On This Day in History: September 21
Empress Cixi reigns
Some people are just not to be fucked with. Empress Dowager Cixi began as a concubine to an emperor of the late Qing dynasty. She would come to rule China for 47 years, instituting numerous reforms. Later, she was scapegoated for an uprising that ended the Qing dynasty. She’d been dead three years, so it must have been her fault.
--On This Day in History, Shit Went Down: September 21, 1898--
When Cixi was 25, the emperor died, but she’d had a five-year-old son by him who became emperor. His dad had named regents in case of his death and Cixi was all fuck that and punted them, assuming the regency herself. Five-year-old boys have a tendency to do what their mom tells them, so she was effectively in charge of China.
The year was 1861, and China was in deep shit. The Second Opium War had recently ended and left the country in chaos. Cixi oversaw the restoration of the Qing dynasty, allowing it to survive another five decades.
Cixi’s son died when he was only 18, and so Cixi threw the succession rules away, adopted her nephew, who was three years old, and got him installed as emperor so she could be regent for him as well. In 1889, when the emperor was 18, Cixi “retired” but remained a powerful head of the family, with most government officials deferring to her rather than to the emperor.
But shit went down nine years later when the emperor decided to speed up the pace of change, launching 100 days of reform in politics, culture, and education. Cixi and more conservative members of government saw the reforms as too radical, fearing they would weaken the country. So, on September 21, 1898, she staged a coup d’état. She had the leaders of the reform movement executed and the emperor was exiled to house arrest for the remainder of his life.
Cixi would later implement reforms in China at a more moderate pace, but China had problems that were beyond salvaging. She died in 1908, and in 1911 the Xinhai Revolution brought an end to China’s last imperial dynasty. She was posthumously blamed, and history viewed her as a ruthless despot for many decades. More recent examinations determined she managed to maintain political order in a time of great turmoil.
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