The Court Returns
Something told us that the return of the Court to Peking marked a turning-point in history. -- Don Rodolfo Borghese
THE Empress Dowager had been agreeably surprised by the terms of the treaty. She was not to be punished personally. Neither was China required to surrender any territory. Some members of the exiled court had urged her to continue the war, arguing that Peking and Tientsin had fallen because of traitors, that the allies could never penetrate the interior of China, and that if Tung Fu-hsiang were allowed to increase his force to 50,000 he could chase the foreigners out. It is impossible to know exactly how the arguments ebbed and flowed during those months. However, Tzu Hsi was nothing if not a pragmatist. She was also an old woman who enjoyed her comforts. If the allies would allow her and the emperor to return to her capital with honor, there was little to lose. She was also shrewd enough to read between the lines of the settlement -- the allies believed it was in their interest to maintain stability by supporting the Manchus.
The Empress Dowager had therefore been quietly working to promote her rehabilitation. She sent detailed instructions to Li Hung-chang, who had been entrusted with mediating with the foreign powers before the siege had even ended, ordering him to spare no efforts in reestablishing relations with the foreign governments. She ensured that decrees and edicts in which she had