Empress Dowager Cixi: The Empress Who Changed China

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The Empress Who Changed China: Empress Dowager Cixi was born into the ruling Manchu Minority, as a rather ordinary Chinese girl named Yehenara on November 29th, 1835. At age 16, she was brought to the Forbidden City to join Emperor Xianfeng's harem of concubines. Yehenara “rose to the top of the concubine ranks when the emperor overheard her singing and asked to see her.”1 Yenahara quickly became part of the nightly roster of chosen concubines who visited Xianfeng's bed-chamber, and bore his son, Zaichun, in 1856. She was bestowed with the title, Tzu Hsi, which means "empress of the western palace," and is known as Cixi today.2 After Emperor Xianfeng’s death in 1861, Cixi’s five-year-old son became the Tongzhi Emperor, and she became the "empress dowager” as well as a regent ruler, inheriting a chaotic, politically divided China. Progressives and reformers, favoring westernization and modernization, were pitted…show more content…
She began following Japan’s lead in sending delegations, and school groups abroad to study constitutional reform and western culture.5 This action westernized China politically, as in 1906, Empress Cixi promised the Chinese people a constitution and representative government, and announced that China would be transformed into a constitutional monarchy with elections. Although this action never successfully occurred, Cixi tried to have Chinese citizens elect monarchs as their leaders, rather than having the emperor/ empress be appointed based off lineage.7 In this reform, western influence is seen politically for the first time under Cixi’s rule. She westernized the government of China by trying to abandon the monarchy of blood lineage, and turn it into a constitutional monarchy with elections, just like Japan’s. Cixi changing of the Chinese government in 1906, although not lasting, was shocking in China, as the government and laws rarely changed, especially incorporating western

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