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  1. #151
    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.

  2. #152
    Amongthe four girls, West Empress Dowager liked the girl from FucaiFamily, who was only fourteen, but beautiful. East Empress Dowagerpreferred the girl from Alute Family, who was nineteen, two yearsolder than the emperor, but talented and demure, though not evenpretty, just ordinary. But general opinion was that an emperorshould choose his queen for her character and demureness, not for herbeauty, because many beautiful queens in the Chinese history had onlybrought destruction to the country.
    Onthat important day in his life, the emperor stood before the fourgirls. He had got a hint from West Empress Dowager to choose thegirl from Fucai Family for his queen. But East Empress Dowagerthought the girl was too young to handle all the intricate things inthe Forbidden City as were the queen's responsibilities, and an olderqueen could look after the emperor and help him in many aspects. Theemperor himself was biased to that opinion and so handed the jaderuyi,an ornament and symbol for that purpose, to the girl from AluteFamily, to the unhappiness of West Empress Dowager, who thought thatEast Empress Dowager influenced the emperor for it. It was on March11.
    Thefour girls were sent back home, waiting for the wedding day. A lot ofthings should be done between then and the nuptial, especially in thefuture queen's family. She must be treated as the queen sinceselected, no longer as their daughter. Any family members, ifreceived by her, must kneel and kowtow before her just like to bereceived by the emperor. At the meals, the mother should servedishes, waiting at the table like a royal maid. The future queen satthere, eating alone. She had to eat quickly so that her motherdidn't need to stand there too long. And she couldn't meet anyoneshe wanted like before, especially her brothers or young malecousins. The family received a great deal of wedding gifts, andcongratulations as well, from all other courtiers.

  3. #153
    OnMarch 24, the empress dowagers gave a statement that the wedding dayshould be on October 16.
    OnAugust 23 and September 19, the emperor sent many wedding things tothe queen's family as tokens of wedding settlement. There were rulesset by the ancestors about what and how many wedding things should begiven. They were: two hundred taels of gold, ten thousand taels ofsilver, tea containers of gold and silver, silver cups, one thousandscrolls of brocade, twenty horses. These things were not so many aspeople would think, considering they came from the imperial family.But some things were very special. The silver pieces totaling tenthousand taels were made in a special shape, each piece containingfifty taels with dragon and phoenix carvings on the surface inrelief. The twenty horses were all white with new leather saddles,bright brass stirrups and new reins. The surprise was that the horseshad been trained to amble to the rhythm of the music. The family mustget the dowry ready before the nuptial day. According to thetradition of the Mandarin Clan, the dowry should be carried into theForbidden City before the wedding day. The dowry was divided intothree hundred and sixty packages, each with two poles attached andborne on the shoulder by two men or four men for the heavier ones.The packages were open on the top to display the contents inside.When the dowry was being carried towards the Forbidden City, crowdsafter crowds of people rushed forward to watch. They almost blockedthe streets. Soldiers were sent to maintain order. Generally theywould whip people into submission and order, but they were told thatduring these nuptial days they should not beat people. Therefore,they had to use collective strength to keep back the watchers so thatthe dowry procession could pass. Eventually the dowry procession cameand people could see the jewels, the new clothes, the curios asornaments in their rooms, and a lot of other things.

  4. #154
    Onthe wedding day the emperor sent a luxuriously adorned palanquin tothe queen's home. A Royal Representative went with the palanquin,carrying the queen's seal, which was made of gold. When the RoyalRepresentative arrived at the queen's home, all the household cameout to receive the queen's seal on their knees. At that time thequeen was being attired. Four ladies-in-waiting waited on the queen.One combed the queen's hair into a wedding style. Another put weddingclothes on the queen. Still another changed the queen's shoes. Thelast lady adorned the queen's face with cosmetics. Then the queencame out of her confined room ensued by the four ladies and acceptedthe seal on her knees. Then everyone kowtowed to the queen as anaction of congratulations. The queen rode in the palanquin and wascarried into the Forbidden City. Thousands of people formed theprocession, including guards, musicians, eunuchs carrying all kindsof things, and the ladies-in-waiting on horseback. The procession ledby the Royal Representative lasted miles, with many people lined onboth sides, watching. In the procession there were three hundredpairs of palace lanterns, which were lit when it grew dark. Thecollective shining of the lanterns almost paled the full moon.
    Theemperor was waiting impatiently in the Forbidden City. He often askedfor what time it was. The other three girls were carried into theForbidden City with much less rituals before the queen's arrival.When the emperor was reported that his concubines were carried intothe Forbidden City one after another, he just nodded theacknowledgment. At last the bells and drums over the front gate ofthe Forbidden City sounded, announcing the arrival of the queen. Sothe emperor left his bachelor's room for the wedding room in anotherbuilding. When the queen arrived, the new royal couple went through aseries of complicated ceremonies before they were finally escorted tothe wedding room for the night.

  5. #155
    Thequeen's palanquin stopped before that building. The queen was helpedout of the palanquin, with an apple in each hand. Apple in old Chinameant safety because the two words have the same pronunciations. Alady-in-waiting came up and took the apples from the queen's hands.Another lady handed to the queen a gilded bottle sealed on the mouthwith a red gauze. In the bottle there stored small pieces of gold andsilver, rubies and other gems, grains of rice and wheat. It wascalled the Treasure Bottle. Then the queen should step over a saddlewith the two apples under it. Just at that time, the emperor arrived.When the queen got at the other side of the saddle, she found herselfstanding face to face with the emperor. They kowtowed to each otheron a red rug with the loud pleasant music accompanying the ceremony.Then they should kowtow to Heaven and Earth, to the God of Longevity,After that the queen must go to kowtow to the God of Kitchen. Itmeant that the queen was to manage the cooking of the palace, thoughthe queen really never did the cooking herself. At that time theemperor retired to another room to have a rest. The queen went intothe wedding room to re-attire herself. Her hairdo was altered intoanother style more casual and fit for lying on the pillow. Herclothes were more for the comfortable wear. Then the emperor came inand other people left so that the new couple could have a heart toheart talk.
    Theemperor's concubines went to see the empress dowagers first and WestEmpress Dowager was specially kind to the Royal Concubine, whom sheliked. When the queen went to see the empress dowagers next day, WestEmpress Dowager didn't even speak to her, just nodding to acknowledgeher kowtow. Everyone in the Forbidden City knew that this was a badomen. The royal wedding finished after three years of preparation andan expenditure of twenty million taels of silver.

  6. #156
    Aftermarriage, the emperor took over the power, namely, to read reports,make decisions and appoint officials and officers. West EmpressDowager was unwilling to entirely lose her power. She told theemperor that if he had anything important to decide on, he shouldconsult her first, because, as she said, he was not experiencedenough yet. On February 23, 1873, the emperor took over the power.
    WestEmpress Dowager was unhappy because she was now retired and hadnothing better to do. Besides, she was unhappy with the queenbecause the emperor chose her against her will. Then she was fumingwhen she learned that the emperor slept with the queen almost everynight and seldom went to the chamber of the royal concubine sheliked.
    Wheneverthe emperor came to pay homage to her, she would say that the emperorshould spend more time with the royal concubine. She would reproachthe queen for her indecent behavior. She even reprimanded the queento her face that she should not be jealous of others. The queenthereby advised the emperor to sleep with the royal concubine moreoften. But the emperor was furious with his mother, West EmpressDowager, for her interference with his marital life. So he stoppedaltogether going to see the royal concubine. But afraid of beingscolded by West Empress Dowager, he no longer went to the queen'schamber, either. He simply moved to sleep in his study on thepretense that he wanted more time for reading.

  7. #157
    Oncewhen he complained to East Empress Dowager that he was often found atfault by his own mother, East Empress Dowager said that his motherhad too much time on hand that she didn't know how to spend it andthat if he could find something for her to do, she would be happy andblame him less.
    Thensome officials in charge of royal construction work, suggested to theemperor to rebuild the Round-Bright Garden, Garden Of All Gardens ascalled by the foreigners. The emperor thought it a good idea. WhenWest Empress Dowager learned it she was really delighted. But Yixinand all other courtiers opposed the notion, because the royaltreasury had no money. The work would cost at least one billiontael's worth of silver. At that time the first and foremost need ofthe dynasty was to build a navy so that they could resist any furtherinvasion from the foreign countries. But the emperor wanted toplease his mother and West Empress Dowager wanted to enjoy herself inreturn for her to give up the power. So the officials in charge ofthe royal construction work went to the site to see where the repairwas needed and to estimate the cost. They reported to the emperor,who gave the report to the secretaries for discussion. Thesecretaries replied that the government had no money for it, but theyhad no objection if the emperor could think of a way to raise money.The officials of the construction suggested to the emperor that themoney could be raised through donations. So the emperor ordered thecourtiers to donate money for it.

  8. #158
    Aslong as the emperor didn't demand money from the treasury Yixin saidnothing more and donated twenty thousand taels of silver. But manycourtiers refused to donate. The emperor couldn't punish all thecourtiers for that. In the end he only gathered some ten thousandtaels, a long way to the budget.
    CritiqueOfficial Sun filed in a report to oppose it. The emperor got in arage and wanted to punish him so that other courtiers would be afraidto oppose his plan. He wished to know more about the critiqueofficial so that he could find some fault with him. He asked thesecretaries about him. The secretaries could guess the intention ofthe emperor. So Yixin replied that when the late emperor had escapedto the Summer Palace in Rehe, this critique official had tried asuicide by jumping into a well, but had been saved. It implied thathe was a faithful courtier to the late emperor. How could the presentemperor punish someone so loyal to the late emperor, his father? Thenanother critique official You handed in a report on the same subject.The emperor was angry, but was delighted too, because he could havesomeone to punish at last. This time, there was nothing special aboutthe critique official. So the emperor issued an order to dismissCritique Official You from his position. When the order came intoYixin's hand, he said to the emperor that it was not suitable toremove a critique official for such a thing at the difficult time.When the emperor persisted, Yixin had to report to West EmpressDowager, who sent for the emperor and told him that he should notremove critique officials for things trivial.
    Thenhe ordered all the governors to donate, but all of them complainedthat they didn't have any extra money to donate since so many thingswere waiting to be done after the mutinies had been subdued. EvenGovernor Wu, who was then the governor of Sichuan Province, made anexcuse that when he could collect enough money he would have it sentto the capital. But the construction officials didn't believe it,because Sichuan Province was known as a rich province. Now theemperor had to let his plan abort.
    Atthat time, a merchant by the name of Li said to the official incharge of the construction that he wanted to donate a lot of wood forthe rebuilding of the Round-Bright Garden. So the official reportedit to the emperor, who ordered the official to arrange for all thewood transported to the capital and promised that when the garden wasfinished he would give the merchant a high official position. Eventhe empress dowagers learned it. And the emperor often sneaked outof the Forbidden City on the pretext that he would go to inspect theruins of the garden to see how to better rebuild it.

  9. #159
    ButMerchant Li said to the official in charge that the wood was in theforest on the remote mountains in Guizhou Province, one of theremotest provinces in the southwestern part of China. The big treesmust be chopped down, carried to the nearest stream, let them floatdown on the current to the closest town and shipped from there to thecapital. It needed a lot of labor and a long time to get them to thecapital. The official was stunned, but he couldn't report thisawkward situation to the emperor. Then Merchant Li said that hecould help to buy wood planks from some foreign merchants. Theofficial knew that if he couldn't get anything for the emperor, hewould at best lose the position, at worst be put into prison. Besides, if he let Merchant Li buy wood planks, the government wouldpay for them. Money would not come out of his own pocket, andfurthermore, he could get some commission from the transaction. Sohe agreed to the proposal of the merchant and gave him five hundredtaels of silver as traveling expense.
    Theydidn't know that Merchant Li was a great imposter. Although he knew alot of foreigners, he often cheated them out of their money. Then hejust disappeared. When these foreigners left China, he appeared to dothe same to the other foreigners. Once a foreigner had wanted topurchase a piece of land to build something, he had said to him thathe had owned a stretch of land somewhere. Then he had led theforeigner to a marshy land. Though the price had been cheap, when theforeigner had paid Li for the land, he had found that this piece ofland belonging to the local government. The foreigner had searchedfor Merchant Li, but he had just vanished from the face of the earth.The foreigner had died with the wish that his ghost could have foundMerchant Li.

  10. #160
    MerchantLi went to Hongkong, lodged in a suite of a big hotel, and put up anotice “Wood needed for the royal garden.” When many woodsalesmen knew it, they swarmed to him. A French merchant offered thebest price. So he ordered thirty-five square feet wood for tenthousand taels of silver. Then he reported the price as thirtythousand taels. He reckoned that as he had promised to donate tenthousand taels, which he would deduct, he would still get twentythousand taels. The price of the wood only cost ten thousand taelsand he could get ten thousand extra taels for himself. The contractsaid that when the wood arrived in Tianjin City, the government wouldsend some official to receive the shipment and pay the price. Butwhen the French merchant reached the harbor, no one was there toreceive him.
    WhenMerchant Li reported the price to the official in charge, he reportedto the leading official. And all the officials for the constructionthought that the price was way too high and they decided that theydidn't want the merchandise. So no one was sent to receive theshipment. The French merchant complained to the envoy of his countryand the envoy contacted the Chinese government through the ForeignAffairs Yamen. The cheating deal came out in the broad daylight.
    The official in charge had to report to the emperor, who was incensedand told the empress dowagers. As a result, Merchant Li was put todeath and the official in charge was removed from office. Since themerchant who had signed the contract died, the deal was offnaturally. Then the construction plan aborted.


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