Tzu Hsi (Dowager Empress of China)

Tz'u Hsi

Tz'u Hsi, Tsu Hsi, Tse Hsi, or Cixi (all: tsŏŏ shē), 1834–1908, dowager empress of China (1861–1908) and regent (1861–73, 1874–89, 1898–1908). Her failure to realize the gravity of the foreign threat to China kept her from wholeheartedly supporting modernization, thus driving reformers into opposition to the Ch'ing dynasty. Taken to the Forbidden City in 1852, she was a consort of Emperor Hsien Feng (d. 1861) and bore his successor, T'ung Chih. On her child's death (1875) she named her infant nephew Kuang-hsu to the throne, although he was not in the direct line of succession. In 1898 she resumed the regency after Kuang-hsu attempted to institute political reforms against her wishes, and thereafter she ruled directly. She resisted foreign encroachment by encouraging the unsuccessful Boxer Uprising (1898–1900). In her last years Tz'u Hsi abandoned her conservatism to some extent and consented to several modernizing measures; schools were established, the traditional civil service examinations were discontinued, the army was reorganized by Yüan Shih-kai, railroad building was encouraged, and opium cultivation was suppressed. Her last official act was the appointment of Pu Yi, a remote claimant, as emperor.

See biographies by Princess Der Ling (1929), C. Haldane (1965), M. Warner (1972), and J. Chang (2013).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Tzu Hsi (Dowager Empress of China): Selected full-text books and articles

Old Buddha By Princess Der Ling Dodd, Mead & Co., 1929
The Political History of China, 1840-1928 By Li Chien-Nung; Ssu-Yu Teng; Jeremy Ingalls D. Van Nostrand, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "The Rise to Power of Empress Dowager Tz'u-Hsi" begins on p. 88
Empress Tzu-Hsi's Coup: September 21st, 1898 By Cavendish, Richard History Today, Vol. 48, No. 9, September 1998
FREE! Court Life in China: The Capital, Its Officials and People By Isaac Taylor Headland F.H. Revell Co., 1909
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Tzu Hsi in multiple chapters
FREE! Two Years in the Forbidden City By Princess Der Ling Moffat, Yard, 1917
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Tzu Hsi in multiple chapters
Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of Imperial China By Mary M. Anderson Prometheus Books, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "The Last of the Powerful Eunuchs: The Collapse of Imperial Rule (A.D. 1851-1912)"
FREE! Recent Events and Present Policies in China By J. O. P. Bland; E. Backhouse J. B. Lippincott Company, 1912
Librarian’s tip: "The Manchus Fall Temporarily Checked by Tzu-Hsi" begins on p. 66
China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change By Emily Hahn Doubleday, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Tzu-Hsi begins on p. 243
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