Empress Dowager Cixi

Chinese empress (1835-1908)

Empress Dowager Cixi [1] (November 29 1835 – November 15 1908), often known in China as the West Dowager Empress [2] was from the Manchu Yehe Nara Clan.

Empress Xiao Qin Xian
Empress of China
TenureAs Concubine (elevated several times through the Xianfeng Emperor's reign) September 1851 – 22 August 1861, as Empress Dowager until 15 November 1908
Born(1835-11-29)November 29, 1835
DiedNovember 15, 1908(1908-11-15) (aged 72)
IssueThe Tongzhi Emperor

Cixi was a powerful and charismatic figure who became the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty and ruled over China for 47 years from 1861 to her death in 1908. She was one of the wives of Emperor Xianfeng and also the mother of Emperor Tongzhi. She quickly took over the power after the death of Emperor Xianfeng. Though her exact origins are unclear it is very likely that she came from an ordinary Manchu family. She was chosen by the Xianfeng Emperor as a concubine. She gained almost total control over the court when the rule of her son the Tongzhi Emperor started. He and her nephew the Guangxu Emperor attempted unsuccessfully to rule in their own right.

As the source tells it,[3] Cixi had a partnership with the #1 concubine Zhin, who had been raised to Empress. The two women ruled together, with Cixi as the more dominant personality.

She was in charge during the Opium Wars, First Sino-Japanese War, and the Boxer Rebellion. She was largely conservative during her rule, and some historians consider her reign despotism, and think that she might be responsible for the fall of the Qing Dynasty, and therefore Imperial China, as a result of Cixi's rule.

Noble Consort Yi's portrait of Ci-Xi, when she was still Imperial Concubine


  1. 1 (慈禧太后 Tz'u-Hsi T'ai-hou) An English-language story of her life was done by the BBC. episode 1: [1]. A Chinese-speaker told the story, and pronounced her name as "Sershee". Note that the standard transcription of her name into alphabetic text is not similar to this actual pronunciation.
  2. Chinese: 西太后
  3. Chang, Jung 2013. Empress Dowager Cixi: the concubine who launched modern China. London, Jonathan Cape. ISBN 9780224087445
  • Chung, Sue Fawn. 1979. The much maligned Empress Dowager: a revisionist study of the Empress Dowager Tz'u-Hsi (1835-1908). Modern Asian Studies 13, 2, 177-96.
  • Hummel, Arthur William, ed. Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644-1912). 2 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1943.
  • Warner, Marina. 1972. The Dragon Empress: life and times of Tz'u-his 1835-1908. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972.

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