Tzu Hsi


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Tz’u Hsi

 

Born Nov. 29, 1835; died Nov. 15, 1908, in Peking. Manchu empress; de facto ruler of China from 1861 to 1908.

Tz’u Hsi was the concubine of the emperor Hsien Feng, but after the birth of his son—the heir to the throne—she became his second wife. She was regent from 1861 to 1873 and from 1875 to 1889. All power was again concentrated in her hands as a result of a palace coup in 1898. Tz’u Hsi was known for her cruelty and shrewdness.

REFERENCE

Semanov, V. I. Iz zhizni imperatritsy Tsysi, 1835–1908. Moscow, 1976.
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Like Anchee Min's empress Tzu Hsi, the lovers are destined for eternal longing and sacrifice:
These 'Boxers', as they came to be known in the West, quickly gained popular support and had the tacit backing of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi who was strongly against 'Western ideas'.
Tzu Hsi is generally regarded in China as a corrupt and decadent enemy of the people whose use of naval funds to build the Summer Palace's marble boat led to China's defeat by the British during the second Opium War, and in the West as a backward xenophobe whose resistance to political reforms led to the downfall of the Ching Dynasty.
Primary and secondary sources paint differing portraits of Tzu Hsi, ranging from impressions of a wise and compassionate ruler to the more widely dispersed portrayals of a ruthless and cunning personification of evil.
Although referring to Tzu Hsi as "Orchid" may be somewhat decontextualized, for the most part, Min resists xenophilic or--phobic commodification of race-based cultural difference.
Her reconstruction of Tzu Hsi as a capable and patriotic woman, a product of the social and political environment of her times yet neither a victim nor major perpetrator of political intrigue, is consistent with some of the readily accessible English-language sources.