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  1. #51
    AfterEmperor Xianfeng died on August 22, 1861, his son succeeded thethrone accordingly, who was Emperor Tongzhi (1856-1875), six yearsold at that time. The queen then became Empress Dowager XiAn, wholived in an eastern chamber, so was habitually called East EmpressDowager. According to tradition, the young emperor? biologicalmother, Concubine Yan, was made Empress Dowager Cixi, who lived in awestern chamber, so was habitually called West Empress Dowager. Butthe courtiers and maids and eunuchs addressed them as the MotherQueen Empress Dowager for East Empress Dowager and the Holy MotherEmpress Dowager for West Empress Dowager. The maids and the eunuchswould also call East Side for East Empress Dowager and West Side forWest Empress Dowager behind their backs.
    SinceEmperor Tongzhi was too young to make any decisions about the stateaffairs, there arose the problem: who would make the decisions forhim till he became of age? Different people had different opinions,of course. Some of the counselors, especially Sushun, the youngerbrother, thought that the counselors should make decisions for theyoung emperor since the late emperor had appointed them to help hisson to rule the empire. But the empress dowagers, especially WestEmpress Dowager, had the concept that they should make the decisionsfor him since they were his mothers. (By tradition, the queen wastreated as his mother, too.)
    BeforeEmperor Xianfeng died, there were two groups to assist him inhandling the state affairs: one headed by Sushun in the SummerPalace, the other headed by Yixin, the emperor's brother, in thecapital. Now after his demise, there appeared a third group in thispolitical game: the two empress dowagers, mainly West Side as she wascalled informally behind her back.
    Thelate emperor had made a vague decision on his deathbed that wheneverany written orders were to be issued in the name of the new emperor,the queen should use the seal he had given her at the beginning ofthe orders and Concubine Yan should use the other seal at the end. His purpose was to prevent the counselors from taking over the powerfrom his son, the young emperor.
    Asthis decision lacked detailed procedures, there was a dispute betweenthe two empress dowagers and the counselors. The counselors arguedthat as the emperor was too young to read, no more reports would beturned in. The counselors would read all the reports, make decisionsand send in the written orders for the two empress dowagers to usethe seals on them, and the empress dowagers could not make anychanges on the written orders. But the empress dowagers persistedthat they should read all the reports for the young emperor and ifthey didn't agree to any decision the counselors had made, they hadthe right to change it, or they wouldn't use the seals, which wouldmake the written orders invalid according to the arrangement of thelate emperor. What's the use of an invalid written order? Thecounselors had to give in. The empress dowagers won the first round.

  2. #52
    Chapter 12

    BeforeEmperor Xianfeng died, a rumor came to his ear that Yixin, his ownbrother, would usurp his throne. So when he was very sick and whenYixin sent in a written request for a visit to the emperor in theSummer Palace, he rebuffed him to come to see him, maybe for the lasttime. And in his appointment of the counselors, he didn't want toinclude Yixin for fear that his brother might do something harmful tohis son. Flesh and blood relationship holds nothing in politics,though blood always sheds for it.
    ButYixin didn't care about the rumor. Lettime tell everything. Sometimes, explanations will only go the opposite way. However, thecourtiers that remained in Peking were greatly dissatisfied about thelate emperor's second will. In their opinion, it was reasonable thatthe late emperor's brother should help his young nephew as acounselor. It was unbelievable, they thought, since the will had notbeen written in the late emperor's handwriting.

    * * *

  3. #53
    Sushunalways wanted to mint new heavy coins so that the inflation could beunder control. Now as Emperor Xianfeng died, he must discuss thematter with the empress dowagers. The counselors went to see theempress dowagers everyday to report and talk over the state affairs. When Sushun mentioned the mintage of the new coins, West EmpressDowager asked, “Is it so urgent? Can't it wait till we return tothe capital?”
    Yes,it's urgent if we want to control the inflation. If the inflationgets worse, the majority of the people will become dissatisfied withthe government and riots may occur, even in the capital.” Sushunreplied.
    Iknow we need copper to make coins. Do you have enough copper?queriedWest Empress Dowager.
    I”mgetting copper transported from Yunnan Province to the capital. Oncethe new coins get into circulation, the situation will be better.”
    WestEmpress Dowager looked sideways at East Empress Dowager and asked forher opinion. All the while, East Empress Dowager was whispering tothe young emperor, telling him to keep quiet. When asked, she justsaid, “I sounds good.” That meant that she had no objection. WestEmpress Dowager doubted if East Empress Dowager had heard what shehad been talking about with the counselors. But her asking for heropinion was just a formality. So Sushun got the green light for thatmatter.
    Theclerical officials in the Summer Palace were very careful to choosesides. Someone would choose to follow Sushun because he had power. Someone thought if Sushun was compared to a mountain, it was a sturdymountain on the surface. He was really like an ice mountain, whichwould thaw in no time. That was the opinion of Head ClericalOfficial Zao and quite a few of his colleagues agreed with him. Butmost clerical officials wanted to be onlookers, i.e., audience towatch the political opera in the real life and to see how it wouldend.

    * * *

  4. #54
    Whenthe sad news reached the capital that Emperor Xianfeng died, Yixinwanted to go to the Summer Palace to mourn in person before the lateemperor's coffin. This was a tradition, too.
    Justthen, suddenly came a secret written message from the two empressdowagers to summon Yixin to the Summer Palace. So Yixin sent in aformal report, demanding to go to the palace to mourn for his latebrother. The counselors could not say NO to this. Yixin began on histrip to the Summer Palace as the late emperor's brother, not as acourtier.
    TheSummer Palace was totally under Sushun's control. He even had spiesamong the eunuchs to eavesdrop what the empress dowagers would sayabout him. So it was not easy to send a secret letter to Yixin. Itwas said that one day Little An, the head eunuch of West EmpressDowager, had a quarrel with the head maid of East Empress Dowager. Little An cursed the head maid when they were bickering. The headmaid began to cry and went to complain to East Empress Dowager. AsLittle An was the head eunuch of West Empress Dowager, East EmpressDowager thought that it would be better to let West Empress Dowagerhandle it. So she told her head maid to complain to West EmpressDowager. Accordingly, the head maid went to West Empress Dowager,who sent for Little An immediately after she listened to thecomplaint. She decided that Little An was at fault. Then she sentfor the head eunuch of the Palace, who already knew the quarrel, butjust played dumb, because he didn't want to offend either side, one,the head maid of East Empress Dowager and the other, the head eunuchof West Empress Dowager, though he ranked higher than both of them.
    Whenhe came and kowtowed to West Empress Dowager, she said, “Little Analways annoys me. I don't want to see him here anymore.” The headeunuch of the Palace said, still on his knees, “I'll send him backto the Forbidden City.” West Empress Dowager nodded and added,“Give him twenty slaps before he leaves.” Little An, prostratingbefore West Empress Dowager, kowtowed, begging West Empress Dowagerto pardon him, but West Empress Dowager was firm this time.

  5. #55
    Thehead eunuch of the Palace took Little An to his place and told aeunuch to give twenty slaps on his face. Then he sent Little An onhis way back to the capital. A clerk and two soldiers escortedLittle An. When they arrived in the capital, the clerk droppedLittle An to the Royal Family Affairs Management. A petty official onduty there received them and gave a body receipt to the clerk, whoreturned to the Summer Palace with two soldiers. Then the pettyofficial registered Little An's name. When he was about to detainLittle An in a cell there for the night, Little An said, “Excuseme, Official. I have something very important to say.” The pettyofficial said, “All right. Say it to me.” Little An said, “Ican't say it to you.” The petty official was irritated and shouted,“Are you joking with me?” Little An said, “No. I'm not joking. Even if I tell you, you cannot do anything about it.” The pettyofficial asked, “Who do you want to speak to?” Little An replied,“I must speak to His Excellency Baojun.” (Baojun was one of thecourtiers in charge of the Royal Family Affairs Management.) Thepetty official knew that Little An had been the head eunuch of WestEmpress Dowager and he didn't want to offend him. So he sent somebodyto let Baojun know. After two hours, Little An was taken to Baojun'sresidence.
    AfterLittle An kowtowed to him, Baojun asked, “What do you want to tellme?” Little An replied “Here's a letter. Your Excellency'dbetter read it first.” He produced a letter from his inner pocket. It was a short letter from the two empress dowagers, just orderingYixin to go to the Summer Palace. Baojun realized the significanceof the letter. After he sent Little An back to the Forbidden City,he went to see Wenqiang first. Then they went together to see Yixin.
    Theyfigured that if they wanted to deprive Sushun of his power, they hadto ally with the empress dowagers. As Yixin hadn't been appointed acounselor, if he wanted to take over power from Sushun, he mustdenounce the counselor system, not just driving Sushun out of theSecretarial Bureau. If the counselor system was denounced, they hadto take to the empress dowager system. It was exactly the purpose ofthe empress dowagers when they sent Yixin this secret letter. Forbackup, they had a letter delivered to Commander Shengbao to tell himto bring his troops to the capital.

  6. #56
    Chapter 13

    Afterthe funeral, the two empress dowagers wanted to see Yixin, theirbrother-in-law. They had confidence that they could find an ally inhim, because he was unwilling to be excluded from power center theSecretarial Bureau. But they were afraid that Sushun might say thatyoung widows could not see young brother-in-law. That was also asocial tradition in old China. But before they received Yixin, WestEmpress Dowager wanted to make sure that no one would eavesdrop,because Sushun had some spies among the eunuchs. She sent somesuspicious eunuchs on some fool's errand to some places far enoughthat they couldn't get back in a couple of hours. Then they sent thehead eunuch of the palace to summon Yixin, telling him to use sometrick if necessary.
    Thehead eunuch waited outside the building till Yixin came out,accompanied by other courtiers, including Sushun. He rushed out toannounce formally that the empress dowagers summoned Yixin. To avoidthe suspicion of a conspiracy between the empress dowagers andhimself against Sushun, Yixin asked Sushun if he could see the lateemperor's widows. Sushun asked the head eunuch why the empressdowagers wanted to see Yixin. Having got the instruction, the headeunuch replied that the empress dowagers wanted to know how thingsstood in the Forbidden City and how all those left there had fared. It sounded like it was entirely a family concern. Since Sushun didn'tshow any opposition, Yixin went with the head eunuch to see theempress dowagers.
    Weshould have someone to accompany Prince Yixin to listen in so that wecan at least know exactly what they will talk about.” Tu Han saidafter Yixin and the head eunuch left.
    Youalways lock the door after the sheep is stolen. It's too late now.”Zaihuan criticized him. They could not send someone following them.

  7. #57
    Afterhe kowtowed to the two empress dowagers, Yixin was seated. Theempress dowagers wanted it to be looked like a family reunion. Itwas supposed that East Empress Dowager should begin the conversation,but she was not a talkative woman and didn't even know how to mentionthe important topic. So she began with:
    “Whendid you start from the capital?”
    “Earlyon the twenty-sixth of the seventh moon.”
    “Howlong did it take you to reach here?”
    “Fivewhole days.”
    “How'severything in the capital?”
    “Everything'sfine there. We are making all the preparations for the return ofEmpress Dowagers and Emperor.”
    “Ihope we will return before the end of this year.”
    “Itwill be too late. The earlier, the better.” He said in a seriouslow deep voice.
    “Betterafter everything's properly prepared. Can't have any oversight.”Cut in West Empress Dowager.
    “That'sfor sure. Can't afford anything going wrong.” Yixin agreed. “I'lltake care of all the preparations myself when I am back there.”
    “Good. I think next month is the earliest we can leave here.” said WestEmpress Dowager.
    “Thatsounds good.”
    “Whatare people saying about the late emperor's will in the capital” Shewanted to lead the conversation to more significant things.

  8. #58
    CanHoly Mother Empress Dowager be more specific?” He didn't want to beeasily led to where he already knew the conversation would go.
    Aboutthe counselor system?”
    “Wehad counselor system before.”
    “Doesit mean it's a life-long title?”
    “Ofcourse not. As soon as the emperor was grown up and took over thepower, there would be no need to have counselors any more. Besides,the emperor has the right to take back the title. But generally thesucceeding emperor won't do it, since the title was bestowed by thepreceding emperor, unless . . .”
    “Unlesswhat?” West Empress Dowager prodded eagerly.
    “Unlessthe counselors do something seriously wrong. But now, the emperorcan't denounce their titles, because the emperor's orders must gothrough their hands to be announced to the whole country. They won'tlet such an order go out of the palace. What's the use if no oneknows there is such an order?” It implicated that such an ordermust be issued through the hands of those other than the counselors.
    “Whatif we appoint you as a counselor?” asked West Empress Dowager.
    “Ibeg that Empress Dowagers will not do that.” Yixin said modestly.
    “Whynot?” wondered West Empress Dowager.
    “What'sthe use? They are eight and I am single.”
    Nouse indeed. A plan was fermented in the busy mind of West EmpressDowager.

  9. #59
    Althoughthey hated each other politically, Sushun and Yixin were polite toeach other socially. Sushun invited Yixin to his house for dinnerafter Yixin left the Summer Palace. Other counselors were there,too. A servant came in, carrying a small package. When Sushunopened it, everyone stared at the object inside in surprise. It wasa bright new coin, the sample one.
    “Whenwill you put it into circulation?” Yixin asked Sushun.
    Onthe new emperor's coronation day. The coronation would be held whenthe empress dowagers and the emperor returned to the capital.”
    Verygood. It seems that you want to return to Peking as early aspossible.” That's what Yixin wanted.
    Itdepends on you.” Observed Sushun.
    Whyme?” Yixin queried, baffled.
    Youare in charge there. When you finish preparations to receive theempress dowagers and the emperor, we'll come.” Sushun said with asmile. So, the man could smile, Yixin thought.
    Itwas late when Yixin went to his lodging place after the dinner. Hesent a servant to fetch Head Clerical Official Zao, who came in plainclothes and entered by a side door. They had a serious talk in aninnermost room. Yixin inquired, “What do the counselors think ofWest Empress Dowager?”
    “Theythink West Side is shrewd.” answered Zao.
    “Notonly shrewd, but she can also pretend ignorance and say things to putyou into a plight.”
    That'sa new insight into her character. But why do Prince (address Yixin)say that?” said Zao.
    Shewanted me in the Secretarial Bureau, working with the counselors.”
    That'salso a way out. If Prince heads the Secretarial Bureau, somecounselors will take Prince's side. If anyone disobeys, Prince cansqueeze him out of the Secretarial Bureau, though Prince can't takeaway his title of a counselor. If he's no longer in the SecretarialBureau, what can he do?” Zao offered his opinion.
    Thatmeans I'll have a hand-to-hand combat with Sushun. I'd like to solvethis problem when back to the capital.” Now Head Clerical OfficialZao knew that Prince Yixin intended to do away with the counselorsystem, not just to deprive the counselors of their power. It mustbring in the empress dowager system. When Yihuan came to see hisbrother Yixin, Zao took his leave. Yihuan was the seventh brother ofYixin.
    Ican't stand him any more.” cried Yihuan before he sat down. Hereferred to Sushun. Though twenty-two years old, he still behavedlike a teenager. “If you don't grow up, how can I trust you?”Yixin warned him, who blushed a little. “I won't say anythingbefore an outsider. Now it's only Sixth Brother and me.” Yixincould not but smile.

  10. #60
    Chapter 14

    Yixinand his followers had plotted against the counselors long before hecame to the Summer Palace, but it was too early to let the empressdowagers know, because women were generally known unable to keep asecret. It was a life and death secret, something like coupdetat.
    Hedidn't go to see the empress dowagers alone again during his stay inRehe, lest it should rouse the suspicion of the counselors. Thenecessary message between the empress dowagers and Yixin wasexchanged through his younger brother, Yihuan, who married theyounger sister of West Empress Dowager. It was natural for his wifeto visit her sister.
    Aftercertain arrangements were made, Yixin left the Summer Palace in hasteon September 16, for fear of being detained if the counselors smelleda rat. Besides, he had preparations to finish in the capital.
    Thedate was fixed for the young emperor and the empress dowagers toreturn to the capital. It was 26 of October. It was nearly a yearstaying here. Everyone was happy to go back home.
    Justat the joyous time, a letter came from Commander Shengbao to payrespects to the empress dowagers and the emperor. Such a thing hadnever happened before, because according to tradition, queens andempress dowagers could not have any contact with the outside world. Anyone working in the government could pay homage to the emperor viamail. That was normal. So this letter itself had a special meaningto deliver, which was to support the authority of the empressdowagers and deny that of the counselors. For the disagreementbetween the empress dowagers and the counselors had surely leaked outto those high-rank courtiers. Now the counselors, especially Sushun,had an uneasy feeling. They had to do something to rebuff it, torefute it; or if any other commanders or governors followed theexample, it would be a real challenge to their authorities ascounselors. One of the counselors drafted a reply. They went to seethe empress dowagers, taking the letter and the draft of reply. First, they reported that the government armies had taken AnqingCity, which had been occupied by the rebels. Then they had adiscussion about some government affairs. At last Zaihuan mentionedthe letter from Commander Shengbao and their reply, explaining thatsuch a letter was against the tradition. East Empress Dowager wassurprised to hear that they would actually criticize somebody whojust wanted to pay respects to the empress dowagers, but West EmpressDowager said, “Now that it's against the tradition, you cancriticize him.” So she printed her seal on the reply and so didEast Empress Dowager. Later she explained to East Empress Dowagerthat she wanted to add a little more gunpowder into the barrel, onwhich the counselors were sitting. Furthermore, from the informationexchange with Yixin through her sister, she knew Commander Shengbaowould soon send in a request to come to the Summer Palace to show hislast reverence in person to the late emperor before his coffin. Shereckoned that if she yielded this time, she could persist next timewhen they discussed his request.


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