EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI - Page 13

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  1. #121
    OnApril 9, at the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Woren as the chairmanbegan, “It'll take too much time for everyone to express hisopinion. So I have drafted a report. I'll read it to you and if noone disagrees, we can hand in to the empress dowagers.” PrimeMinister Zhou saw through him, understanding that he wanted everyoneto accept his opinion. So Zhou said, “We are not in a hurry.Besides, we must discuss the report with Prince Yihuan.” The ruseof Prime Minister Woren failed. Many courtiers opposed to removeYixin from the post of the head of Secretarial Bureau. Anotherprince produced a draft of his that coincided with the opinion ofmost people at the meeting. Even Prime Minister Woren had to acceptit. When the report was handed in, West Empress Dowager realizedthat if she insisted, all the courtiers might send in theirresignations. But she tried another tactics. On April 11, she gaveback only the post as the head of the Foreign Affairs Yamen sincesome of the courtiers had explained their fear that the foreigngovernments would make troubles if Yixin was no more the head thereto deal with the foreigners. Now for the second round. Till the endof April, the investigations of the accusations of Yixin had finishedand produced no evidence whatsoever. How could Yixin be punished forthe false accusations? Besides, to make it easier, Yixin resigned theposition as the head of Royal Family Affairs Management, because WestEmpress Dowager often sent Little An to go there for things and Yixinoften refused to give more than necessary. When Yixin resigned thepost, West Empress Dowager could appoint someone who would obey herand give her everything she wanted. That meant as a condition. Atthe same time the other secretaries persuaded Yixin to file in aself-criticism report. Fear of foreign aggression, realization oflittle support for her among the courtiers and submission shown byYixin, all added up softened West Empress Dowager. She yielded thistime.
    OnMay 8, the empress dowagers received Yixin, who wept tears of beingwrongly accused, but the empress dowagers took it as tears ofrepentance. Even West Empress Dowager was touched and gave an orderto restore him to be the head of Secretarial Bureau. A politicalstorm subsided to everyone's relief.

  2. #122
    Sincea lot of water flew under the bridge, the emperor was not so youngany more. He was fifteen now. The empress dowagers began to selectthe queen and some royal concubines for him. Even weddingpreparations were slowly getting under way. That would be a grandceremony. The empress dowagers and the emperor must wear new gownswith dragons embroidered on them. Generally, these special royalapparels were sewn and embroidered in a southern province where thebest embroidery work was produced, and then transported to thecapital. All southern provinces were well-known for wealth andscenery. People in the north always envied people living in thesouth.
    LittleAn thought to himself that if he could be sent there on a royalerrand, he would not only enjoy the sightseeing, but also get manyexpensive gifts from the governors and local officials. Who wouldn'twish to be in his favor as he was the favorite head eunuch of themost powerful person in the entire empire? Although there were rulesto forbid eunuchs to go out of the capital, who would say NO if WestEmpress Dowager agreed to it?
    Itwas customary that whenever the royal family had things speciallymade, the expenses reported were always much higher than the realcosts. People handling the orders could make some extra money fromit. It was also an open secret.
    “EmpressDowager,” Little An said to West Empress Dowager one day, “Sincethe emperor's wedding needs a lot of money, we can't let them chargeus more than necessary.”
    “Howcan we do that as we don't even know the real cost of everything?”
    “It'seasy. If Empress Dowager send me to oversee the work done there,I'll know how much expense they should report. With extra moneysaved, we can buy more things for the wedding.”

  3. #123
    WestEmpress Dowager acquiesced. So he made preparations to travel. Hewould take two huge ships to sail down south on the Grand Canal,which had been dug hundreds of years ago in Sui Dynasty and ran fromnorth to south through many provinces. One of them was ShandongProvince. The governor of that province was a brave and uprightcourtier, who hated Little An for all the bad things he had done.
    LittleAn thought that it would be better if he could get the consent of theemperor to his journey to the southern provinces. But he could notjust go to ask for the permission of the emperor. He talked to theemperor's head eunuch and asked him to talk to the emperor in hisbehalf. The emperor's head eunuch hated Little An, too, because hewas loyal to the emperor. When he mentioned the request of LittleAn, the emperor asked his head eunuch what he should do, since he wasstill young and had no experience about such things. The head eunuchtold the emperor that he would say whatever was suitable to Little Anand that the emperor should pretend to know nothing of it.
    WhenLittle An saw him next day and asked him what was the emperor'sattitude, the head eunuch said, “The emperor didn't say anything. Ithink he won't have any objection to it since Holy Mother EmpressDowager thinks it's all right.”
    LittleAn was so excited that he bragged about his trip. Almost everyoneknew it, but none said anything to him. When Yixin knew it, he washappy. Most of the courtiers were also delighted. Those who had hadfavors from Little An didn't dare to speak to him about it. This wasreally a serious matter, which involved West Empress Dowager. Everyone knew that they should act very cautiously. A step or a wordamiss, they would be condemned. Through his head eunuch the emperorlearned everything about Little An. He sent a secret message to thegovernor of Shandong Province to instruct him to arrest and executeLittle An if he traveled through his domain.

  4. #124
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  5. #125
    Chapter 23


    Sincethe defeat of the government army by the foreign troops, West EmpressDowager and Yixin had realized that they must learn from theforeigners, learn their advanced science and technology. They beganto buy guns and cannons from the merchants of the western countries.They also bought steam ships and warships. But in the long run,purchase was not a feasible way to strengthen the country. They beganto have the factories built to make these things in China. They foundthat they needed their own engineers and technicians. So they sentchildren overseas to study in the foreign countries. Elder Zeng andGovernor Li respectively had the Machine Bureau and the ManufacturingBureau set up in Shanghai. Yixin established the Foreign LanguagesSchool in Peking so that the government could have interpreters inthe diplomatic affairs and translators to render science books inother languages into Chinese. And all the science lessons could alsobe taught there. An order was issued that province governments shouldrecommend students, and young officials working in the centralgovernment could also take part in the entrance exam. All theteachers were employed from foreign countries. That is to say thatall the teachers were foreigners.

  6. #126
    Itis always easier said than done. The project sounded good andpromising, but many conservative courtiers were against it. PrimeMinister Woren was the most obstinate to oppose it. They hated allthe things modern and foreign. In their opinion, China was the centerof the world. How could they condescend to learn things from othercountries? Their ego was tremendous. Prime Minister Woren even said,“We can surely find men of such talents within the vast territoryof China.” As few students registered for the entrance exam, WestEmpress Dowager discussed the problem with the secretaries. They drewthe conclusion that they should make Prime Minister Woren give up hisabsurd ideas and opposition before they could succeed in the project.So West Empress Dowager ordered Prime Minister Woren to find somesuch men for the government. Woren thought that it was a practicaljoke played upon him. But he didn't take it seriously. He justreplied that he had no such persons in mind and could not recommendany. West Empress Dowager and the secretaries saw that the first netthey had cast out hadn't caught Woren. So West Empress Dowagerappointed Woren as an adviser in the Foreign Affairs Yamen. To Worenwho always held out against anything foreign, if he went even to sitin that Yamen, it would look like he was slapping his own face,because it was where the courtiers and officials had direct contactwith foreigners. So he handed in a report, saying that he was too oldto work in the Foreign Affairs Yamen. Then Yixin told him that hedidn't need to go there everyday or do any routine chores and thathis sole duty there was to give advice when needed since he was soold and full of experience from life. He just needed to accept thepost. That's it for him. Nothing more. But that was just not what hecould accept for saving his face. When Yixin pressed him again, hecould not say NO. He could not say YES. Tears trickled down hischeeks. Now the only way out for him was to send in a report ofresignation or retirement, but he wouldn't do that yet. So he had togive up the opposition. Therefore, West Empress Dowager and Yixin lethim go. Thus the voice of other courtiers against the project becamegradually mute. West Empress Dowager and the secretaries could carryout their project.

  7. #127
    Inthe northwest of China, there are many minorities. At that time, HuiClan had taken up arms against Qing government almost simultaneouslywith the Nian Army. The good thing was that they didn't fight theirway towards the capital. As the government was battling with both thePeaceful Army and the Nian Army, the Secretarial Bureau had had justenough forces to impede the advance of the Hui Clan rebels towardsPeking. Now as the Peaceful Army and the Nian Army no longer existed,West Empress Dowager wanted to conquer the Hui Clan rebellion. Sheappointed Governor Zuo as the General Governor of Shanxi Province andGansu Province. Before Governor Zuo went to the northwest, theempress dowagers summoned him to the capital. They wanted to have alook at him to see what kind of person he was, because he oftencompared himself to Zhuge Liang, the greatest commander andstrategist in the period of Three Kingdoms in the Chinese history.Furthermore, they wanted to talk with him about his war plan in thenorthwest.
    GovernorZuo arrived in the capital and lodged in Yanliang Temple. Everytemple at that time had guest rooms. This temple had originally beenthe residence of a prince and changed later into a temple. Owing tothe location close to the Forbidden City, all the officials andofficers of the highest rank in local governments, who were summonedto see the emperor, now the empress dowagers, would lodge there.After Governor Zuo settled in the guest room, he went to visit Yixin,who held a grand dinner for him. The other guests invited were thesecretaries so that they could have a talk over the war plan.Governor Zuo was talkative and he began a long monologue about hisscheme, his analysis of the situation there and his tactics to dealwith the rebels, which was the club plus the carrot. He designed togive Hui Clan land to plough and food to eat to let them settle down.After that, if there were still rebels, he would slaughter.

  8. #128
    Hisanalysis was all the disadvantages: (1) Land barren and people poorthere; (2) No rivers to easily transport provisions; (3) Han Clan andHui Clan mingling together and hating each other; (4) Few cows tohelp plowing the fields, lack of seeds and agricultural tools; (5)Taxes collected there were much less than in the other provinces.Then he added, “The price of rice there is several times higherthan in the other provinces. Suppose a soldier eats two catties ofrice a day. (Catty is a Chinese weight measurement. Two cattiesequals to one kilogram.) It costs three taels of silver a month.That's what they had spent on a soldier in the southern provinces.But here with three taels a month, a soldier can only eat rice, nomeat or vegetables.” He implied that more expenses were expected.
    Yixinand other secretaries all agreed with him. Then Yixin asked, “Howmuch is your budget to do all these and maintain your troops?”
    “Iestimate that it will need three million five hundred thousand taelsevery year.” replied Zuo.
    “Howlong do you anticipate to finish your task?
    “Aboutfive years.” Governor Zuo stroked his beard.
    Thecost was really skyscraping. Yixin just said, “We'll report toEmpress Dowagers and see what Empress Dowagers will say.”

  9. #129
    Itwas the Mid-Autumn Festival Day that Governor Zuo went to see theempress dowagers. He felt a little nervous. He recited to himselfsilently about the rituals of behavior before the empress dowagers.The officials in the Etiquette Ministry had taught him how to behavebefore the empress dowagers according to the palace ceremony.Everyone must learn it if it was the first time to see the empressdowagers. Stepping over the threshold into the receiving room, hetook a couple of paces forward and knelt on a cushion specially putthere for him. (Only elder courtiers had such a privilege.) Then hetook off his hat, put it down on the brick floor beside him andkowtowed. He was still kept on his knees on the cushion while heanswered questions from the empress dowagers.
    WestEmpress Dowager addressed him first, “You had a difficult timethese years.”
    “It'sonly my duties.” Governor Zuo replied in deference.
    “Iseverything fine on your way here?” West Empress Dowager wasconcerned with the general situation outside the capital.
    “Itlooks quiet everywhere after the war. If people can live in peace andhave enough to eat, there won't be any rebellion.” Zuo liked to bestraight-out with anyone.
    “That'swhat we are expecting. It depends on the governors.” West EmpressDowager hinted that Zuo was one to have such responsibilities.
    “Howlong do you think you need to finish your task in the northwest?”said East Empress Dowager.
    “Itwill take around five years to get everything thoroughly done and nopossible backfire.” Zuo said, still kneeling there. It sounded alittle boasting, but the empress dowagers were happy to hear it. Theinterview ended and Governor Zuo withdrew from the presence of theempress dowagers, but he forgot to pick up his hat on the floor.

  10. #130
    Whenhe got back to his lodging, a eunuch brought him some moon cakes sentby the empress dowagers as the festival gift. Then another eunuchcame carrying his forgotten hat. One of his private advisers knewthat they couldn't just take the hat back. They should buy it fromhim. It was a ridiculous custom, really a blackmail. But once acustom was established, everybody must follow it, no matter it'sreasonable or not. If they refused to pay for it, eunuchs would starta rumor, making Governor Zuo look ridiculous. After a seesawingbargain, three thousand taels were paid in silver notes. Eunuchswould divide it among them.
    Followingthe departure of Governor Zuo, Governor Li arrived in the capital. To the people in Peking, Governor Li was more famous that GovernorZuo. That is, more people in the capital knew the name of GovernorLi. The purpose the empress dowagers summoned Governor Li to Pekingwas to discuss with him about the reorganization of his Huai Army. Itwas peaceful time now. No need to have so many standing armies.Governor Li was advised to keep only the young and strong and sendthe rest home. Then they wanted Governor Li to persuade Elder Zeng toaccept the position of the Governor of Zhidi Province. (ZhidiProvince is now Hebei Province.) Since Peking was located in thatprovince its governor was deemed as the leader of all the governors,including general governors. But Elder Zeng had declined, saying thathe was too old and in bad health. Elder Zeng was the most famousgovernor, his name known to almost everyone in the capital. He had avery good reputation. The empress dowagers didn't want him to retire
    early.

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