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Thread: Empress dowager cixi

  1. #121
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    It is always easier said than done. The project sounded good and promising, but many conservative courtiers were against it. Prime Minister Woren was the most obstinate to oppose it. They hated all the things modern and foreign. In their opinion, China was the center of the world. How could they condescend to learn things from other countries? Their ego was tremendous. Prime Minister Woren even said, “We can surely find men of such talents within the vast territory of China.” As few students registered for the entrance exam, West Empress Dowager discussed the problem with the secretaries. They drew the conclusion that they should make Prime Minister Woren give up his absurd ideas and opposition before they could succeed in the project. So West Empress Dowager ordered Prime Minister Woren to find some such men for the government. Woren thought that it was a practical joke played upon him. But he didn't take it seriously. He just replied that he had no such persons in mind and could not recommend any. West Empress Dowager and the secretaries saw that the first net they had cast out hadn't caught Woren. So West Empress Dowager appointed Woren as an adviser in the Foreign Affairs Yamen. To Woren who always held out against anything foreign, if he went even to sit in that Yamen, it would look like he was slapping his own face, because it was where the courtiers and officials had direct contact with foreigners. So he handed in a report, saying that he was too old to work in the Foreign Affairs Yamen. Then Yixin told him that he didn't need to go there everyday or do any routine chores and that his sole duty there was to give advice when needed since he was so old and full of experience from life. He just needed to accept the post. That's it for him. Nothing more. But that was just not what he could accept for saving his face. When Yixin pressed him again, he could not say NO. He could not say YES. Tears trickled down his cheeks. Now the only way out for him was to send in a report of resignation or retirement, but he wouldn't do that yet. So he had to give up the opposition. Therefore, West Empress Dowager and Yixin let him go. Thus the voice of other courtiers against the project became gradually mute. West Empress Dowager and the secretaries could carry out their project.

  2. #122
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    In the northwest of China, there are many minorities. At that time, Hui Clan had taken up arms against Qing government almost simultaneously with the Nian Army. The good thing was that they didn't fight their way towards the capital. As the government was battling with both the Peaceful Army and the Nian Army, the Secretarial Bureau had had just enough forces to impede the advance of the Hui Clan rebels towards Peking. Now as the Peaceful Army and the Nian Army no longer existed, West Empress Dowager wanted to conquer the Hui Clan rebellion. She appointed Governor Zuo as the General Governor of Shanxi Province and Gansu Province. Before Governor Zuo went to the northwest, the empress dowagers summoned him to the capital. They wanted to have a look at him to see what kind of person he was, because he often compared himself to Zhuge Liang, the greatest commander and strategist in the period of Three Kingdoms in the Chinese history. Furthermore, they wanted to talk with him about his war plan in the northwest.
    Governor Zuo arrived in the capital and lodged in Yanliang Temple. Every temple at that time had guest rooms. This temple had originally been the residence of a prince and changed later into a temple. Owing to the location close to the Forbidden City, all the officials and officers of the highest rank in local governments, who were summoned to see the emperor, now the empress dowagers, would lodge there. After Governor Zuo settled in the guest room, he went to visit Yixin, who held a grand dinner for him. The other guests invited were the secretaries so that they could have a talk over the war plan. Governor Zuo was talkative and he began a long monologue about his scheme, his analysis of the situation there and his tactics to deal with the rebels, which was the club plus the carrot. He designed to give Hui Clan land to plough and food to eat to let them settle down. After that, if there were still rebels, he would slaughter.

  3. #123
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    His analysis was all the disadvantages: (1) Land barren and people poor there; (2) No rivers to easily transport provisions; (3) Han Clan and Hui Clan mingling together and hating each other; (4) Few cows to help plowing the fields, lack of seeds and agricultural tools; (5) Taxes collected there were much less than in the other provinces. Then he added, “The price of rice there is several times higher than in the other provinces. Suppose a soldier eats two catties of rice a day. (Catty is a Chinese weight measurement. Two catties equals to one kilogram.) It costs three taels of silver a month. That's what they had spent on a soldier in the southern provinces. But here with three taels a month, a soldier can only eat rice, no meat or vegetables.” He implied that more expenses were expected.
    Yixin and other secretaries all agreed with him. Then Yixin asked, “How much is your budget to do all these and maintain your troops?”
    “I estimate that it will need three million five hundred thousand taels every year.” replied Zuo.
    “How long do you anticipate to finish your task?
    “About five years.” Governor Zuo stroked his beard.
    The cost was really skyscraping. Yixin just said, “We'll report to Empress Dowagers and see what Empress Dowagers will say.”

  4. #124
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    It was the Mid-Autumn Festival Day that Governor Zuo went to see the empress dowagers. He felt a little nervous. He recited to himself silently about the rituals of behavior before the empress dowagers. The officials in the Etiquette Ministry had taught him how to behave before the empress dowagers according to the palace ceremony. Everyone must learn it if it was the first time to see the empress dowagers. Stepping over the threshold into the receiving room, he took a couple of paces forward and knelt on a cushion specially put there for him. (Only elder courtiers had such a privilege.) Then he took off his hat, put it down on the brick floor beside him and kowtowed. He was still kept on his knees on the cushion while he answered questions from the empress dowagers.
    West Empress Dowager addressed him first, “You had a difficult time these years.”
    “It's only my duties.” Governor Zuo replied in deference.
    “Is everything fine on your way here?” West Empress Dowager was concerned with the general situation outside the capital.
    “It looks quiet everywhere after the war. If people can live in peace and have enough to eat, there won't be any rebellion.” Zuo liked to be straight-out with anyone.
    “That's what we are expecting. It depends on the governors.” West Empress Dowager hinted that Zuo was one to have such responsibilities.
    “How long do you think you need to finish your task in the northwest?” said East Empress Dowager.
    “It will take around five years to get everything thoroughly done and no possible backfire.” Zuo said, still kneeling there. It sounded a little boasting, but the empress dowagers were happy to hear it. The interview ended and Governor Zuo withdrew from the presence of the empress dowagers, but he forgot to pick up his hat on the floor.

  5. #125
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    When he got back to his lodging, a eunuch brought him some moon cakes sent by the empress dowagers as the festival gift. Then another eunuch came carrying his forgotten hat. One of his private advisers knew that they couldn't just take the hat back. They should buy it from him. It was a ridiculous custom, really a blackmail. But once a custom was established, everybody must follow it, no matter it's reasonable or not. If they refused to pay for it, eunuchs would start a rumor, making Governor Zuo look ridiculous. After a seesawing bargain, three thousand taels were paid in silver notes. Eunuchs would divide it among them.
    Following the departure of Governor Zuo, Governor Li arrived in the capital. To the people in Peking, Governor Li was more famous that Governor Zuo. That is, more people in the capital knew the name of Governor Li. The purpose the empress dowagers summoned Governor Li to Peking was to discuss with him about the reorganization of his Huai Army. It was peaceful time now. No need to have so many standing armies. Governor Li was advised to keep only the young and strong and send the rest home. Then they wanted Governor Li to persuade Elder Zeng to accept the position of the Governor of Zhidi Province. (Zhidi Province is now Hebei Province.) Since Peking was located in that province its governor was deemed as the leader of all the governors, including general governors. But Elder Zeng had declined, saying that he was too old and in bad health. Elder Zeng was the most famous governor, his name known to almost everyone in the capital. He had a very good reputation. The empress dowagers didn't want him to retire early.

  6. #126
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    West Empress Dowager had played a little trick on him when he had been given the power to command all the troops against the Peaceful Army. At that time many courtiers had been afraid that Elder Zeng might have turned his back against the government and overthrown Qing Dynasty, then declared himself to be the emperor of a new dynasty. The empress dowagers had feared it, too. So they had appointed Zuo as Governor of Zhejiang Province and Li as Governor of Jiangsu Province to weaken Elder Zeng's power. Although Elder Zeng didn't manifest any desire to be the emperor himself, some of his followers had really tried to persuade him to do so. Zuo and Li, though had worked under Elder Zeng, would never support him to be the emperor.
    Governor Li was born in Anhui Province. In 1853 when the Peaceful army had taken Nanking City, the emperor had given an order that anyone could train people to defend themselves against the Peaceful Army. So Li went home to train the people in his hometown. In 1858, he went to see Elder Zeng to be his pupil and his private advisor. Then they had some disagreement and Li left Elder Zeng. When Xiang Army occupied Anqing City, Li wrote a letter to congratulate Elder Zeng, who took him back to be his advisor again. When Elder Zeng was appointed Two River General Governor, he gave Li a position till Li became the governor. Li was a selfish man, always thinking of himself first. Since West Empress Dowager gave him such a post as a governor, he wouldn't support Elder Zeng to be the emperor and still worked under him. Besides, even if Elder Zeng did hold up his rebellious banner against Qing government, it was still a question who would have the final victory. Li liked one bird in hand, not two birds in the bush.

  7. #127
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    Governor Zuo was born in Hunan Province. He had passed two government tests and lived as a tutor in his village. After the uprising of the Peaceful Army, he trained the people to defend the village. Then he went to work under the Governor of Hunan Province in charge of military affairs. When Elder Zeng organized his army, Zuo helped him by sending him men to be trained, stuffs needed in war and money. When Elder Zeng was defeated in 1854 in his first battle with the Peaceful Army, he was so downhearted and tried to make an unsuccessful suicide. Zuo went to see him and solaced him. In May, 1860, Elder Zeng sent in a report of recommendation for Zuo and the late emperor gave Zuo a position working under Elder Zeng. Then Elder Zeng let Zuo train his own army. But Zuo always had a different opinion from Elder Zeng about the war strategies and he didn't want Elder Zeng to control him. So their relationship became tense. As West Empress Dowager appointed him first the governor of Zhejiang Province and then in May, 1863, appointed him the general governor of Fujian Province and Zhejiang province, he was now equal in rank with Elder Zeng. So he wouldn't support Elder Zeng to be the emperor and rule over himself again.
    Urged by the empress dowagers and the secretaries, Elder Zeng accepted the appointment of the governor of Zhidi Province. He arrived in the capital and also took up his temporary residence in the temple. When people in Peking came to know that he would reach the capital on a certain day, many of them lined up along the route that Elder Zeng was supposed to pass. People wanted to see what he looked like. They already knew Governor Zuo was a bit fat like a rich merchant and Governor Li was tall like a strong fighter. When Elder Zeng did make his appearance, many people were disappointed. Elder Zeng was lean and of the middle height. If not for his official clothes, he would certainly be mistaken for a provincial squire. Someone in the crowd who knew the face-reading was surprised to find that Elder Zeng could be a governor. According to the theory of face-reading, Elder Zeng was destined to be executed, but he was a governor now. The explanation was that he must have done many good things, which must have changed his fate, though not his face.

  8. #128
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    During the interview, the empress dowagers inquired and Elder Zeng answered. He was not like Zuo, straightforward. He was an overscrupulous person.
    “Was everything fine in the south before you left?” asked West Empress Dowager.
    “Yes. Everything's in order.” Elder Zeng replied carefully.
    “How is your disarmament?” West Empress Dowager queried in a stern tone.
    “Twenty thousand were sent home and thirty thousand remain to be reorganized.”
    “They didn't make things difficult for you?”
    “No. They are happy to go home.”
    “How's your health?” cut in East Empress Dowager.
    “Better. I think the worst is over.” Elder Zeng felt a little less nervous.
    “You still take medicine everyday?” asked East Empress Dowager, always softly.
    “Yes.” His heart beating resumed to the normal.
    “When you arrive in Baoding City (The capital of Zhidi Province), the first thing is to train the local army.” said West Empress Dowager.
    “I will. And I will strengthen the defense along the coast.”
    “If you need anything or have any problem, just send in a report.”
    The interview ended. Elder Zeng kowtowed and stood up and backed out of the room. He left the capital next day and made his way to where his post was as the governor of Zhidi Province.

  9. #129
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    Chapter 24

    On August 13, 1869, two colossal ships sailed down the Grand Canal, with music floating out of the cabin and banners fluttering on the masts. On one of the banners was a picture of a three-legged bird. There was a story about the three-legged bird. The goddess queen kept a three-legged bird and often sent it out to gather things for her. Little An put up the banner with the implication that he was sent by West Empress Dowager to gather whatever he could get for her, not for himself. But he forgot that West Empress Dowager always wanted to show that she never took things undue to her. Another wrong move Little An made. A fatal wrong move.
    Little An had bought a girl from a poor family to be his wife, but he could not have sex with her since his genital had been cut. This absurdity had a history of its own. It had originated from other dynasties. A eunuch, when getting into a certain power, would have a preference to live like a normal person. The idea of a normal person, in their morbid opinion, was to have a family. But no girl would marry him as he was not really a man, lacking the body parts representing a man. He was only half a man, in the view of the other people. So a eunuch could only buy a girl from a poor family. The girl at least wouldn't be starved. But some girl would rather be a nun than the wife of a eunuch. It was said that a eunuch would do nasty things to a girl to get his morbid sexual satisfaction, like biting her or clawing her skin. Poor girl. Some eunuch even adopted a son to inherit his name and property.

  10. #130
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    However, Little An took his wife with him. He had some attendants on board and hired some musicians to enjoy his journey. He brought some boxes full of jewelry, some of which were stolen from the palace. He wanted to sell the jewels in the southern provinces and buy some silk stuff there, which he would sell when he was back to the capital. He had really a brain for business. On his way down south, he gathered bribery and even forced some chicken-hearted officials to give him silver notes. When he racketeered his way into Shandong Province, he didn't see anyone come to welcome him. The governor of Shandong Province was an upright official. He abhorred all the evil things. He knew all the bad things Little An had done. He had sworn that he would kill Little An when he had the chance. Now the chance presented itself.
    When the governor was reported that Little An had entered his province, he ordered the mayor of the town where Little An stayed for the night to arrest him, but the mayor hesitated, being afraid of West Empress Dowager. At that time a mayor had quite a few advisers to help him manage all kinds of things, from legal to his personal affairs. Someone advised him to take an onlooker's attitude to elude to be involved in this awkward matter. So the mayor found some excuse not to go. It was understood. The governor didn't resent him. Then the governor had to dispatch an officer to do the job. He was afraid that if Little An got out of his domain like a fish jumping out of the net, another governor might let him go, never dared to arrest him.
    The officer hastened along the route Little An had taken and at last overtook him. He went to see Little An and said to him that the governor invited him to his yamen (a local government administration building and the governor also lived in there).

  11. #131
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    “What will he want from me?” Little An asked the officer.
    “I don't know.” Replied the officer, “You will know when you see the governor.”
    Little An thought that perhaps the governor would give him a feast and some gifts after it. So he went with the officer to see the governor, but was immediately confined in the yamen. Then the governor ordered Little An brought into his presence. He interrogated Little An, “do you know that your sneaking out of the capital is against the rules of our ancestors? How do you dare to do that?”
    “I'm sent by West Empress Dowager on a royal mission. I'm not sneaking out of the capital.” Little An pleaded in an angry voice.
    “If you are sent out by West Empress Dowager, where are the official documents?”
    “I don't have any documents. But if you don't believe it, you can write to check with West Empress Dowager. West Empress Dowager can confirm it.”

  12. #132
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    “Everyone who travels on an official errand should have official documents. If you can't produce any documents, you are surely sneaking out.” Then the governor ordered his guards to put Little An into the prison, rejecting to hear his pleading any more. When Little An was put under the custody, the governor sent an express report to the capital, to the Secretarial Bureau, saying that a eunuch sneaked out of the capital against the rules set up by the ancestors and should thereby be executed. But he didn't wait for a written reply from the Secretarial Bureau and just executed Little An on September 14, for fear that West Empress Dowager would order him to release Little An, who would no doubt revenge on him. But it would be fine if West Empress Dowager wanted to revenge on him for Little An, he had at least already killed Little An. (Another scenario was that he waited for the order, which came to instruct him to execute Little An.) When the jailer went to the cell that Little An was confined in, he lied to Little An, saying that the governor wanted to see him. Little An thought that maybe West Empress Dowager had known it and ordered the governor to release him. Once out of the prison, the jailer didn't take him to see the governor. He put him into a caged cart. Little An knew what it was and felt his whole body listless. The executioner walked beside him. Few people were watching, because it was night. The governor didn't want any trouble and so ordered Little An to be executed at night.
    It was said that he had exposed Little An's body for three days and had his body stripped of pants and underwear to show that Little An was really a eunuch. It was because there had been a rumor prevalent that Little An had pretended to be a eunuch, but had had sex with West Empress Dowager. That's why West Empress Dowager had indulged him. A rumor could never be killed by power, but by facts. The exposure of Little An's half-naked lower torso smothered the rumor easily. West Empress Dowager was glad and thankful when she learned it later.

  13. #133
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    Since West Empress Dowager was sick, the report about Little An went to East Empress Dowager, who made a decision urged by the emperor and supported by the secretaries and many other courtiers to execute Little An. Then when the written order drafted by the Secretarial Bureau was sent to West Empress Dowager for her to use her seal on it, she was irate, but she could do nothing to stop it, because she could not change the rules made by ancestors and furthermore, all the courtiers demanded that the rules should be observed, or other eunuchs would follow his example. When the emperor taught by some clever official explained to her about the meaning of the three-legged bird, adding that if she refused to execute Little An, people would think that she had really sent him to collect gifts and bribery for her, which would mar her reputation, she had to use the seal on the written order to show that she had nothing to do with Little An sneaking out of the capital.
    The death of Little An provided an opportunity for Li Lianying to take his place. Li had been in the Forbidden City for several years already, but he hadn't had a chance to even appear in the presence of West Empress Dowager as Little An would have allowed no one to threaten his position.
    Generally, the ritual to be a eunuch was performed when really young. The older, the riskier when the genital was cut. Eunuch Li, when he got the treatment, was already round thirty. He had been in a business and hence called Tawing Li. He liked gambling. Because of the constant loss on the gaming table, he had owed plenty of gambling debts. He had to leave his hometown to escape from his debtors. He traveled to the capital. He had known some old eunuch in the Forbidden City. Since he didn't get any job, he often went to visit the old eunuch there and learned that all the eunuchs, who had served to comb the hair of West Empress Dowager, had been either reproached or even punished. No one had done the job to her satisfaction yet. Tawing Li thought that as he had no work right then, why didn't he learn to be a stylist? If he could be her favorite eunuch like Little An, it was worth the sacrifice of his dick. At least he had had some experience in treating fur though fur was different from the hair on a human head. They had a little bit similarity. So he went to some brothels, not to have sex with any women there, but to learn how to do the hair beautifully, because the women there were really the hair experts since they always wanted to have pretty hairdo to please their patrons. He went there disguised as a vendor of cosmetics and flowers for several months and learned all the tricks.

  14. #134
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    Then he came to see the old eunuch and expressed his wish to be a eunuch. In astonishment, the old eunuch advised Tawing Li not to do such a thing. “The risk was too great. Only one out of every ten survived at your age.” The old eunuch said to Tawing Li. “So I'm the one alive.” Tawing Li insisted. His determination softened the old eunuch and he took Li to see an old man. The old man was an expert. This line of work had been handed down in his family. He told Li to lie down on a wooden bed. His limbs were tied to the four corners of the bed. Before Li knew anything, he felt an acute pain coming from his crotch to his head. He fainted. The old man applied some medicine to the spot to stop the bleeding. If there was no infection before it healed, he was safe, he said. After ten days, he went into the Forbidden City as a real eunuch. He was taught all the etiquette before he could be recommended to West Empress Dowager as a hair stylist, which happened only after Little An died. Little An had been a fool, in his opinion, and he wouldn't be so stupid.
    Now through the old eunuch he made himself known to West Empress Dowager that he was a hair stylist. So West Empress Dowager summoned him to her presence and warned him that if he couldn't do her hair to her gratification, he would be punished for boasting. The result was that she was greatly satisfied with his skills in the hair styling. He became her favorite eunuch, and later her head eunuch.

  15. #135
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    Chapter 25

    Elder Zeng was transferred to Zhidi Province to be the governor there. The new Two River General Governor was Ma, who was from a family of Hui Clan, but was born in Shandong Province at the east coast of China. His ancestors had immigrated there. Ma was a man of talent. He had fought with the Nian Army and was always victorious in the battles. So he was promoted fast. When he was appointed the Two River General Governor, he organized a new army to be trained for the use of rifles. Every morning he would go to see his army drilling. The soldiers were being trained how to use rifles. He liked to watch them to hit the targets. After that, he went back to his yamen for breakfast. His yamen was very close to the drilling ground. So he just walked there and back. No need to ride on the horseback or in a palanquin. Only a few bodyguards escorted him.
    In the olden China, especially in the period of later dynasties, poor people who were wronged or falsely accused had nowhere to complain or sue. The lowest local government would refuse their cases. So they would do desperate things to get the wrongs righted, like to throw themselves on the ground to block the advance of an official from a higher local government. For example, if his case was refused by a mayor, he would stop the governor by throwing himself down on his knees on the ground before the governor's palanquin and crying, “I'm wronged! Help me to right the wrong!” A good high-rank official would take the person to his yamen and accept his case. A bad official would tell his bodyguards to drive him away.
    One morning when Governor Ma was on his way to return to his yamen, all of a sudden, a man rushed out of nowhere and threw himself on the ground on his knees, crying, “Your Excellency, right the wrong for me!” But next moment, the man grabbed the right wrist of Governor Ma with his left hand and brought out a sharp dagger from inside his coat with his right hand, thrusting the dagger into the right side of Governor Ma's chest. Governor Ma cried, “It's you.” before he fell on the ground. The bodyguards caught the man on the spot. Governor Ma was carried into his bedroom and laid on his bed. Doctors were sent for. When the bad news spread to the ears of the general of the city, whose duties were to defend the city, and to the ears of the judicial official and other officials, they all hurried to see the governor, who was dying. The doctors arrived next, but they could do nothing, because the wound was fatal. Governor Ma died next day.

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