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Thread: EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI

  1. #211
    Chapter 37


    Franceand China were then at war about the Vietnam issue. Vietnam wasalways under China's protection. In the summer of 1862, Vietnam wasforced to sign a treaty with France that Vietnam was under Frenchprotection. During next five years the French navy landed on thesouth of Vietnam and gradually occupied the southern part. In 1873,France invaded the northern part. The Vietnamese government sentGeneral Liu to resist the French army. General Liu was a Chinese andhad joined the Peaceful Army. After the Peaceful Army had failed, hehad escaped into Vietnam. He brought his troops there, which werecalled Back Banner Army because the banners he used were black. TheBlack Banner Army went to fight the French army and killed itsgeneral. So next year France and Vietnam signed a new treaty inSaigon. Qing government kept neutral at that time because they werebusy dealing with Japan about the Taiwan issue.
    WhenFrance encroached on the north of Vietnam again, China was dulyinvolved. Many courtiers favored to wage war against France inVietnam. Prince Yihuan leaned to that opinion, but Prince Yixin hadhis own view that China could not cope with France in Vietnam and itwas better to have a peace talk. Since the opinions were notunanimous, the policy could not be decisive as to whether to declarewar or to have a peace talk. When West Empress Dowager finally madethe decision to prepare for war while seeking a peace talk, thechance for some military actions were missed. A great number ofFrench army already set foot on Vietnam and began to attach the BlackBanner Army. If Qing government could have sent its army into Vietnamto reinforce the Black Banner Army and occupied all the strategicallyimportant places before the French army had done, the final victorymight have belonged to China.

  2. #212
    Qinggovernment promised to provide the Black Banner Army with ammunitionand provisions through Guangxi Province, but the governor of GuangxiProvince gave the black Banner Army only a little of the promisedstuffs. How could they resist the attack of the French army? TheBlack Banner Army was beaten this time. Then Qing government didlaunch some detachments into Vietnam for reinforcement, but amongthose detachments, they could not strategically support each otherwhen required by the situation. The result was that they were alsooverpowered by the French army. News about the loss of some occupiedtowns in Vietnam came to the capital, the courtiers made angrycomments and one of the critique official wrote a report that thesecretaries should be blamed. So West Empress Dowager blamed Yixinfor it and removed him from all his offices. She then changed allmembers of the Secretarial Bureau and put Yihuan, her brother-in-lawand the biological father of the present emperor, in charge. ButYihuan was not a bit as talented as Yixin. Therefore, things didn'tget any better, even though the Qing government army and the BlackBanner Army did win some battles later in Vietnam.
    SomeFrench warships came to cruise near the coast of Fujian Province withthe intention to land there. Someone suggested that the Chinesesouthern sea navy could take the initiative to sink the Frenchwarships, but those who wanted a peace talk, including Governor Li ofZhidi Province, opposed to it. They held the opinion that Chinashould not initiate the war. Then the French warships began to attackthe small Chinese navy and sank four Chinese warships. West EmpressDowager was really enraged and declared war against France. SinceChina could not fight France on the sea, the strategy was to let theFrench soldiers come on the land and to ambush them. But Frenchsoldiers didn't come on the shore.
    TheFrench navy went to attack Taiwan. China didn't have any warships atTaiwan. The general who guarded Taiwan sank some boats to block theentry into the Fresh-Water Harbor. The one thousand French soldierslanded on Taiwan and had a fight with the Chinese soldiers, whooutnumbered them. The French soldiers were driven back onto the sea,to their warships. So China won battles on land and France on thesea. However, no war can go on forever. It must end one way or theother, either in entire conquest or in a truce. A treaty was signedbetween Qing government and France.

  3. #213
    AfterSushun had been executed, Yihuan had been appointed as the head ofthe royal bodyguards, the special division, with Ronglu as hisassistant. Yihuan had all the ambition, but lacked the abilities. When Yixin had been in charge, Yihuan had envied him. Now as Yihuantook over the charge of the state affairs, Yixin said to a friend,“There is a Chinese saying. It goes like that: when you seesomeone shouldering a burden, you don't know how heavy it is.”After only a few months, Yihuan came to feel the heavy burden on hisshoulders, but none he could shift it to.
    Oneday Yihuan went to see Yixin and said, “I really envy you of yourleisure, no responsibilities.”
    Howcan that be?” Yixin smiled at him.
    Couldyou help me?” Yihuan really needed someone who could share hisburden. But what could Yixin say? He had been forced to retire whenthe empire needed him. So he just sighed. Yihuan knew that itdepended on West Empress Dowager, not on Yixin himself. So later, atan earliest chance, he hinted to West Empress Dowager that she shouldlet Yixin resume some of the responsibilities, but West EmpressDowager was adamant about her earlier decision, because many thingsshe wanted to do and Yixin would say NO.
    WestEmpress Dowager could never forget that when she had wanted torebuild the Round-Bright Garden, many courtiers, headed by Yixin,strongly opposed to it. Her plan had failed. Now Yixin was out ofthe way and so were many of his supporters. If she wanted to rebuildthe garden now, no one would say NO to her. But where was the moneyfor it? The cost was too much, she knew it herself. Finally shedecided to repair the buildings at the Three Lakes and made it aroyal garden. She named it the Garden of Good health & Harmony. But there was still the question: where was the money?

  4. #214
    Someonesuggested to her head eunuch Li that they could use part of the moneythat was supposed to build a strong navy. After the Sino-French war,which was resulted in a treaty that Vietnam became under the Frenchprotection after a lot of bargaining, West Empress Dowager and theSecretarial Bureau had had a meeting and had decided to build astrong navy. The money needed came from customs duties and salt taxcollections, and also from the contributions of all the provinces. West Empress Dowager thought that since the war already ended therewas no urgency to build a strong navy immediately. That was why thesmall Chinese fleet was defeated on the sea by Japan in 1894.
    WestEmpress Dowager ordered to set up the Navy Yamen and made Yihuan thehead of it. All the expenses in the construction of the garden camefrom the Navy Yamen and Yihuan could never say NO. Why didn't WestEmpress Dowager order the Internal Revenue Ministry pay the expenses?That ministry should be a reasonable place to pay for theexpenditure. It was because Minister Yan would refuse to pay unlesshe was removed. And West Empress Dowager didn't want to remove himfor no reason at all, or for that reason. She still wanted to keep agood image in the eye of people. So the repair work was under waysecretly.
    Herhead eunuch Li thought of another way to get fund for the building.The emperor would soon reach the age to get married. They needed toprepare for the wedding. So West Empress Dowager ordered the InternalRevenue Ministry to collect money for that purpose. Though it was abit early, Minister Yan could not refuse that. And West EmpressDowager transferred the money to the reconstruction.

  5. #215
    TheRoyal Family Affairs Management was put in charge of thereconstruction. They were also building a stage right close to whereWest Empress Dowager lived. It was supposed to finish before herbirthday. Three days before her birthday, West Empress Dowagerthought that the stage should have been completed by then. So shewent there to have a look, but it was not completely done yet. Someofficials in charge of the job pleaded that they would accomplish itbefore her birthday. But West Empress Dowager was petulant and finedthem each for three thousand taels of silver. The silver taels shouldbe handed in before a certain date. When an official did not possesssuch an amount of taels, West Empress Dowager sent a eunuch to scoldhim. It was a custom in Qing Dynasty. If a courtier did somethingwrong, or really did something not to the liking of the emperor, theemperor would send a eunuch to his residence to scold him. Thecourtier must prostrate before the eunuch listening to whatever hewould say. The eunuch went there to represent the emperor; so thecourtier should receive the eunuch on his knees. At first the eunuchjust pointed out what mistakes the courtier had made and expressed inthe name of the emperor that the courtier should not make the samemistakes again. But eunuchs were often abnormal due to their lack ofhormone. Therefore the reproach developed into calling of names, evenfoul names. It was deemed an insult to courtiers because eunuchs werenot thought as complete human beings, that is, human beings lackingsomething very important. If a courtier didn't want to hear the namecalling, he should bribe the eunuch. It also depended on the mood ofthe eunuch. If the eunuch just got reprimanded he would take out onthe courtier whom the emperor sent the eunuch to chide. That day, theeunuch was not in a happy state of mind and the courtier had no moneyto bribe him. He called the courtier all kinds of dirty names hecould think of. The courtier blushed and tears trickled down hischeeks. At the end of the rebuking rite the courtier mush thank WestEmpress Dowager for sending the eunuch to scold him.

  6. #216
    TheGarden of Good Health & Harmony (also called Summer Palace thoughit is not the Summer Palace in Rehe. Any place where the emperor wentlike on a vacation in the summer could be called the Summer Palace.)is the best-kept existing royal garden in the present capital now. Ithas a concentration of the best ancient buildings as well as stylesof gardening. The total area is two hundred and ninety hectares.
    TheGarden of Good Health & Harmony was first named the Garden ofClear Ripples, which was burnt down by allied forces of Great Britainand France in 1860. Reconstruction started twenty-five years laterand was completed in 1895, and the name was changed to the Garden ofGood Health & Harmony. The design gives prominence to theLongevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. Many spots of scenery were builtin imitation of those on the West Lake in Hangzhou City in ZhejiangProvince. It is really a miniature West Lake.
    EasternPalace Gate is the main entrance to the Garden of Good Health &Harmony. The opening in the center was for the emperor and empressexclusively. The two side openings were for the use of princes andcourtiers. Eunuchs and soldiers used side gates to the south andnorth. The name plaque “The Garden of Good Health & Harmony”in Chinese characters in front of the gate was written by EmperorGuangxu. The stone slab in front of the gate bears a carving inrelief of two dragons playing with a pearl, a symbol of imperialauthority.
    Benevolence& Longevity Hall was originally named the Diligent inAdministration Hall. The present name came into being during thereign of Emperor Guangxu. It was used by West Empress Dowager andEmperor Guangxu to receive courtiers.

  7. #217
    Thecorridor runs seven hundred and twenty-eight meters long, from a moongate in the east to Shizhang Pavilion in the west. All the twohundred and seventy-three sections are decorated with more than eightthousand paintings of landscapes, flowers and human figures. It isthe longest and most famous corridor in the world.
    DispersingClouds Hall is one of the main buildings on the Longevity Hill. Itwas specially built for West Empress Dowager to receive her birthdaygreetings. Corridors link the main hall to side houses on both sides.Pillars in crimson color and the roof with golden glazed tiles dazzlebrightly in sunshine.
    BuddhaFragrance Pavilion stands on a stone terrace of twenty-one metershigh on the sheer front side of the Longevity Hill. It overlooks theKunming Lake in front and Zhihuihai Buddha Hall in the back. Otherbuildings stretch on either side of it in a neat symmetrical pattern.
    TheMarble Boat was made with huge stone blocks in 1755. The immovableboat of thirty-six meters long has two tiers. It was placed in theKunming Lake to symbolize the steadfast rule of the Qing Dynasty. Iflooking south from the Longevity Hill, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge andthe Nanhu Island seem floating on the Kunming Lake and theSeventeen-Arch Bridge, looking like a rainbow, is eight meters wideand one hundred and fifty meters long and links the East Causewaywith the Nanhu Island on the Kunming Lake.
    Therewas a phony business street, called Suzhou Street, laid out along theRear Lake in The Garden of Good Health & Harmony in the style ofa market place along a river in South China. Whenever West EmpressDowager and the emperor went there, the eunuchs and palace maidswould amuse them by acting like shop assistants, hawkers orcustomers. West Empress Dowager was delighted and enjoyed the placevery much.

  8. #218
    Governor Li of Zhidi Province had a maxim that Learn from foreigners to conquer foreigners West Empress Dowager liked his maxim. Once he suggested that Qing government should print and issue banknotes. The advantage was, as he reasoned, that one tael of silver could be used as two taels. It sounded just wonderful, but how could that be? For example, he said, if there were five million taels of silver in circulation, and based on that, the government could release banknotes worth five million taels. So the five million taels of banknotes, plus five million taels of silver already in circulation, made ten million taels. The currency was doubled. The property of the government was doubled, too, in their opinion. It was better than to borrow money. When one borrows money one must pay the interest. The suggestion came into the hands of Prince Yihuan, who supported the idea fervently. For that purpose, they must open banks first. For fear that people wouldn't like a foreign name, they called banks as silver shops. No argument here so far. Considering that West Empress Dowager would look upon the silver shops as her personal safes, Governor Li insisted that the general manager to run those silver shops must be a foreigner, because he thought that a foreign manager could resist any unreasonable demand from West Empress Dowager. But the internal revenue minister of the Mandarin Clan, who was the father-in-law of the late Emperor Tongzhi, was against the idea to use a foreigner as the general manager. He argued that a foreign manager would take all the silver in the silver shops to his own country. It would be like to hire a thief to guard the treasury house or put a wolf on the task to look after the sheep. He went to see Prince Yihuan, voicing his opposition and threatening with his resignation from the post. Prince Yihuan had to solace him. As a result, the plan aborted.

  9. #219
    Thesecond suggestion of Governor Li was to build a railroad in ShandongProvince along the river. But many conservative courtiers opposed it.Their reasons were: (1) If the dike broke, the river would flood overthe railroad. (2) Though transportation by train was faster than byship, when the train was used instead of the ship, many peopleworking on the ship would be out of job and became outlaws. (3)Although the train was convenient to convey the soldiers here andthere during a war, if a meter of the rail was demolished, the wholeline went dead. What was the use then? And it was impossible to guardthe line from end to end. (4) If the designed railroad line must cutthrough some grave fields, the corpses would surely be dug up, whichwould damage the fengshui(something like geomancy. The theory is that the location of thegrave and to which direction the grave faces will affect the fortuneof the family.) and brought calamity to the families. The last onewas the main point they wanted to make.
    PrinceYihuan could still remember that in 1865 the first railroad had beenbuilt in China. It had been outside the capital, built by a Britishmerchant as a sample, only half a kilometer long. When it had begunto whistle and rumble, the crowds who had come to look had got in apanic, crying “Monster! Monster!” Qing government had ordered thewhole thing taken apart and removed. The second railroad had beenbuilt by a British company in 1877, which ran from Shanghai to theoutlet of the Wangpu River with freight carriages and passenger carsmixed. The business had been good, though there still were someconservative people calling it monster. Unfortunately it had run overa pedestrian who had died on the spot. It had duly occasioned a lotof protests and demonstrations. The Foreign Affairs Yamen had had tointerfere and had purchased the railroad from the British company fortwo hundred eighty-five thousands taels of silver. Then thegovernment had taken apart the trains and rails and sunk them in thesea. The third railroad had been constructed in 1881 near TangshanTown for the coal mine. It lasted for nine kilometers to convey coalfrom the mine. Only the freight train was not drawn by a locomotive,but by horses and donkeys. A laughing stock among the foreigners.

  10. #220
    Chapter 38


    In1886, the emperor was sixteen. It was the time that the empressdowager should let him handle the state affairs alone, though she wasnever willing to do so. But she had to, at least in name. When shemade the declaration to the courtiers that she would return the powerto the emperor, Yihuan, the emperor's biological father, begged heron his knees to postpone the return of power till the emperor wastwenty years old and more mature. By tradition, when the adoptedemperor reached the age to take over the power, the natural fathercouldn't occupy any office and must retire utterly from the politicalstage lest he should become an over-emperor and interfere with theadministration of the state affairs of his biological son, theemperor.
    Theother courtiers also implored West Empress Dowager to postpone it fora couple of years. But West Empress Dowager persisted in herdecision. Yihuan and some courtiers sent in a written petition thatwhen the emperor came into power, he must still ask for the opinionsof West Empress Dowager before he made any decisions or appointed anyofficials and officers. West Empress Dowager was glad to accept it,because she would then return the power only in name, not in reality.The emperor was not happy, but he could say nothing.
    OnFebruary 15, 1887, the power-returning ceremony was held. Theemperor got up very early. At four o'clock in the morning,accompanied by some officials, he went to the place where theportraits of the ancestors were hung and he kowtowed to theportraits. At half past eight o'clock, he went to see West EmpressDowager and kowtowed before her. At nine o'clock, he sat on thethrone and all the courtiers kowtowed to him. His natural father wasnot present, of course. Then a statement was issued to the wholeempire to that effect and a feast of celebration was given in theForbidden City.

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