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Thread: Empress dowager cixi

  1. #301
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    Governor Li of Zhidi Province had established a fleet of twenty-five ships. West Empress Dowager didn't want him to have more power and set up the Navy Yamen and put Prince Yihuan as the head. The fleet was naturally under the command of the Navy Yamen. West Empress Dowager wished to have a clear idea about the fleet. She sent Yihuan to inspect it with her head eunuch Li as his attendant. It was against the rule set up by the ancestors that eunuchs were not permitted to go outside the capital. But since the demise of East Empress Dowager and the removal of Prince Yixin, no one had been bold enough to oppose her decision. Someone blamed Yihuan when he didn't say anything about it. Yihuan could not say that he was afraid of West Empress Dowager and so he said, “That's my fault. I asked Eunuch Li to accompany me there.” He didn't want to think that West Empress Dowager didn't trust him. Then Ronglu came to visit him. Ronglu was not in a good health recently and didn't have a post. Ronglu consoled Yihuan, “Since we have spent so much money on the navy, Empress Dowager wants to know how the navy is now and how well it can combat. That's why Empress Dowager sends Li with Your Highness.” But he could not explain why it was Eunuch Li who was supposed to report to West Empress Dowager about the navy while it should be Yihuan who should report to her. Ronglu didn't want to hint anything negative about West Empress Dowager. He was always faithful to her. There was even a rumor that sometimes when Ronglu was summoned into the Forbidden City, he had sex with West Empress Dowager. But that was only a rumor.

  2. #302
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    Governor Li of Zhidi Province had established a fleet of twenty-five ships. West Empress Dowager didn't want him to have more power and set up the Navy Yamen and put Prince Yihuan as the head. The fleet was naturally under the command of the Navy Yamen. West Empress Dowager wished to have a clear idea about the fleet. She sent Yihuan to inspect it with her head eunuch Li as his attendant. It was against the rule set up by the ancestors that eunuchs were not permitted to go outside the capital. But since the demise of East Empress Dowager and the removal of Prince Yixin, no one had been bold enough to oppose her decision. Someone blamed Yihuan when he didn't say anything about it. Yihuan could not say that he was afraid of West Empress Dowager and so he said, “That's my fault. I asked Eunuch Li to accompany me there.” He didn't want to think that West Empress Dowager didn't trust him. Then Ronglu came to visit him. Ronglu was not in a good health recently and didn't have a post. Ronglu consoled Yihuan, “Since we have spent so much money on the navy, Empress Dowager wants to know how the navy is now and how well it can combat. That's why Empress Dowager sends Li with Your Highness.” But he could not explain why it was Eunuch Li who was supposed to report to West Empress Dowager about the navy while it should be Yihuan who should report to her. Ronglu didn't want to hint anything negative about West Empress Dowager. He was always faithful to her. There was even a rumor that sometimes when Ronglu was summoned into the Forbidden City, he had sex with West Empress Dowager. But that was only a rumor.

  3. #303
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    Head Eunuch Li was cleverer than Little An. He played down his role just to be the attendant of Yihuan. Yihuan reached the place where the fleet was at anchor. He went on board the flagship with his entourage. Yihuan stayed in the captain's cabin when the fleet was pulled out onto the sea to operate a sham battle. When cruising on the vast expanse of billowy salty water, the fleet formed a line forward, then changed into a file and then fell into a shape of a vise. There were some old junk ships in the distance as targets. At a signal from the flagship, the cannons aiming at the targets boomed and some torpedoes darted forth. In a flash of fire and thunder, the old junk ships exploded into a rain of fragments. Then something floated and dotted on the distant blue water surface. Prince Yihuan slowly clapped his hands a few times as if he was watching an opera. All the navy officers around him were exhilarated at his approbation.
    At the dinner party for celebration, head eunuch Li sat with the navy officers. He told them a story about how champagne was treated in the Forbidden City. The French envoy had presented some bottles of champagne to West Empress Dowager as gifts. On a festival day, West Empress Dowager ordered a eunuch to open a bottle of champagne. When bottle was being opened the noise the bottle startled West Empress Dowager, and the champagne gushed out, wetting the clothes of Big Princess, who was just standing at the side to have a look. So the eunuch got a beating. It was not really his fault. One of the officers asked if West Empress Dowager drank champagne any more after that. Eunuch Li said that someone got an idea that before opening the bottle, a hole was punched on the cork stopper to let out the gas.

  4. #304
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    Head Eunuch Li was cleverer than Little An. He played down his role just to be the attendant of Yihuan. Yihuan reached the place where the fleet was at anchor. He went on board the flagship with his entourage. Yihuan stayed in the captain's cabin when the fleet was pulled out onto the sea to operate a sham battle. When cruising on the vast expanse of billowy salty water, the fleet formed a line forward, then changed into a file and then fell into a shape of a vise. There were some old junk ships in the distance as targets. At a signal from the flagship, the cannons aiming at the targets boomed and some torpedoes darted forth. In a flash of fire and thunder, the old junk ships exploded into a rain of fragments. Then something floated and dotted on the distant blue water surface. Prince Yihuan slowly clapped his hands a few times as if he was watching an opera. All the navy officers around him were exhilarated at his approbation.
    At the dinner party for celebration, head eunuch Li sat with the navy officers. He told them a story about how champagne was treated in the Forbidden City. The French envoy had presented some bottles of champagne to West Empress Dowager as gifts. On a festival day, West Empress Dowager ordered a eunuch to open a bottle of champagne. When bottle was being opened the noise the bottle startled West Empress Dowager, and the champagne gushed out, wetting the clothes of Big Princess, who was just standing at the side to have a look. So the eunuch got a beating. It was not really his fault. One of the officers asked if West Empress Dowager drank champagne any more after that. Eunuch Li said that someone got an idea that before opening the bottle, a hole was punched on the cork stopper to let out the gas.

  5. #305
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    Ex-Governor Tang had been in the jail of Judicial Ministry for two years. The reason for his imprisonment was that he had withdrawn from Vietnam during Sino-French war without first asking for the approval of the central government. The verdict was death penalty, but not immediate death, something like suspended till a later time, like waiting in the line on the death list. In the feudal China, the prisoners of death sentence were executed once a year in Autumn. For the prisoners as former courtiers, their treatment was different from other prisoners of death sentence. On the execution day, though all the prisoners of death verdict should be taken to the execution ground, only those whose names were crossed out with red marks on the death list were actually executed. Others were taken back to the jail to try their luck next year. The emperor, now West Empress Dowager, would decide whose names would be crossed out. Sometimes a pardon order would be issued for a certain person. The pardoned ones were usually exiled to some remote provinces. This was the fate awaiting Tang. Tang was a man of ability. Many courtiers had thrown quite a few good words for him in their reports to West Empress Dowager, saying that it was a pity to execute such a talented man for such a petty crime. So his name had remained on the death list for two years. Tang had two sons. Through some channel, his eldest son got in contact with head eunuch Li and begged him for his father's life. Taking the bribery, Li promised to try.
    Since the miscarriage of the banknote issue, other suggestions had been put up. One of them was to mint more bronze coins, which could also increase the currency. West Empress Dowager accepted the suggestion. But they should first have copper. Copper mines were mostly in Yunnan Province and Tang had been the governor of that province and knew everything of copper mining. So on the execution day, he was pardoned and sent to Yunnan Province to take care of the copper mining.

  6. #306
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    Ex-Governor Tang had been in the jail of Judicial Ministry for two years. The reason for his imprisonment was that he had withdrawn from Vietnam during Sino-French war without first asking for the approval of the central government. The verdict was death penalty, but not immediate death, something like suspended till a later time, like waiting in the line on the death list. In the feudal China, the prisoners of death sentence were executed once a year in Autumn. For the prisoners as former courtiers, their treatment was different from other prisoners of death sentence. On the execution day, though all the prisoners of death verdict should be taken to the execution ground, only those whose names were crossed out with red marks on the death list were actually executed. Others were taken back to the jail to try their luck next year. The emperor, now West Empress Dowager, would decide whose names would be crossed out. Sometimes a pardon order would be issued for a certain person. The pardoned ones were usually exiled to some remote provinces. This was the fate awaiting Tang. Tang was a man of ability. Many courtiers had thrown quite a few good words for him in their reports to West Empress Dowager, saying that it was a pity to execute such a talented man for such a petty crime. So his name had remained on the death list for two years. Tang had two sons. Through some channel, his eldest son got in contact with head eunuch Li and begged him for his father's life. Taking the bribery, Li promised to try.
    Since the miscarriage of the banknote issue, other suggestions had been put up. One of them was to mint more bronze coins, which could also increase the currency. West Empress Dowager accepted the suggestion. But they should first have copper. Copper mines were mostly in Yunnan Province and Tang had been the governor of that province and knew everything of copper mining. So on the execution day, he was pardoned and sent to Yunnan Province to take care of the copper mining.

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    Chapter 39

    Now let us have a look at how the everyday life of West Empress Dowager was like. West Empress Dowager had some hobbies if they could be called hobbies, or better to say, things she liked to do.
    Generally she lived a comparatively routine but busy life. She got up early. After her hair done and apparel changed from sleeping garb into everyday formal dress, she had her breakfast. After that (really after every meal), she strolled along the wrap-around porch for half an hour. “Help to digest.” She would say. Then she went to see courtiers. If no urgent affairs needed her attention she would retire to her living quarters.
    Everyday she would read reports except on holidays, but sometimes when the reports were for emergencies, she had to read them on holidays and make decisions accordingly or hold special court to discuss the problems with courtiers.
    Everyday she had a nap after lunch. Then she would sometimes play mahjong. Big Princess was often her playmate. Other two playmates she chose from the wives of her high-rank courtiers. The wives of courtiers were often invited into the Forbidden City on any festival days. Whoever could flatter her best would get her preference and became her playmates of mahjong. Of course, everyone who was playing mahjong with her would intentionally lose since she liked to win, but they should lose tactfully so that it would not look like they lost on purpose, but like they were not so clever or skilful as she. Such pretence was not easily carried to a perfect end at first. It might need practice or genius. But their husbands would get quick promotions.
    It was said that she played a sort of Chinese chess a little. This kind of chess is somewhat like the western chess. It has two chessmen like knights, but called horse in the Chinese chess. It has two chessmen like rook, but called chariot. It has two cannons for each side. It has a general for the blue side and a marshal for the red side. The capture of either one means the loss of the game on that side. There are five pawns and two scholars, and two prime ministers for the red side and two elephants for the blue side with the same function. When the chessmen of the western chess are placed in spaces, the chessmen of the Chinese chess are put on the dots where the lines cross each other.

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    Chapter 39

    Now let us have a look at how the everyday life of West Empress Dowager was like. West Empress Dowager had some hobbies if they could be called hobbies, or better to say, things she liked to do.
    Generally she lived a comparatively routine but busy life. She got up early. After her hair done and apparel changed from sleeping garb into everyday formal dress, she had her breakfast. After that (really after every meal), she strolled along the wrap-around porch for half an hour. “Help to digest.” She would say. Then she went to see courtiers. If no urgent affairs needed her attention she would retire to her living quarters.
    Everyday she would read reports except on holidays, but sometimes when the reports were for emergencies, she had to read them on holidays and make decisions accordingly or hold special court to discuss the problems with courtiers.
    Everyday she had a nap after lunch. Then she would sometimes play mahjong. Big Princess was often her playmate. Other two playmates she chose from the wives of her high-rank courtiers. The wives of courtiers were often invited into the Forbidden City on any festival days. Whoever could flatter her best would get her preference and became her playmates of mahjong. Of course, everyone who was playing mahjong with her would intentionally lose since she liked to win, but they should lose tactfully so that it would not look like they lost on purpose, but like they were not so clever or skilful as she. Such pretence was not easily carried to a perfect end at first. It might need practice or genius. But their husbands would get quick promotions.
    It was said that she played a sort of Chinese chess a little. This kind of chess is somewhat like the western chess. It has two chessmen like knights, but called horse in the Chinese chess. It has two chessmen like rook, but called chariot. It has two cannons for each side. It has a general for the blue side and a marshal for the red side. The capture of either one means the loss of the game on that side. There are five pawns and two scholars, and two prime ministers for the red side and two elephants for the blue side with the same function. When the chessmen of the western chess are placed in spaces, the chessmen of the Chinese chess are put on the dots where the lines cross each other.

  9. #309
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    Anyone, who played chess with her, would pretend to lose the game, because she hated to lose. To win meant that she was wiser than her antagonist. There was a story, probably a rumor, that once when she was playing chess with a eunuch, the eunuch warned lest she should lose a chessman, “Your slave will kill Old Buddha's Horse.” She suddenly flared up and said, “I will kill your family.” And the eunuch and his family were all killed. It meant that her behavior could never be predicted.
    She also liked reading. She read many Chinese classical novels, such as Three Kingdoms, The Beach, The Red Chamber Dream, The Journey To West, etc. She read history books, too, by which she learned experiences of the ancient people how to rule the country. But she didn't learn how to benefit people. She only learned how to keep herself in power. She often let some old eunuchs tell her stories from the history.
    She practiced Chinese calligraphy. She liked to write with a long brush the big Chinese characters like blessing and longevity It was amazing for a woman to write such big characters. She had the characters she had written made into scrolls and gave to her favorite courtiers, who would treasure them as gifts of honor from her. She learned how to paint, but she never did a complete painting. She would paint something like an outline and the palace painters would fill in the details and colors and write her name on the painting.

  10. #310
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    Anyone, who played chess with her, would pretend to lose the game, because she hated to lose. To win meant that she was wiser than her antagonist. There was a story, probably a rumor, that once when she was playing chess with a eunuch, the eunuch warned lest she should lose a chessman, “Your slave will kill Old Buddha's Horse.” She suddenly flared up and said, “I will kill your family.” And the eunuch and his family were all killed. It meant that her behavior could never be predicted.
    She also liked reading. She read many Chinese classical novels, such as Three Kingdoms, The Beach, The Red Chamber Dream, The Journey To West, etc. She read history books, too, by which she learned experiences of the ancient people how to rule the country. But she didn't learn how to benefit people. She only learned how to keep herself in power. She often let some old eunuchs tell her stories from the history.
    She practiced Chinese calligraphy. She liked to write with a long brush the big Chinese characters like blessing and longevity It was amazing for a woman to write such big characters. She had the characters she had written made into scrolls and gave to her favorite courtiers, who would treasure them as gifts of honor from her. She learned how to paint, but she never did a complete painting. She would paint something like an outline and the palace painters would fill in the details and colors and write her name on the painting.

  11. #311
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    To watch Peking operas was the thing she loved best. She organized some young eunuchs into an opera cast and loved to write stage scripts for them with the help of another courtier's wife who was versed in writing and poetry. She would look at the scripts when the actors were singing so that she could follow the words they sang. Operas were performed regularly on her birthdays or the birthdays of the emperor and the queen, and on festivals, and on the first day and fifteenth day of every month of the lunar calendar. She had several stages built at the places she frequented so that she could watch operas whenever she felt like it. The biggest stage called the Imperial Theater had three stories and is the largest of its kind in China today. It is twenty-one meters high. The ground floor had a few dry wells dug for special effects, like an actor in a ghost costume could come out of a well as if he emerged from the ground. An opening is in the ceiling of the first floor, in which a winch could lower performers and props down onto the first floor. Performers could appear on the three floors at the same time.
    The next thing she liked was to have her photographs taken. It was said that she had hated the photography at first, because she had thought that since a person's image had been on the photograph, the photograph must have taken the person's spirit on it and it was not good to the person. But later, as gradually so many foreign things came and as she got used to them, especially when she saw that nothing happened to the person whose pictures had been taken, she began to have her photographs taken, too. She even enjoyed looking at her own image on the photographs. The photographs she liked best were those on which she was attired in a Buddha's costume, hence she was called Old Buddha And she liked it.

  12. #312
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    To watch Peking operas was the thing she loved best. She organized some young eunuchs into an opera cast and loved to write stage scripts for them with the help of another courtier's wife who was versed in writing and poetry. She would look at the scripts when the actors were singing so that she could follow the words they sang. Operas were performed regularly on her birthdays or the birthdays of the emperor and the queen, and on festivals, and on the first day and fifteenth day of every month of the lunar calendar. She had several stages built at the places she frequented so that she could watch operas whenever she felt like it. The biggest stage called the Imperial Theater had three stories and is the largest of its kind in China today. It is twenty-one meters high. The ground floor had a few dry wells dug for special effects, like an actor in a ghost costume could come out of a well as if he emerged from the ground. An opening is in the ceiling of the first floor, in which a winch could lower performers and props down onto the first floor. Performers could appear on the three floors at the same time.
    The next thing she liked was to have her photographs taken. It was said that she had hated the photography at first, because she had thought that since a person's image had been on the photograph, the photograph must have taken the person's spirit on it and it was not good to the person. But later, as gradually so many foreign things came and as she got used to them, especially when she saw that nothing happened to the person whose pictures had been taken, she began to have her photographs taken, too. She even enjoyed looking at her own image on the photographs. The photographs she liked best were those on which she was attired in a Buddha's costume, hence she was called Old Buddha And she liked it.

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    It was said that during fifties of nineteen century, a Japanese came to China and asked to see her. When he got admittance, he took a photograph of her. It was said that later this photograph was bought at an auction by a British museum in London at the surprisingly high price of thirteen thousand British pounds. On this picture, she was wearing a gown of satin embroidered with peonies, a lot of jewelry on her hair, a shawl wrapped on her shoulders looking like a fishing net, but made of thirty-five thousand pearls, some as big as a bird's eggs. She had jade bangles on her wrists, with nail-protecting cases made of gold on her right hand and of jade on her left hand. Her shoes were decorated with large pearls round the sides.
    After she returned from escape to XiAn City in 1900, she must receive the wives and daughters of foreign envoys to enhance the relationship with foreign governments. The Foreign Affairs Ministry wrote down for her some English sentences that she could say to them, but since she could not speak the language correctly, she commenced to learn English from the wives and daughters of some courtiers who had been envoys living in foreign countries for several years. All these kept her busy, but she loved a busy life.
    She liked to take bath, but not really sitting in the bathtub, which was made of silver and in the shape of a kidney. When the bath was ready with warm water in the tub, she sat on a low chair close to the tub. Four maids waited on her with another four maids as their assistants. They washed her upper torso first. First step: they dipped towels in the warm water and wrung them till no water came out. Then they rubbed everywhere on her upper torso softly. When the towels were no more warm, they changed towels. They did it for several times. The assistants would take the used towels away and keep pouring warm water into the tub to keep the water always warm. Second step: they put soap on clean wet towels and rubbed her upper torso again. The maid who rubbed her chest must hold breath. If the maid exhaled on her face, she would be punished. The maid might be trained for that. Third step: they used wet towels to wipe the soap clean off her skin, making sure no trace of soap left. Then they used some cotton pads to tap some perfume on her. Then they put some kind of sleeping blouse on her. The wash of the upper torso finished.

  14. #314
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    It was said that during fifties of nineteen century, a Japanese came to China and asked to see her. When he got admittance, he took a photograph of her. It was said that later this photograph was bought at an auction by a British museum in London at the surprisingly high price of thirteen thousand British pounds. On this picture, she was wearing a gown of satin embroidered with peonies, a lot of jewelry on her hair, a shawl wrapped on her shoulders looking like a fishing net, but made of thirty-five thousand pearls, some as big as a bird's eggs. She had jade bangles on her wrists, with nail-protecting cases made of gold on her right hand and of jade on her left hand. Her shoes were decorated with large pearls round the sides.
    After she returned from escape to XiAn City in 1900, she must receive the wives and daughters of foreign envoys to enhance the relationship with foreign governments. The Foreign Affairs Ministry wrote down for her some English sentences that she could say to them, but since she could not speak the language correctly, she commenced to learn English from the wives and daughters of some courtiers who had been envoys living in foreign countries for several years. All these kept her busy, but she loved a busy life.
    She liked to take bath, but not really sitting in the bathtub, which was made of silver and in the shape of a kidney. When the bath was ready with warm water in the tub, she sat on a low chair close to the tub. Four maids waited on her with another four maids as their assistants. They washed her upper torso first. First step: they dipped towels in the warm water and wrung them till no water came out. Then they rubbed everywhere on her upper torso softly. When the towels were no more warm, they changed towels. They did it for several times. The assistants would take the used towels away and keep pouring warm water into the tub to keep the water always warm. Second step: they put soap on clean wet towels and rubbed her upper torso again. The maid who rubbed her chest must hold breath. If the maid exhaled on her face, she would be punished. The maid might be trained for that. Third step: they used wet towels to wipe the soap clean off her skin, making sure no trace of soap left. Then they used some cotton pads to tap some perfume on her. Then they put some kind of sleeping blouse on her. The wash of the upper torso finished.

  15. #315
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    The maids removed the tub for the upper torso and put another tub for the lower torso before her. She didn't want to use the same tub for her whole body since she could afford two. Her thought was that the upper torso was like the master and the lower torso was like the servant. How could the master and the servant share the same thing? The maids washed her lower torso just in the same way. The sole difference was that she must stand up to let the maids wash her buttocks.
    When the bath was over, two maids remained to wash her face and hands, especially do her nails. They used the warm wet towels and then rolled a short round stick of jade to massage the skin on her face, to iron the wrinkles as they would call it. Then they did her nails. She only grew her long nails on thumbs, ring fingers and little fingers. They steeped her nails in warm water in jade bowls. They brushed the nails clean, straightened the long nails because long nails were apt to curve. They filed the nails where needed. After applying some nail polish, they put case made of yellow brocade on the long nails to protect them. That was the last thing before she went to bed. It was said that she always had white soft smooth skin and looked much younger than her real age.
    She paid particular attention to her long black bright-oily hair. Before Li Lianying came, other eunuchs had never done her hair to her gratification. She had often tried a new eunuch to do her hair, but the new eunuch could never have stayed long on the job. Many eunuchs had been scolded or even beaten for not doing their job satisfactorily. If a few pieces of her hair fell when combing, the eunuch would be beaten on the buttocks with a stick. She preferred to have a new hairdo as often as possible, but the eunuchs didn't have experience enough to invent new hairstyles until Li Lianying came to try on the job. Before Li asked her permission to do her hair, he had visited some whorehouses in the capital and learned from whores the skills and how to do hair beautifully and how to design new hairdo. Since he did her hair to her heart's content he was made the general head eunuch in the Forbidden City.

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