Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tzu-hsi Empress of China, 1835-1908
Although only a low-ranking concubine of the Emperor Hs'en Feng, Tzu-hsi rose in status when she bore his only son. At his death, and her son's succession, every decree had to be approved by her. Called the Dowager Empress, she exerted herself into state affairs and refused to give up her regency even when her son came of age. In effect she had the power of a ruler. Tzu-hsi's rule was imperious. She used state funds to build herself a palace and sold posts and promotions. Such acts were resented by some, particularly after the Chinese were defeated by the Japanese in the 1890s. Under Tzu-hsi's reign, the Western powers forcefully increased their presence in China. After the suppression of the anti-West Boxer Rebellion, Tzu-hsi began a policy of appeasement, allowing reforms and the modernization of the government.

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