The Empress Dowager Tzi-his (1835-1908) was a unique ruler unlike any other China had ever seen. She is considered to be one of the most influential people in Chinese history, a rarity in the male dominated Chinese world. The empress dowager exerted great power over the Chinese empire and influenced the political structure in ways it had never been influenced before, making many great reforms that she believed would help the Chinese people.
Born on November 29th, 1835, Tzi-hsi was named Yehonala after her tribe. Her father, Huei-cheng died when she was a child and her family took care of her until she was sent to Emperor Hsien-Feng’s court as a concubine. Although Hsien-Feng had many wives and concubines, Tzi-hsi was the only to bear him a son. In 1861, the Emperor died and his court was left to the son, who was not of age and thus Tzi-hsi was able to rule through her son, The Emperor Tung-chih. When he turned 17, she was forced to give up her immediate power to him. Tung-chih died in 1875. Through much controversy and manipulation, Tzi-hsi was able to convince the court to nominate her choice as successor, and when the Empress of the Eastern palace died, Tzi-hsi became the sole surviving regent of the empire (Varè).
Shortly after, Tzi-hsi was forced to give up her regency and retired to a summer palace, but she soon resumed rule over China. From that moment on until her death in 1908 she ruled China, instilling new policies and reforms into Chinese culture. There have been many assertions and assumptions about Tzi-hsi’s policies and their value to the history of China and her popularity among Chinese citizens (her tomb was raided and destroyed). Regardless of these opinio...
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...its objectivity. It provides a clear picture of the Empress’ life in her cultural context and the impact it had on China. I recommend this book to anyone exploring the life of the Empress Dowager—whether it be her personal life, her social life, or her political life. The book truly does provide an extensive amount of information about the Empress—its age stands testament to this (it has been around for 70 years), and I would highly recommend it.
“Biography.” Rev. of The Last Empress by Daniele Varè. Saturday Review of Literature 14 Sept. 1936: 19.
Gilroy, Thomas J. Tzu-hsi: The Empress Dowager from China. 16 Nov 2002. King’s College
History Department. King’s College. 3 Mar 2004. <http://www.kings.edu/womens_history/tzuhsi.html>
Varè, Daniele. The Last Empress. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1936.
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