided on the lean boy. The emperor had explained later that the cat had walked by and hadn't done anything to deserve the kick. If the fat boy could have kicked an innocent cat, he would have killed innocent people when he had become the emperor. Historians said that the fat boy kicked away his throne, not just the cat.

  15. #300
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    The imperial nuptial cost more than four thousand taels of gold and more than four million eight hundred thousand taels of silver. It was the most expensive royal wedding in Qing Dynasty.
    Since the emperor didn't love the queen, who had been forced upon him against his will, he treated her only with due respect. He liked Concubine Zhen best, because she was so young and so naive that she often did or said funny things, which made the emperor delighted, but funny things often went against the palace rules.
    The emperor and Concubine Zhen had a lot of things to talk for mutual amusement. The emperor told Concubine Zhen something that had happened in the Forbidden City. The natural father of the emperor, Yihuan, was the seventh son of the late Emperor Xianfeng. Prince Cun was the fifth son, the uncle of the emperor, but now deceased. “He was a funny man.” said the emperor, “Once Empress Dowager was listening to some girls summoned from outside the Forbidden City, singing some folk tunes. This was against the tradition. Fifth Uncle went to see Empress Dowager, singing the same tunes all the way while entering the room. Empress Dowager became aware of the roundabout criticism and sent the singing girls away. Another time when Fifth Uncle wanted to present a special fish to Empress Dowager, a eunuch refused to report to Empress Dowager unless Fifth Uncle gave him some money. It is an old custom, but Fifth Uncle never liked it. So next time when Empress Dowager wanted to see Fifth Uncle, Fifth Uncle brought a fish himself and offered it to Empress Dowager in person. When Empress Dowager asked why Fifth Uncle didn't let a eunuch do it, Fifth Uncle told the story and the eunuch got a beating.”
    Concubine Zhen could write poetry. She had read many books, especially history books. She told the emperor a story from Song Dynasty. An emperor had had no son of his own and wanted to select his successor and heir from the sons of his imperial relatives. They should be good boys and under seven years old. Ten boys had been selected, but after sifting only two left, one lean and the other fat. He would have chosen one out of the two. When the boys had been standing before the emperor, the emperor had wanted to choose the fat one, because in the conception of the Chinese people, fat people meant they were fortunate ones. But just then a cat had wandered by. The fat boy had been always naughty and kicked the cat unconsciously out of habit while the lean boy had stood there quietly. Therefore, the emperor had decided on the lean boy. The emperor had explained later that the cat had walked by and hadn't done anything to deserve the kick. If the fat boy could have kicked an innocent cat, he would have killed innocent people when he had become the emperor. Historians said that the fat boy kicked away his throne, not just the cat.

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