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Thread: EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI

  1. #61
    Justas everyone was getting prepared on a return journey, a report ofsuggestion written by Critique Official Dong came from the capital onSeptember 12, which was like a stone thrown into the alreadyundulating lake, causing not ripples, but a big wave. The reportsaid that since the emperor was so young and couldn't handle thestate affairs, the two empress dowagers should sit behind a screen atthe back of the throne, holding court in behalf of the young emperor. The suggestion was just what West Empress Dowager wanted. It wasanother political system, the empress dowager system, for the empressdowagers to take over power from the counselors. In the wholeChinese history, this system for an empress dowager to handle stateaffairs had existed in other dynasties before, but not in QingDynasty ever since. But West Empress Dowager felt that it was notthe ripe time to suggest such a thing, like food undercooked. So sheshowed it to East Empress Dowager and they decided to keep the reportfor the time being.
    Theusual procedures were that all the reports must be registered by theSecretarial Bureau, then sent in through the Internal Registrarsituated at the palace gate to the emperor, now to the two empressdowagers. After reading, the emperor, now the two empress dowagers,would make marks on the reports that needed a reply or a decision. The different marks showed different meanings like known, agree, etc. Then all the reports would be returned to the Secretarial Bureau,who would draft written replies or decisions in the emperor's nameaccording to the meanings of the marks on the reports. If they haddifferent opinions, they could send in their own reports. Otherwise,they sent in the drafts for the emperor to approve, now for theempress dowagers to use seals on them. The drafts, once back to theSecretarial Bureau, if there were corrections, must be rewritten andthen sent back to where the reports came. Occasionally the emperor,now the empress dowagers, would keep an awkward report and never giveit back to the Secretarial Bureau. It was called Flooded Over likesomething submerged under water and seemed having never existed. Itwould save further troubles.
    Thatday, all the reports, except one, were returned to the SecretarialBureau. When the counselors found from the registration that onereport was missing, they sent a royal servant to the InternalRegistrar to inquire about the missing report, which was unnecessarybecause they should know that it was kept by the empress dowagers. The registrar sent in someone to ask the empress dowagers and afteracquiring the answer he told the servant that West Empress Dowagerkept it. The servant brought back the message.
    Whenthe counselors got the answer, Zaihuan, one of the three chiefcounselors, cried in wrath, “If reports are not given back, whatshould we work on?”
    “Thatreport must be given back to us.” said Tu Han, one of thecounselors. Then he ordered the servant to go to the InternalRegistrar to ask for the report back.

  2. #62
    Whenthe two empress dowagers knew that they could not keep the report anylonger, they got together to discuss how to deal with the counselors. In normal situations no courtier dared to do such a thing unless hewanted to be punished or even beheaded, depending on the emperor'smood at that time. But the counselors were now in charge of theemperor's bodyguards, which made them bold enough to challenge theempress dowagers.
    Thetwo empress dowagers were in a dilemma. They knew that thecounselors were in charge of the armed men and might do somethingdesperate if they were forced too hard. But if the empress dowagersyielded too easily, they would take an ell when getting an inch.
    EastEmpress Dowager maintained that they should not get into a hotdispute with the counselors, but West Empress Dowager thought thatthey should do to the counselors as the dignity of the empressdowagers required. Anyway, they decided that they had to face thecounselors next day.
    Whenthey discussed important things with the counselors, the youngemperor was always present to show that they spoke only in hisbehalf. So was that day.
    Afterconsideration,West Empress Dowager began, “We decide that we agreeto the report. So draft a written reply.”
    “Empressdowagers cannot do that.” Zaihuan protested.
    “Whynot?”
    Sushunthought it was not easy to explain it. He was struck with an idea.He said, “We will discuss it and send in a draft of a written replytomorrow.” Thus saying, they retired from the presence of the twoempress dowagers and the young emperor.
    Whenthe counselors were back in their resting room, they got angry. Theysuspected that it was the result of the meeting between the empressdowagers and Yixin.
    Duanhua,one of the chief counselors, said, “If we don't contradict it, suchreports will come in over and over again.”
    Right.”Zaihuan remarked, “We must contradict it severely.”
    Theydrafted a written reply in the name of the young emperor, saying thatit was against the tradition of Qing Dynasty to have the empressdowagers hiding behind a screen, handling the state affairs and thatthe courtiers should never suggest such a thing.
    Itis the same that a political group can always find reasons to statewhy they should do such a thing or why the other group should not dosuch a thing.
    Thereport of suggestion was lying before them now. The reason of thesuggestion was: “We are now in an unusual time and in an unusualsituation, which requires us to take unusual steps.”

  3. #63
    Chapter 15


    Whenthe written reply was sent in, West Empress Dowager read it first. AsEast Empress Dowager had no ambition and was a happy-go-luckygood-for-nothing, she let West Empress Dowager handle all the stateaffairs. Only for important things, West Empress Dowager went toseek her consultation.
    Nowafter she read only the first few sentences, West Empress Dowagerflared up. When she finished, she took the written reply to thechamber of East Empress Dowager.
    “Theywant to rebel.” She yelled while handing the written reply to EastEmpress Dowager.
    “Whatdo you mean?”
    “Thatthey wrote here is totally different from what we wanted them towrite yesterday.” If anything a courtier did was against the wishof the emperor, now against the wish of the empress dowagers, it wasdeemed as rebellion or betrayal. The result could be execution.
    “Calmdown first.” warned East Empress Dowager, “We don't want them toactually rebel.”
    “Iknow, but we can't let them have their way over ours, or they willtread on our heads before long.” West Empress Dowager complained.
    “We'dbetter deal with them when we return to the capital. We'll haveYixin's support then.”
    “Butwhat should we do with this written reply now?” After a while,seeing that East Empress Dowager said nothing, she continued, “Atleast we should ask them why they wrote the reply like this and seewhat they'll have to say.”
    EastEmpress Dowager acquiesced.
    OnSeptember 15, the counselors were summoned to their presence. Theempress dowagers received them in the main room of their building. Everyone seemed a bit nervous except the young emperor, who hid inthe arms of East Empress Dowager. They all knew that a conflict ofwords could not be avoided since their views were so far apart andtheir personal interests were almost opposite.
    “Whowrote this reply?” West Empress Dowager asked sternly.
    “Theresult of our discussion.” answered Zaihuan.
    “Doyou know that this reply should be the emperor's opinion?”
    “Yes.”Tu Han cut in, “But since the emperor is so young, the late emperorappointed us to handle things.”
    “Butit's written in the emperor's name. How can the emperor oppose hisown mothers?”
    “Wedidn't write such things. We only contradict Critique Official Dong,who sent in this report.” Said Zaihuan.
    “Whyis what he said in his report wrong?”
    “It'salready refuted in the written reply.” Sushun said, “EmpressDowagers can read it for yourselves.”
    Thatwas not suitable for a courtier to say to the empress dowagers. Buthe had said it. He spoke so loudly that the young emperor wasfrightened and turned to hide his face in the bosom of East EmpressDowager.
    “Cana courtier express his opinion to the emperor?” asked West EmpressDowager.
    “No,he can't, since the counselors will take care of things one by one inproper order.” said Sushun stubbornly.

  4. #64
    It'sreally not necessary for the empress dowagers to read reports.” Hesaid aloud.
    Theface of East Empress Dowager became pale and the face of West EmpressDowager became red.
    “Here'sthe emperor. Can he read the reports? If he can't, who can act forhim, if not his mothers?” The voice of West Empress Dowager grew abit higher, too.
    “Whydid the late emperor appoint us as counselors?” said Sushun.
    ButWest Empress Dowager went on, ?ow in the emperor's name, I order youto rewrite the reply.”
    “Accordingto our tradition, Empress Dowagers can only look after the youngemperor, but can't interfere in the state affairs.”
    “Doyou want to resist the emperor's order?” She slapped on the table.
    “Weare not resisting any orders from the emperor, but Empress Dowagersmust abide by the tradition.” said Tu Han.
    Theysounded like quarreling and the voices were escalating. The youngemperor was so terrified that he began to cry out and wetted hispants, and also wetted the clothes of East Empress Dowager as heclung to her so closely. The cry of the young emperor interrupted thebrawling. The counselors felt awkward and retreated silently to theirresting room.


    * * *


    Sushunasked his elder brother Duanhua and his nephew Zaihuan, who wasreally older than the brothers, to have dinner at his house. Theywanted to have a discussion about what to do to deal with thesituation. They talked while eating.
    “Ifshe wants to be in charge, good, let her take the rein. But if thehorse has no legs, where can she go?Duanhua blurted after downing acup of wine.
    Itwas their strategy. They were on strike. If no one worked for theemperor, hence for the empress dowagers, how could their orders goout of the palace and be carried out?


    * * *

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