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Thread: Empress dowager cixi

  1. #106
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    The calendar showed that it would soon be another Chinese New Year, the grandest festival in a year. The festival gifts were on the way. All the high-rank officials in the provinces would send gifts to the empress dowagers and the emperor, to all the princes, to the ministers, or to those for potential help that might be needed in the future. Special presents were sent to those with special relationship.
    One day, West Empress Dowager dispatched Little An to her mother's house to bring her some festival gifts. There Little An met a messenger from Provisions Governor Wu, who sent to the mother of West Empress Dowager one hundred thousand taels of silver in Sliver Notes every year as his gratitude to West Empress Dowager. The messenger knew Little An by fame and was very much polite to him. Little An hadn't thought that he would have met the messenger of Provisions Governor Wu, or he could carry out his plan. And now he wasn't prepared yet. So he just made some social remarks and left.
    He was a guy who could scheme. He should really have gone to join the army and would some day have become a great reputed strategist. But now he couldn't anymore even if he wanted, since he had lost his dick. If a guy without a dick should have been a commander, all the generals would have resigned for shame to be fighting under him. Anyway, he was struck with a good notion.
    When he returned to the Forbidden City, he informed West Empress Dowager of the encounter with the messenger from Provisions Governor Wu, adding that the messenger had wanted to get in touch with him.
    “What for?” West Empress Dowager doubted.
    “It's not I, Empress Dowager's slave, he wants to seek. He only wants me to deliver a message to Empress Dowager from His Excellency Wu.” He was the greatest liar. Even a lie-detector would fail its function.
    “What's it?West Empress Dowager was interested.
    “His Excellency Wu desires to know what special things Empress Dowager wants in his area.”
    “He's such a nice person. Always think of me.” West Empress Dowager was pleased.
    “Empress Dowager'd better ask for something, anything, so that His Excellency Wu won't feel that his offer of gratitude is ignored.”

  2. #107
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    “That's right. Let him get some embroidered silk stuff with new patterns in Suzhou City. Suzhou City is also famous for its embroidery, known as Su Embroidery. Its typical Chinese gardens with grottos and pavilions are well known in the world.
    Now Little An got a theme and could write a good composition. He could openly go to see the messenger without anyone to surmise what was going on between them. For one of the ancestral rules for eunuchs was to ban them from contacting any officials without an assigned task from any of the imperial family members. The purpose was to prevent eunuchs from doing anything illegal. The lesson had been learned from the previous Ming Dynasty.
    Little An let Clerk Telu notify the messenger to meet him in his house. Next day, as the messenger didn't know where Little An's house was, Clerk Telu had to take him there and left him with Little An to pretend that he knew nothing about the whole business. Little An was polite to the messenger. At that time, the attitude of one person towards another depended on who wanted to ask a favor of whom. The one to have a favor to ask was always polite, or even pleasing, and vice versa. Little An was a difficult person to deal with, given his attitude even towards the young emperor. The promise of thirty thousand taels of silver did away with his arrogance.
    After the exchange of a few social words Little An took out a piece of paper, listing on it the things West Empress Dowager wanted. Then he lowered his voice, “Empress Dowager has another wish. Someone must know the brother of Empress Dowager.” He told the messenger about the whole story and then mentioned the name of the person and his request, adding, “If His Excellency Wu can send in a report to close his case, the brother of Empress Dowager will think it as a favor done to himself.” He implied that it would certainly please West Empress Dowager, too. When the messenger took his leave, Little An suddenly produced from his inner pocket a big envelope and handed it to him, saying, “It's important to give this letter directly to His Excellency Wu.” The messenger nodded and stuffed the letter in his inner pocket together with the list. Little An saw him to the door of his house. In the envelope were all the copies of the critique reports against Provisions Governor Wu and a memo about the case of Official Zhao.

  3. #108
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    Since Little An had met the messenger, he had been expecting a response. As a matter of fact, he had been expecting the thirty thousand taels. One day after a month, the messenger came again. He delivered to Little An's home some special food as a small gift from Provisions Governor Wu. The gift was meant as a message that the response from Provisions Governor Wu came. Then the messenger went to see Clerical Official Fang of the Secretarial Bureau, who was a good friend of Provisions Governor Wu. As Clerical Official Fang was at work, the messenger left a small gift together with a large envelope at his home. When Fang came back from work in the evening, he noticed the two things. He read the letter, then the memo that was enclosed in the envelope. The letter said that he (Provisions Governor Wu) had built up the case against Official Zhao, who was really a corrupt official, and he couldn't now write a report to say that Official Zhao was innocent. He hinted in the letter that this was the wish of West Empress Dowager. But he could not contradict himself. He didn't know what to do and needed his help. At the end of the letter he asked Fang to keep it as a secret.
    Clerical Official Fang sent for the messenger. He wanted to know the details. The messenger came and told Fang how Little An had come to him and put up such a request. Now Fang understood that it was all Little An's monkey business. It wasn't the first time that Little An did such things in the name of West Empress Dowager. So he wrote a letter of reply to Provisions Governor Wu and told him to ignore the whole thing.
    As the messenger didn't come to tell Little An what he wanted to know, Little An had to seek him out. The messenger said as he had been taught by Provisions Governor Wu, “His Excellency Wu has asked someone to handle the matter for him.” How could a governor ask someone else to write a report in the name of that someone else? Such a report should be written by himself. Little An sensed bad omen.

  4. #109
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    Later when Clerk Telu learned that Clerical Official Fang got a letter from Provisions Governor Wu, he said to Little An when they met in the evening, “I think it was screwed up. If they want me to tell them where to find Official Zhao, what should I say? I got into a real trouble.” Little An consoled him, “Don't worry. I'll take care of it.” But he was in a panic himself. What if West Empress Dowager got the wind of it? Would she forgive him this time? Then he thought that he'd better go to pay a visit to Clerical Official Fang to learn something from him. Generally, Little An had no respect for clerical officials in the Secretarial Bureau, because they were not of a high rank. But today, he addressed him as Esquire Fang. Fang didn't think high of Little An, but he didn't want to offend him. So he told Little An that Provisions Governor Wu couldn't contradict himself by writing such a report unless West Empress Dowager ordered him to do so. (Implied not through you, Little An.) Then he added, “But His Excellency Wu will let him go without officially closing the case. We don't want to know where he is or what he's doing.” So saying, Fang gave the memo back to Little An. The gesture meant: forget it. Nothing happened. Little An was let off the hook and felt at rest.
    Next evening when Little An met Clerk Telu, he said, “He didn't screw up the matter entirely. At least we got half of it done.” Clerk Telu was bewildered and queried, “How so?” Little An told him the result of his meeting with Clerical Official Fang, adding, “The guy wanted us to wash him clean. Now we got him out of the dirt. That's half done.” Clerk Telu knew that Little An wanted half the money. Clerk Telu promised to ask the guy for it.

  5. #110
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    Two days later, someone came from the Royal Family Affairs Management and wanted to see Little An, who thought that it must be Clerk Telu coming with the money. But it was another clerk, saying that Prince Yixin wanted to see him. Little An's heart jumped wildly against his rib cage. He felt like to swoon. He followed the clerk to the Royal Family Affairs Management, from where Yixin had sent for him. Yixin was in charge of that management, too. Little An kowtowed before Yixin, who didn't bid him to stand up. Generally he would bid anyone to stand up after he kowtowed to him, but not this time. So Little An prostrated there. Yixin began to censure him for all the unlawful things he had done. He reprimanded him for almost half an hour and then bade him to leave, with the last warning that if he did any such things again, he would be punished severely. He just nodded and left.
    Now almost everyone knew that Little An had been scolded by Prince Yixin. He felt humiliated and swore his revenge. A bad news awaited him when he met Clerk Telu in the evening. Official Zhao was afraid that things might change since Prince Yixin had known it. So he refused even to pay half of the money until his problem was really solved. Little An hated Yixin all the more.
    Even West Empress Dowager knew that he had been scolded by Yixin, but had no idea of what was the reason of it. So Little An grasped the chance to slander Yixin. He told West Empress Dowager that Yixin didn't really blame him. He was only a eunuch, not even worth the time for a prince to blame him. Yixin really blamed West Empress Dowager for her squandering of money. This really piqued West Empress Dowager. Now an opera would be on soon. Little An would be the happy audience.

  6. #111
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    Chapter 22

    At last the rupture in the relationship between West Empress Dowager and Yixin broke out in the open. It was caused by Critique Official Cai who sent in a report of accusation, saying that Yixin was haughty, took bribery, aspired after absolute power and had unequal treatments of courtiers. At the end of his report he suggested to remove Yixin from power and appointed Yihuan (Yixin's brother and the brother-in-law of West Empress Dowager) as the head of Secretarial Bureau.
    Critique Official Cai was a man as sly as a fox and as greedy as a wolf. He was not contented with his present position. He wanted to have a promotion. Who could give him a promotion? West Empress Dowager. He wanted to do something to please her. As he learned that West Empress Dowager was displeased with Yixin, he looked upon it as his chance. But he didn't want to do anything rash. He wished to make sure through Little An, but Little An didn't want to be seen with him. He didn't want to be directly involved, lest Yixin should be angry with him and take it all out on him when West Empress Dowager did give Yixin beans. Through a detour, Little An gave Critique Official Cai an affirmative hint and an encouragement. At the same time Little An assured Cai that he would save him if Yixin wanted his head. In fact a critique official would never be beheaded for writing a critique report. It was protected by law and tradition.
    Now Critique Official Cai took pains to choose the right words while he was drafting the report. Every word should have the right weight so that when it hit, it could make a dent. The collective weight of all the words could knock over the powerful man. When he finished the drafting, he read through it several times and made a couple of changes. Then he copied it in a formal writing pattern. He spent a whole night on it and handed it in next day.

  7. #112
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    West Empress Dowager didn't expect to read such a report when she came across it, but she felt that it scratched right on her itching spot. She knew Yixin had many followers like a huge tree with deep roots in the ground. She needed an ally. So she went to see East Empress Dowager and showed her the critique report, adding, “If we don't pull him back now, he'll go over the edge of the cliff.” From the report East Empress Dowager thought that Yixin had really made all the offenses accused and so she agreed with West Empress Dowager.
    “We'll remove him from all his offices to teach him a lesson.” suggested West Empress Dowager.
    “Do we really need to do that?” East Empress Dowager doubted.
    “Will he listen to you if you tell him not to do such things?” pressed West Empress Dowager.
    “I'm not sure.” East Empress Dowager remembered having witnessed Yixin's contradiction of what West Empress Dowager had said. So they decided that if Yixin didn't take their advice, they had to remove him from power as a lesson to him. In the opinion of East Empress Dowager, they would play a take-away-and-give-back game with Yixin so that he could learn the lesson, but West Empress Dowager wanted to remove Yixin for good.
    West Empress Dowager told Yixin on March 30, 1865, that some critique official sent in a report accusing him of certain things. Yixin was so surprised that he asked who had accused him. West Empress Dowager gave him the name: Critique Official Cai, who had been a private adviser of Commander Shengbao. After the arrest of Shengbao, Cai had come to the capital and got a position as Critique Official through bribery.
    “He's not a good official. He has still a case of cheating against him in Sichuan Province. He should be under arrest.” said Yixin while by tradition he should say, “I know I'm wrong. I deserve to be executed.” And he must kneel and kowtow to beg pardon.

  8. #113
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    West Empress Dowager was infuriated at his attitude. It was really an example of hauteur and no decorum toward her. She convened Prime Minister Zhou and other high rank courtiers. She had believed that Prime Minister Zhou would have sided with her since he had done so in her struggle for power with Sushun. When she told them to discuss what punishment should be inflicted on Yixin, all the courtiers were stunned. At that time, rebellions were not yet entirely eliminated throughout the country. The situation required unison and unity in the ruling group. So none said anything.
    West Empress Dowager got angry and commanded Prime Minister Zhou to give his opinion. He could not but promise to discuss it with other courtiers. They were only then allowed to withdraw to their resting room. She knew now that Prime Minister Zhou was Yixin's follower. At that time he had sided with Yixin, not with her. So she added another Prime Minister Woren to the list of those handling Yixin's case.
    Prime Minister Woren was known to be conservative. He hated anything new and modern. He hated the foreigners. Therefore, he had no opinion of Yixin since he had been dealing with foreigners in the negotiation during the war and in the diplomatic affairs later. He was the one with the same aim as West Empress Dowager and wanted to ax down Yixin from power.
    Notwithstanding, on April 1, when West Empress Dowager received prime ministers Zhou and Woren and others, she declared her decision to remove Yixin from all his offices. Once when Yixin had argued with her, she had threatened him with it. But Yixin had replied that she could have done so, but he was still a prince by birth and she could never have deprived him of this title.

  9. #114
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    West Empress Dowager always resented Yixin's impertinence and disrespect to her. Now it was the opportunity to let him know her authority as an empress dowager. She wanted him to obey her. She wanted everyone to obey her. She wanted to enjoy herself in the absolute power.
    The prime ministers then called for Critique Official Cai to provide evidence for his accusation of Yixin. But he said he had no evidence. He had made the accusation from gossip and rumor. When Prime Minister Woren asked from whom he had heard the rumor, Cai mentioned two names. The two officials he mentioned worked in Judicial Ministry and were then summoned before the prime ministers and other courtiers. When they were questioned, they answered that they hadn't said anything to Critique Official Cai and they were not even familiar with him. Prime Minister Zhou asked Cai, “Now what else do you have to say?” Cai replied, “I have nothing more to say since they denied it.”

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    However, some of the princes sent in a petition to restore Yixin to all the former offices, saying that the accusations of the head of Secretarial Bureau should be backed with evidence and that such an important decision should not be made based on personal liking or disliking and that the foreign countries might not want to talk to any other person since they knew Yixin so well and this would cause international trouble. West Empress Dowager hadn't thought that so many courtiers and even princes pleaded for Yixin. She knew that it was not the right time to establish her absolute authority yet. So she didn't insist on her own decision and wanted the princes and courtiers to discuss the matter. When she met other secretaries she placated them and said that if all the courtiers wanted Yixin still to be the head of the Secretarial Bureau, they could hand in a petition. The secretaries were happy and went about to prepare a petition. But before the cabinet meeting to discuss the case on April 4, West Empress Dowager summoned the two prime ministers and some other cabinet members and said to them that Yixin was no longer suitable to be the head of the Secretarial Bureau.
    At the cabinet meeting when Wenqiang, who was now in charge of the Secretarial Bureau, quoted what West Empress Dowager had said to them, the members of the cabinet were surprised to hear it. It was totally unbelievable that West Empress Dowager could have said one thing to the secretaries and another thing to the members of the cabinet. It they knew the reason for it, they wouldn't be surprised. After West Empress Dowager had met with the secretaries, Little An reported to her that Yixin was organizing his followers to fight back with her to the end, which was of course not true, but she believed him and got angry again. So the group of secretaries and the group of cabinet members called each other liars. Wenqiang said that if West Empress Dowager meant what she had said yesterday, she could not have said what the cabinet members supposed she had said this morning before the meeting. But a cabinet member retorted that West Empress Dowager had indeed said it, not they supposed.

  11. #116
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    In Qing Dynasty every time when the courtiers came to see the emperor, now the empress dowagers, there was someone, called Courtier Before Throne, who would lead the other courtiers to the throne. Yesterday and today, the Courtier Before Throne was the eighth prince, the eighth brother of the late emperor. So both groups agreed to ask the eighth prince what West Empress Dowager had really said. The eighth prince came and gave his words of honor to assert that what West Empress Dowager had said yesterday was true and what she had said this morning was true, too. That meant that West Empress Dowager had actually said different things on different days. Now no one could be sure what West Empress Dowager really wanted. So they had to adjourn the meeting.
    On April 5, West Empress Dowager issued some orders to give some of Yixin's posts to others. (Yixin had been given a lot f positions as rewards for his help to get West Empress Dowager into power.) On April 8, Yihuan came back from his task to oversee the building of the late emperor's tomb. He had a talk with Secretary Zao, former Clerical Official Zao. He asked Zao to draft a report for him to the empress dowagers. He handed in the report, saying that Yixin had done his duties so well and that the only fault was his attitude towards the empress dowagers and that if the empress dowagers could forgive him it would be a blessing to our country. The gist of the report was to say that it was Yixin's fault, but it was not a serious fault, only a fault of wrong attitude towards the empress dowagers. It was not proper to deprive him of power for such a minor fault. West Empress Dowager also gave this report to the cabinet for discussion.

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    On April 9, at the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Woren as the chairman began, “It'll take too much time for everyone to express his opinion. So I have drafted a report. I'll read it to you and if no one disagrees, we can hand in to the empress dowagers.” Prime Minister Zhou saw through him, understanding that he wanted everyone to accept his opinion. So Zhou said, “We are not in a hurry. Besides, we must discuss the report with Prince Yihuan.” The ruse of Prime Minister Woren failed. Many courtiers opposed to remove Yixin from the post of the head of Secretarial Bureau. Another prince produced a draft of his that coincided with the opinion of most people at the meeting. Even Prime Minister Woren had to accept it. When the report was handed in, West Empress Dowager realized that if she insisted, all the courtiers might send in their resignations. But she tried another tactics. On April 11, she gave back only the post as the head of the Foreign Affairs Yamen since some of the courtiers had explained their fear that the foreign governments would make troubles if Yixin was no more the head there to deal with the foreigners. Now for the second round. Till the end of April, the investigations of the accusations of Yixin had finished and produced no evidence whatsoever. How could Yixin be punished for the false accusations? Besides, to make it easier, Yixin resigned the position as the head of Royal Family Affairs Management, because West Empress Dowager often sent Little An to go there for things and Yixin often refused to give more than necessary. When Yixin resigned the post, West Empress Dowager could appoint someone who would obey her and give her everything she wanted. That meant as a condition. At the same time the other secretaries persuaded Yixin to file in a self-criticism report. Fear of foreign aggression, realization of little support for her among the courtiers and submission shown by Yixin, all added up softened West Empress Dowager. She yielded this time.
    On May 8, the empress dowagers received Yixin, who wept tears of being wrongly accused, but the empress dowagers took it as tears of repentance. Even West Empress Dowager was touched and gave an order to restore him to be the head of Secretarial Bureau. A political storm subsided to everyone's relief.

  13. #118
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    Since a lot of water flew under the bridge, the emperor was not so young any more. He was fifteen now. The empress dowagers began to select the queen and some royal concubines for him. Even wedding preparations were slowly getting under way. That would be a grand ceremony. The empress dowagers and the emperor must wear new gowns with dragons embroidered on them. Generally, these special royal apparels were sewn and embroidered in a southern province where the best embroidery work was produced, and then transported to the capital. All southern provinces were well-known for wealth and scenery. People in the north always envied people living in the south.
    Little An thought to himself that if he could be sent there on a royal errand, he would not only enjoy the sightseeing, but also get many expensive gifts from the governors and local officials. Who wouldn't wish to be in his favor as he was the favorite head eunuch of the most powerful person in the entire empire? Although there were rules to forbid eunuchs to go out of the capital, who would say NO if West Empress Dowager agreed to it?
    It was customary that whenever the royal family had things specially made, the expenses reported were always much higher than the real costs. People handling the orders could make some extra money from it. It was also an open secret.
    “Empress Dowager,” Little An said to West Empress Dowager one day, “Since the emperor's wedding needs a lot of money, we can't let them charge us more than necessary.”
    “How can we do that as we don't even know the real cost of everything?”
    “It's easy. If Empress Dowager send me to oversee the work done there, I'll know how much expense they should report. With extra money saved, we can buy more things for the wedding.”

  14. #119
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    West Empress Dowager acquiesced. So he made preparations to travel. He would take two huge ships to sail down south on the Grand Canal, which had been dug hundreds of years ago in Sui Dynasty and ran from north to south through many provinces. One of them was Shandong Province. The governor of that province was a brave and upright courtier, who hated Little An for all the bad things he had done.
    Little An thought that it would be better if he could get the consent of the emperor to his journey to the southern provinces. But he could not just go to ask for the permission of the emperor. He talked to the emperor's head eunuch and asked him to talk to the emperor in his behalf. The emperor's head eunuch hated Little An, too, because he was loyal to the emperor. When he mentioned the request of Little An, the emperor asked his head eunuch what he should do, since he was still young and had no experience about such things. The head eunuch told the emperor that he would say whatever was suitable to Little An and that the emperor should pretend to know nothing of it.
    When Little An saw him next day and asked him what was the emperor's attitude, the head eunuch said, “The emperor didn't say anything. I think he won't have any objection to it since Holy Mother Empress Dowager thinks it's all right.”
    Little An was so excited that he bragged about his trip. Almost everyone knew it, but none said anything to him. When Yixin knew it, he was happy. Most of the courtiers were also delighted. Those who had had favors from Little An didn't dare to speak to him about it. This was really a serious matter, which involved West Empress Dowager. Everyone knew that they should act very cautiously. A step or a word amiss, they would be condemned. Through his head eunuch the emperor learned everything about Little An. He sent a secret message to the governor of Shandong Province to instruct him to arrest and execute Little An if he traveled through his domain.

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    Chapter 23

    Since the defeat of the government army by the foreign troops, West Empress Dowager and Yixin had realized that they must learn from the foreigners, learn their advanced science and technology. They began to buy guns and cannons from the merchants of the western countries. They also bought steam ships and warships. But in the long run, purchase was not a feasible way to strengthen the country. They began to have the factories built to make these things in China. They found that they needed their own engineers and technicians. So they sent children overseas to study in the foreign countries. Elder Zeng and Governor Li respectively had the Machine Bureau and the Manufacturing Bureau set up in Shanghai. Yixin established the Foreign Languages School in Peking so that the government could have interpreters in the diplomatic affairs and translators to render science books in other languages into Chinese. And all the science lessons could also be taught there. An order was issued that province governments should recommend students, and young officials working in the central government could also take part in the entrance exam. All the teachers were employed from foreign countries. That is to say that all the teachers were foreigners.

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