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Tz'u Hsi

Tz'u Hsi,  Tsu Hsi,  Tse Hsi, or Cixi (all: tsŏ shē) [key], 1834–1908, dowager empress of China (1861–1908) and regent (1861–73, 1874–89, 1898–1908). Her failure to realize the gravity of the foreign threat to China kept her from wholeheartedly supporting modernization, thus driving reformers into opposition to the Ch'ing dynasty. Taken to the Forbidden City in 1852, she was a consort of Emperor Hsien Feng (d. 1861) and bore his successor, T'ung Chih. On her child's death (1875) she named her infant nephew Kuang-hsu to the throne, although he was not in the direct line of succession. In 1898 she resumed the regency after Kuang-hsu attempted to institute political reforms against her wishes, and thereafter she ruled directly. She resisted foreign encroachment by encouraging the unsuccessful Boxer Uprising (1898–1900). In her last years Tz'u Hsi abandoned her conservatism to some extent and consented to several modernizing measures; schools were established, the traditional civil service examinations were discontinued, the army was reorganized by Yüan Shih-kai, railroad building was encouraged, and opium cultivation was suppressed. Her last official act was the appointment of Pu Yi, a remote claimant, as emperor.

See biographies by Princess Der Ling (1929), C. Haldane (1965), M. Warner (1972), and J. Chang (2013).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Chinese, Taiwanese, and Mongolian History: Biographies

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