EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI - Page 9
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  1. #81
    WestEmpress Dowager was very eager to get the empress dowager systemgoing, but it was unsuitable to urge Yixin. So she seized everyopportunity to bestow some favors on Yixin, like to double his Princesalary. Yixin took the hint and had a meeting with all the courtierswho were familiar with the empress dowager system in the previousdynasties. In reference to all the examples in the history, theydrafted some rules about this system and handed in for the empressdowagers to approve, West Empress Dowager was not satisfied with someof the items and sent it back for the courtiers to re-draft. So thedocument was like a ball kicked up and down for several times, tillat last West Empress Dowager felt contented.
    Theessential rules were that the empress dowagers could receive thegovernment officials and officers to discuss the state affairs inlieu of the emperor (The tradition was that the empress dowagerscould only see the male family members, not the male courtiers) andthat the empress dowagers decided on the appointments and removals,the promotions and demotions of all the government officials andofficers in behalf of the young emperor and that the empress dowagerscould issue orders in the name of the young emperor.
    AlthoughWest Empress Dowager had some experience to handle the reports, shethought it was not enough if she wanted to rule the countryindependently. So she had some scholars to compile a book, takingall the good ruling examples from the history for her reference. West Empress Dowager knew that there had been a real empress, thefirst and the last, and therefore the sole empress in the longhistory of China. She wanted to learn from her ruling experience. When the book was finished, she ordered the scholars to be in herpresence by turns to explain to her all the texts one by one. Theywere not her tutors, though they really gave her lessons.
    Anew secretarial bureau had been organized, headed by Yixin. Theemperor's coronation took place on November 11, and a ceremony forthe two empress dowagers to handle the state affairs took place onDecember 2. Every day after that, the young emperor sat on thethrone to hold court, with a desk before him. A screen, a framecovered with yellow gauze, stood behind the throne. The two empressdowagers sat behind the screen, vaguely seen through the gauze, likeflowers seen through mists, by two rows of courtiers standing infront of the emperor's desk, after the ritual of kowtows. Yixin, theyoung emperor's uncle, stood to the left of the desk.

  2. #82
    Ambitiouspeople always want to make things better whenever they have the powerfor the change. So did West Empress Dowager. Since a scholarcourtier had been giving her history lessons based on the book thecourtier had compiled, she had learned that most of the previousdynasties had crumbled owing to the corruptions of the officialdom.So she desired strongly to change it. She encouraged the critiqueofficials to reveal all the corruptions. Many such reports came toher notice. They all criticized Commander Shengbao, who was fightingnow in Anhui Province.
    CommanderShengbao was a man of self-importance and bad temper. The only one heesteemed and obeyed had been the late Emperor Xianfeng, who hadraised him to the present position. Now Emperor Xianfeng was dead. So no one alive was worthy of his homage and absolute obedience. Helooked upon the young emperor as a mere child. He looked upon theempress dowagers as useless women. He looked upon Yixin as the onewho needed his support. Without him, how could they have got theupper hand of Sushun and other counselors? He loved the quotationfrom the Art Of War written by Sunzi, an ancient strategist andcommander, which was “When a commander is away fighting, he canignore the king's orders.” The theory was based on that the kingwas far away from the battlefield and his orders were not practicaland fit for the situation.
    CommanderShengbao was deemed as a scholar-commander. He had passed thegovernment tests and had held some official positions before he hadbeen made a commander. So he despised his generals, some of themwere illiterate. He often chided them for no particular reasons. Ifany general offended him, he would have him beaten publicly. Hespent money freely. So he had to accept bribery. He always hadwomen with him wherever he went with his troops. This was reallyagainst the military law. He didn't care about law. Law was notmade for the individuals like him. Whenever he saw a beautiful womanon the way of his march, he just ordered his bodyguards to take heralong despite the family's protestation.
    Theempress dowagers and Yixin were always lenient to him because of hissupport in their contention with Sushun. But the last straw came andmade the situation unbearable. There lived a landlord by the name ofMiao Peiling, who recruited and trained an army of his own, in 1856,to defend his homeland against the Nian Army. In 1857 when CommanderShengbao was sent to fight with the Nian Army in Anhui Province, Miaohad already won a reputation of bravery in combat. CommanderShengbao liked such persons and sent someone to persuade Miao to jointhe government army. He enticed Miao with the title of a general. So Miao accepted and brought his army to where Commander Shengbaocamped.

  3. #83
    In1860 when the foreign troops approached Peking, Commander Shengbaowas summoned there to defend the capital. He wanted Miao to go withhim, but Miao had his own plan and refused to go north with CommanderShengbao. It was because Miao looked at the situation in a wronglight and thought that Qing government would soon be overthrown. Hewished to be a warlord, having a stretch of land of his own to ruleindependently. In April of 1861, Miao began to fight openly againstthe government. In August of the same year, he took a city from thegovernment army. He sent someone to contact the Peaceful Army andinvited the Shrewdness King to come north to form an alliance. InFebruary, 1862, Shrewdness King sent a detachment north. Leader Zhangof the Nian Army joined them and the three of them attacked a townunder the government control. Qing government ordered CommanderShengbao to the rescue because Miao had been under him before hisbetrayal. Commander Chengbao wrote a letter to Miao, promising therestoration of his former title and rights if he could turn over tothe side of the government. All that time, Younger Zeng had beatenShrewdness King and occupied Anqing City. Miao thought that thePeaceful Army would soon be annihilated and Qing government was safenow. So he came to join Commander Shengbao again. CommanderShengbao kept his promise and handed in a report for that matter, butWest Empress Dowager rejected to give his former title back to himbecause of his betrayal.
    ShrewdnessKing escaped and wanted to traverse the area controlled by Miao. Miao lured Shrewdness King to his camping place and detained him ashis captive. Miao gave his captive to Commander Shengbao, whoreported to West Empress Dowager and asked to escort the captive tothe capital himself, but West Empress Dowager said NO and ordered himto execute the captive immediately, which he did accordingly. ThenCommander Shengbao had the conception that Miao should be rewardedfor the capture of Shrewdness King, one of the two powerful kings ofthe Peaceful Army at the time. The most suitable reward, in hisopinion, was to give his title back. So he wrote a report to thateffect. Then a reply came, saying that Miao was pardoned for hisbetrayal, but the capture of Shrewdness King was not enough and if hecould wipe out Leader Zhang of the Nian Army, he could get back histitle. Commander Shengbao felt like he couldn't keep his promise andwas persistent by writing more than one reports, but all in vain.

  4. #84
    ElderZeng governed four provinces, including Anhui Province. He didn'tlike to have Commander Shengbao to stay in his governing area. AndShengbao, though a commander, had no province of his own to govern. He stayed there like a quest to assist the host to fight the rebels.He wrote to ask West Empress Dowager to make him the governor ofAnhui Province. West Empress Dowager began to dislike him for hisdisgustingly domineering attitude, and trusted him no more owing tohis relationship with Miao, who was fickle and easy to change sides. She gave the post to one of Elder Zeng's commanders and orderedCommander Shengbao to move his army to Shanxi Province to fight theHui Clan rebels. At first Commander Shengbao declined with a lameexcuse and suggested another commander to go instead, but at theinsistence of West Empress Dowager, he had to leave Anhui Provincefor Shanxi Province in August, 1862. In September, he was repulsedby the rebels. He thereby summoned Miao to Shanxi Province to helphim without even writing a report for the permission. West EmpressDowager and Yixin were shocked to find this and ordered othergovernment troops to encircle Miao's army. They feared that if Miaowould betray again and ally with Hui Clan rebels, the situation therewould be critical.
    WestEmpress Dowager and Yixin wanted to deprive Shengbao of the power tocommand any troops. Shengbao was offered the position of MilitaryMinister, or if he loved money, he could be the head of the RoyalFamily Affairs Management, where there were a lot of chances to getmoney. They wanted him in the capital for fear that he might rebel,too. Nevertheless, Shengbao rebuffed either offer. He mistook itfor the ruse to allure him into the capital and kill him. Now he gothimself into the dead end. No one could save him.

  5. #85
    OnJanuary 22, 1863, an order was secretly dispatched to have Shengbaotaken under custody and escorted to the capital. The difficult taskwas given to a general in his area. If he did it improperly,Shengbao might actually rebel. The general moved his troops as if hewas to assault the Hui Clan rebels. All of a sudden, he closed onShengbao and surrounded his residence at night when Shengbao wasstill asleep with one of his women. As the order in the emperor'sname was read to him to remove him from his post and put him underarrest, he was frustrated like a balloon leaking. He was accused ofthe following crimes:

    1. ) Took women with him against the military law.
    2. ) Embezzled the money supposed to use for military purposes.
    3. ) Kept the wife of Shrewdness King as his concubine while she should be delivered to the government as the family member of the rebel leader.
    4. ) Took bribery from the two brothers of Shrewdness King and hid them in his army while they should be delivered to the government for execution.

    WhenShengbao was arrested, most of his women deserted him and ran awaywith their own belongings. The wife of Shrewdness King remainedbecause she had nowhere to go. Shengbao was not in irons andfetters. He was carried in a palanquin just like he were still thecommander. An officer and two hundred soldiers escorted him. Thegroup proceeded very slowly. One night when they lodged in a desertedhouse in a small village, suddenly came a regiment of infantry. Theytook all the luggage belonging to Shengbao and the wife of ShrewdnessKing. Some infantrymen were recognized. Another general who hatedShengbao sent them. Shengbao was very angry. He refused to gofurther and wanted his things back. He wrote a letter to the newcommander who had been the general arresting him and was nowcommanding his army. So the commander ordered the general to returnShengbao's things. Shengbao got back his luggage, but not the wifeof Shrewdness King. The general sent these words to Shengbao, “Sinceshe was the wife of a rebel leader, I must deliver her to thegovernment.” Actually he hid her in his backroom as his ownconcubine, because the wife was so beautiful that no man would resistthe charm of her beauty.

  6. #86
    Thegroup reached the capital on March 23 without any further disturbanceon the way. The officer escorted Shengbao directly to the imperialprison, where only high-rank courtiers were privileged to be held. Shengbao was put in a room, not in a cell. A former private adviserof his came to see him and solaced him. His
    formeradviser, Cai by name, promised to do his best to help him with hiscase as the adviser was now a critique
    official. He had got this position through bribery. But before he could doanything, a report came from a general called Li. General Li hadoriginally been with the Nian Army and later had joined the PeacefulArmy under Shrewdness King. He had occupied an important townconnecting the part of the Peaceful Army north of the town and thepart of the Peaceful Army south of the town. The messages passedbetween the two parts must be through his area. Somehow, ShrewdnessKing had held him in scorn and hadn't trusted him. No trust is alwaysdangerous in politics. General Li had feared for his life. CommanderShengbao had learned his situation and persuaded him to turn over tothe government. He had been given the title of a general as areward. Since he had worked for the government, he had cut off theconnection between the two parts of the Peaceful Army. It meant alot to the war. He had always been grateful to Commander Shengbao,especially now as the cause of the Peaceful Army was sliding down theslope. He suggested in his report that he was willing to give up histitle of generalship for the pardon of Shengbao. This was reallyridiculous. But Yixin was afraid that if the government gave him aflat refusal, he might turn back to the Peaceful Army or the NianArmy. This would make a big difference in the war since he wascontrolling a geographically significant area. After a meeting amongthe secretaries, they determined to put his request in suspension forthe time being and wrote a letter to Elder Zeng. The letter advisedhim to make necessary preparations if General Li would betray thegovernment.
    (Muchlater, General Li had a dispute with General Chen. As General Chenwas the favorite general of Prince Yihuan, he always got the upperhand of General Li, who was angry for the unfairness and wanted torevolt. He had a secret plan, but it leaked out. The governor ofAnhui Province knew it. He invited General Li to his place for dinnerand detained him and killed him in his back garden. Then he sentmoney to his family to assuage them. The troops of General Lidispersed. The family of the late General Li was happy and satisfiedwith the treatment, because if General Li had openly rebelled thewhole family would have been executed.)

  7. #87
    CritiqueOfficial Cai was as sly as a fox. If he couldn't be sure of theresult, he wouldn't take the action. He was in no way to know theattitude of West Empress Dowager towards Shengbao. But he hadpromised and so he must do something to keep his promise if he wantedto build up his good fame. He went to see another critique official,whose brother had also been a former private adviser of Shengbao. Heconvinced that critique official to write a report to plead forShengbao. At first Yixin had wished to spare Shengbao's life. So hehad played dumb as if he had forgotten Shengbao's case. When the tworeports came, he could no longer play dumb. He had to assign PrimeMinister Zhou and Secretary Li to judge the case. They interrogatedShengbao and he pleaded for himself that he had done nothing wrong. He said, ?f I did so many things wrong, why not arrest meearlier?What a reason. But they took time to cross-question him itemby item until General Li was talked into submission and withdrew hisrequest. Then the critique official who had pleaded for Shengbao wasremoved from his office while his report was refuted.

  8. #88
    IfShengbao had begged for life, he might have been pardoned, since hisproblem was different from that of Sushun. However, he insulted thetwo judges by saying nasty things about them to their face. WhenPrime Minister Zhou asked him if he had taken women against theirwill, he shouted that he had also raped many women, including thefemale household of Prime Minister Zhou, because Shengbao had passedZhou's home town on his march to the war zone. In a matter of fact,Shengbao hadn't done such a thing. The reason for him to say so wasthat when Sushun had been in power, he had often bullied Zhou, whohad then been a minister. Zhou hadn't even dared to complain. Thedeath of Sushun had been achieved only under the support of Shengbao. If without Shengbao, how could Zhou become a prime minister? In hisopinion, Prime Minister Zhou should be grateful to him. How could hecome to judge him? So he said it just to vent his own anger, but itwas really against the moral standard of that time so that even Yixinwas disgusted. His behavior in the whole process of the questioningshowed that he didn't even regret for all the wrong things he haddone. If they let him live, he would still be a pest to thegovernment. Besides, West Empress Dowager persisted in death penalty. So he was sentenced to death by hanging himself. They didn't dareto execute him in public like Sushun for fear that he would cry outsome palace secrets before his head fell off.
    Thereasons for West Empress Dowager to put Shengbao to death were: (1)She couldn't stand anyone to disobey her; (2) Since she haddisagreement with Yixin, she wished to remove Yixin from office at aproper time so that she could do everything her way. She feared thatYixin and Shengbao would unite against her like she and Yixin haddone against Sushun. She wanted to get rid of a potential ally ofYixin; (3) She was afraid that Shengbao might reveal some secrets inher contention with Sushun or say things disrespectful about her.

  9. #89
    Chapter 19


    SinceConcubine Dowager Li had a daughter, West Empress Dowager would liketo have a daughter of her own, but she could never give birth to adaughter now as her emperor husband had died. Prince Yixin had adaughter, very clever and demure, one year older than the daughter ofConcubine Dowager Li and two years older than the young emperor, herson. It seemed that she was endowed with an ability of repartee. Ifshe said something, no one could contradict her. She always had afull reason, a logical reason, for whatever she said. West EmpressDowager had seen her more than once when she had come into theForbidden City with her mother on some occasions like the empressdowagers gave a feast for birthdays or festivals.
    WestEmpress Dowager wanted to adopt her as her daughter. It was really afriendly gesture. But Yixin didn't like it, because he would losethe only daughter he had. He might not bear another daughter. Besides, when his daughter was made a princess, who would kowtow towhom when they met? A problem of the ritual. But he could notrefuse the good wish of West Empress Dowager.
    His daughter went to live in the Forbidden City. Everyone therecalled her Big Princess, because she was the oldest among the threechildren, the emperor, the daughter of Concubine Dowager Li and her. The young emperor loved to tease the daughter of Concubine DowagerLi, but he never teased Big Princess. He respected her and alwayslistened to her.

  10. #90
    Onceafter they watched operas, West Empress Dowager asked Big Princess ifshe liked these operas. She replied, “I don't know how they acted,good or bad, but I don't like these operas.”
    WestEmpress Dowager was surprised to hear it. She said, “I saw yousitting there attentively. If you didn't like them, you weresupposed to look fidgety.”
    Butwhat she said next was more surprising for a young girl. “Howcould I sit there looking fidgety, when I accompanied EmpressDowagers watching operas?”
    Itmade West Empress Dowager feel herself ridiculous with what she hadsaid. As an adult, she should know the ritual better than the younggirl. But she was not angry with her. She could never be angry withher for such a nice clever young girl.
    WhenBig Princess reached the age of thirteen, West Empress Dowager wantedto find a husband for her. As her wish was known, many courtierswanted to marry their sons to Big Princess. It was not only becauseBig Princess was wise and demure, but also because the marriage tieto West Empress Dowager would greatly help the father in his officialcareer. Someone went to see Yihuan, the uncle of Big Princess, andexpressed his desire to have his son as the royal son-in-law. Hehoped that Yihuan could help him since he worked for Yihuan andalways loyal to him. Yihuan asked his wife, the sister of WestEmpress Dowager, to visit her sister in the Forbidden City and be amatchmaker. West Empress Dowager was discreet in choosing a husbandfor her daughter. She said to her sister, “I must look at the boyfirst before I can make up my mind.”

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