Meaning of TZ'U-HSI in English

born Nov. 29, 1835, Peking died Nov. 15, 1908, Peking Pinyin Cixi, also called (WadeGiles romanization) Hsiao-ch'in, or Hsien Huang-hou, byname Empress Dowager consort of the Hsien-feng emperor (reigned 185061), mother of the T'ung-chih emperor (reigned 186175), and adoptive mother of the Kuang-hs emperor (reigned 18751908), who dominated the Chinese empire for almost half a century. Ruling through a clique of conservative, corrupt officials, she maintained an iron grip over the Manchu Imperial house (Ch'ing dynasty, 16441911/12), becoming one of the most powerful women in the history of China. A low-ranking concubine to the Hsien-feng emperor, Tz'u-hsi bore his only son in 1856. On Hsien-feng's death, the six-year-old boy became the T'ung-chih emperor; state business was put in the hands of a regency council of eight elder officials. The regency was transferred to Tz'u-hsi and Hsien-feng's former senior consort, Tz'u-an, a few months later as a result of their clever plotting. The two empress dowagers were aided in their intriguing by Prince Kung, the former emperor's brother, who then became the prince counsellor. Under this triumviral rule, the government entered a temporary period of revitalization; the great Taiping Rebellion (185064), which had devastated South China, was quelled, as was the Nien Rebellion (185368) in the northern provinces. Schools were created for the study of foreign languages, a modern customs service was instituted, Western-style arsenals were constructed, and the first Chinese foreign service office was installed. Internally, an effort was made to end governmental corruption and to recruit men of talent. Although the regency was terminated in 1873 after the T'ung-chih emperor attained maturity, Tz'u-hsi's control over state affairs continued. It was even rumoured that she hastened the demise of the young emperor by leading him into excesses and disrupting his personal life. Following T'ung-chih's death, Tz'u-hsi, with the support of the army, flagrantly violated the succession laws and had her three-year-old nephew, whom she adopted, named as the new heir. The two empress dowagers thus continued to act as regents, but after Tz'u-an's sudden death in 1881, Tz'u-hsi became the sole holder of the office. Three years later, she displaced Prince Kung, having long since sabotaged most of his reform programs. In 1889 Tz'u-hsi nominally relinquished control over the government to retire to the magnificent summer palace she had rebuilt northwest of Peking. But in 1898, a few years after the shocking defeat of the Chinese forces in the Sino-Japanese War (189495), the young Kuang-hs emperor, under the influence of a group of reformers, put through a number of radical proposals designed to renovate and modernize the Chinese government and to eliminate corruption. But conservative officials collected around Tz'u-hsi, who again used the military to institute a coup. The new reforms were reversed, the Emperor was confined to his palace, and Tz'u-hsi resumed the regency. Most historians believe that China's last chance for peaceful change thus ended. The following year Tz'u-hsi began to back those officials who were encouraging the anti-foreign Boxer rebels. In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion reached its peak; some 100 foreigners were killed, and the foreign legations in Peking were surrounded. But a coalition of foreign troops soon captured the capital, and Tz'u-hsi was forced to flee the city and accept the humiliating peace terms. Returning to Peking in 1902, she finally began to implement many of the innovations she had reversed in 1898, although the Kuang-hs emperor was not allowed to participate in the government. The day before Tz'u-hsi died, Kuang-hs's death was announced, presumably from poison, in accordance with her deathbed command.

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