Chapter 27

Theemperor was grown up. He was seventeen now in the year of 1872. Theempress dowagers must return the power to the emperor to handle thestate affairs. They were no longer needed to act in his behalf. Inthe history of Qing Dynasty, the third emperor had handled the stateaffairs at the age of fourteen. If following this example, the youngemperor should have got back his power three years before. But WestEmpress Dowager wouldn't give up power so easily. She decided thatbefore they returned the power to the young emperor they shouldselect a queen for him. The power-return ceremony should be heldafter the emperor's marriage. In March, selection of candidatesbegan.
Thegirls were all selected from the families of the courtiers of theMandarin Clan and the Mongolian Clan. The tradition prohibited theemperor to even select a girl of Han Clan to be his concubine, letalone to be the queen. (Most people in China are the Han Clan. TheMandarin and the Mongolian are minorities, but the Mandarin Clan wasruling clan at that time and the Mongolian Clan was their ally.)
Manygirls about the emperor's age were selected and then were sent to thepresence of the two empress dowagers for re-selection. On that dayall the girls waited outside the Forbidden City, attired in beautifuldress. Most girls wished that they could be chosen, but some didn'twant to live like birds in a cage of a palace. They wanted to be withtheir parents and marry some boys they loved and lead a happy freelife. They had learned that living in the Forbidden City was full ofdangers. Sometimes a wrong word would cost them their lives,especially when there were empress dowagers above them.
Aftersifting, only ten finalists were left. And then among the ten onlyfour were left. Then the emperor himself would decide who among thefour girls would be the queen, another one would be the royalconcubine and the other two would be just the concubines.