Sunday, September 26, 2004

Chinese Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi

Chinese Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi - The life of Tzu Hsi, who rose from being a concubine in the Forbidden City to become the empress of China.

From the site:

Tzu Hsi (pronounced "Tsoo Shee" and spelled Cixi in Pinyin) was born on November 29, 1835. Her clan name was Yehonala or Yehenara. Little is known about her background, but according to some accounts her father was a captain in the banner corps that guarded the emperor's home, the Forbidden City.

China at that time was ruled by the Manchus. The Manchus were originally nomads from Manchuria, located northeast of China. Around 220 BC Emperor Shih Hwang-ti of the Ch'in (or Qin) dynasty built a wall to keep Manchus and other barbarians out of China. More walls were built over the next 1,500 years, and the Ming dynasty (which ruled from 1368 to 1644) joined them together, forming the Great Wall of China, which still stands today. It was 1,500 miles long, on average 25 feet tall, and 15 to 30 feet thick at its base. Despite the wall the Manchus ultimately conquered China and established their own dynasty, the Ch'ing dynasty (Qing in Pinyin), so called because they claimed descent from the Ch'in dynasty.

Like the emperor and most other prominent people in China at that time, Yehonala and her family were Manchu, and had little contact with Chinese people. Some writers have claimed that a teenager Yehonala fell in love with a Manchu garrison commander, Jung Lu and they planned to marry. But Yehonala's beauty and charm attracted the attention of others, and at the age of 16 she was chosen to be one of the concubines of Emperor Hsien Feng. Instead of marrying Jung Lu she went to live in the Forbidden City, a vast complex of palaces and gardens run by thousands of eunuchs.

The Forbidden City contained an outer palace with three ceremonial halls where the emperor held audiences. His family lived in the inner palace, surrounded by twelve courtyards where the emperor's concubines lived. Yehonala was now one of those concubines. The emperor would pick which woman he wanted to see each night. To make sure she couldn't smuggle a weapon into his bedroom, she was escorted there by eunuchs and left naked on the foot of the bed.

3 comments:

Mister said...

The emperor would pick which woman he wanted to see each night. To make sure she couldn't smuggle a weapon into his bedroom, she was escorted there by eunuchs and left naked on the foot of the bed.This doesn't seem like a promising way to start a relationship. Just when I'm ready to be open minded and inclusive in my understand of foreign cultures, they go and do something barbaric like this. Now it's back to same ol' xenophobic ethnocentrism I call home.

Michael said...

Well, it made me more appreciative of Chinese culture. What a great job the Emperor had!

BelikeLinus said...

^ i hope that was just a really bad joke, these concubines were young girls seized from their families and forced to live in enclosed palaces