The Death of Empress Cixi

The Dowager Empress of China died on 15 November, 1908, after ruling the country for almost 50 years.

Portrait of Tzu-hsi by Hubert Vos, 1906

Three centuries after Elizabeth I, at the other side of the globe, another formidable woman breathed her last. The Dowager Empress of China, Tzu-hsi (or Cixi), had started life in a minor Manchu family in 1835. Pretty and charming, at 17 she was recruited to the harem of the Son of Heaven, the Hsien-feng (or Xanfeng) emperor, to whom the court eunuchs presented her naked within a red robe whenever he wanted her for the night. She was the only one of his wives and concubines to give him a son, the future Tung-chih (or Tongzhi) emperor, and when the little boy succeeded his father at the age of six in 1861, she as co-regent made herself the effective ruler of the country.

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