It’s all about Cixi. Imperial residences, Beijing, China

December 2, 2009 at 3:38 pm 2 comments

24th November

Once upon a time in a land far far away there was a little girl called Cixi who always dreamed of being an empress. She dreamed that she would wear fine clothes, order 100 dishes to be made for dinner every day and have 10,000 caged birds released on her birthday every year. Then one day, when she was 15 years old, Cixi was called to the Imperial Palace to interview for a position as one of Emperor Xianfeng’s 10,000 concubines (mistresses).

Like many of the Emperors before him, Xinagfeng felt it was his personal responsibility to place his seed in every woman in the Chinese empire so every night he selected a tablet from a silver plate bearing the name of one of his concubines. The girl was then carried to his room wearing only a yellow cloth wrapped around her. She had to be carried because the bindings on her feet were too tight to allow luxuries such as walking. The servant carrying the girl was always a eunuch.

Despite the fact that the Emperor had his own palace with over 8,000 rooms, he was infected with the same illness as many other men and so many of his predecessors – jealousy. As such, the only men allowed into his palace had to be infertile, to protect the integrity of his many seeds. Thus the palace and its surrounding buildings was given the name of The Forbidden City. This however offered an opportunity to boys of bad blood and low class that they would never have otherwise – to gain entrance to the inner echelons of the Imperial circle. For this, they were willing to sacrifice their testicles and any social standing they had outside of the palace. In the hope that they would be buried whole, albeit apart from their family, they always carried their redundant testicles in a pouch on their belts.
Anyway, once installed inside the Imperial Palace walls, the ambitious Cixi soon became the Emperor’s favourite concubine, bearing him a son who would go on to become head of the empire. As her son was still an infant when Xinagfeng died, Cixi seized her opportunity to rule in his place as Empress Dowager (Queen Mum) for the following 25 years. When her son died of syphilis Cixi had him replaced with her nephew who she swiftly imprisoned, continuing her rule and her extravagant spending spree as China’s coffers got drier and drier.

One of Cixi’s most extravagant gifts to herself was her Summer Palace – a series of lodgings, temples and pleasure grounds set around a massive lake just outside Beijing. Of course Cixi understood that money didn’t grow on trees so, to cover the cost of building a giant marble ship and a series of building with names such as ‘The Hall of dispelling Clouds’, she cut the money that had been intended to build China’s navy.

Protected by all her layers of silk and her army of servants, the regent of China had nothing to do with the little people. It was in a typically misjudged fashion, therefore, that Cixi eventually shot herself in the foot. In response to foreign invasions of the Chinese borders and growing unrest among the population, Cixi collaborated with the racist Boxer Movement, ordering them to kill all foreigners in China, which they happily set about doing. When the western world inevitably retaliated, Cixi and her puppet nephew were forced to go into hiding. When they did eventually resurface there was little to be salvaged of their dynasty. Before she lost her position as Empress Dowager, Cixi did manage to pass one last order – to have her nephew assassinated.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jamie  |  December 3, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Loving the photos Gary – really good standard

    Reply
  • 2. unstranger  |  December 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    That’s an interesting bit on Cixi. People still doing similar stuff. Good blog. Have you been on squidoo.com? A blog post like this would be just the thing on squidoo. Check it out but do it when you have lots of time to browse through all the beginner advice pages.

    Excellent photographs too.

    Reply

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