Home > Explore > Timeline of the Ming & Qing Palace Events

Timeline of the Ming & Qing Palace Events

Introductory Matters
In this imperial chronology, each year is listed according to the Chinese lunar calendar with traditional notations for each year (e.g., jiashen) followed by the internationally recognized Gregorian calendar year (e.g., 1644) that approximately corresponds to the given lunar year. Information on the imperial reign is listed with each calendar year. Specific events are listed after a title denoting the lunar month (e.g., 1st Month) in which they occurred.
  Ages of historical figures are given as traditionally calculated by the Chinese lunar calendar. This traditional way of counting a person's age uses the word sui (year of age). The word conveys how many lunar years—even if only for a few days or months—an individual has experienced in life. 
  Chinese names are shown in the conventional Chinese order with the surname (family name) followed by the given name. When possible, Manchu names are rendered according to the Möllendorff system of transliteration (Romanization). If the original Manchu name is unknown, the name is shown with a hyphenated version of the transliterated Chinese name. Some Jurchen and Manchu figures are more commonly known by their Chinese names; in those cases, the Chinese name is used. Official titles and imperial institutions are rendered according to Charles O. Hucker's A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford, 1985) when possible.

The Reign of the Guangxu Emperor (approx. 1875-1908)

Yihai Year (approx. 1875)
Guangxu Reign, 1st Year

1st Month:
The Guangxu Emperor ascends the throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian).

2nd Month:
Empress Jiashun dies.
After the death of British diplomat Augustus Raymond Margary in Yunnan, Britain increases its influence in China’s southwest region, including Yunnan and Tibet. Facilitated by the Margary affair, the Qing government is coerced by Britain to sign the Yantai Treaty (also known as the Chefoo Convention).

9th Month:
The late Tongzhi Emperor and Empress Jiashun are temporarily situated in the Longfu Temple. The construction project for the imperial Hui Tomb among the Eastern Qing Tombs is inspected.

12th Month:
The Prince of Chun, Yixuan, is ordered to attend to the education of the Guangxu Emperor in the Palace of Nurturing Joy (Yuqing gong), with Academician of the Grand Secretariat Weng Tonghe and Vice Minister Xia Tongshan as instructors, and the grand ministers in attendance teaching Manchu and Mongolian languages, as well as horseback riding, and archery.
This year, Zuo Zongtang supervises the military operation in Xinjiang against Muhammad Yaqub. The campaign successfully recovers northern and southern Xinjiang.

Bingzi Year (approx. 1876)
Guangxu Reign, 2nd Year
4th Month:

The Guangxu Emperor begins his education in the Palace for Nurturing Joy (Yuqing gong).

Dingchou Year (approx. 1877)
Guangxu Reign, 3rd Year

3rd Month:
Since the late Tongzhi Emperor and Empress Jiashun are yet to be buried, the ceremony and feast for honoring foreign guests are postponed.

Wuyin Year (approx. 1878)
Guangxu Reign, 4th Year

6th Month:
Li Hongzhang founds the Kaiping Mining Administration (Kaiping kuangwu ju) in Kaiping (in today’s Tangshan, Hebei Province).

Jimao Year (approx. 1879)
Guangxu Reign, 5th Year

3rd Month:
The late Tongzhi Emperor and the Empress are buried in the Hui Tomb among the Eastern Qing Tombs.

3rd Month (Intercalary):
Secretary of the Ministry of Personnel Wu Kedu commits suicide at the Eastern Qing Tombs. He leaves behind a memorial calling for the appointment of a lawful heir for the late Tongzhi Emperor.

4th Month:
Since an earlier edict had addressed the issue that he raised, Wu Kedu is merely granted a proper funeral for a minister.
Construction on China’s first independent railway begins at Xugezhuang village in Tangshan for transporting coal.

6th Month:
Per the joint edict by the two empresses dowager, the Prince of Chun is approved to to rest and convalesce at home. He is discharged.

Xinsi Year (approx. 1881)
Guangxu Reign, 7th Year

3rd Month:
Empress Dowager Cian dies in the Palace of Accumulated Purity (Zhongcui gong) and receives the posthumous title Xiaozhen (lit. “filial piety and loyalty”).

9th Month:
The late Empress Dowager Cian is entombed in the Eastern Ding Tombs, a subset of the Eastern Qing Tombs.

Renwu Year (approx. 1882)
Guangxu Reign, 8th Year

6th Month:
Reader-in-waiting Wen Shaotang of the Hanlin Academy submits a memorial urging Empress Dowager Cixi to make greater endeavors in managing state affairs. He is answered with an edict reprimanding him for disregarding the empress dowager’s illness.
The Guangxu Emperor orders a reorganization of the Eight Banners' school.

Kuiwei Year (approx. 1883)
Guangxu Reign, 9th Year

5th Month:
The French army attacked the Paper Bridge near Hanoi, Vietnam, The Sino-French War begins.

Jiashen Year (approx. 1884)
Guangxu Reign, 10th Year

3rd Month:
The Prince of Gong, Yixin, is removed from his post as the grand minister of state, on the grounds of idleness and procrastination. After his removal, he convalesces at home.

8th Month:
The French Navy attacks the Foochow Navy Yard in Fujian Province. The Chinese Fujian fleet engages the French in the Battle of Fuzhou.

Yiyou Year (approx. 1885)
Guangxu Reign, 11th Year

2nd Month:
The Sino-French War ends.

5th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi orders the renovation of the Three Lakes (collective name of North Lake, Bei hai; Middle Lake, Zhong hai; and South Lake, Nan hai located west of the imperial palace) as her retirement garden.

9th Month:
The Prefecture of Taiwan is redesignated as Taiwan Province. Liu Mingchuan is appointed as the provincial governor. The Prince of Chun, Yixuan, is ordered to serve as the principal minister of the new Office of Naval Affairs.

10th Month:
Fifty thousand taels are allotted from the imperial festival fund for relief to the disaster-stricken population in Shandong Province.

Bingxu Year (approx. 1886)
Guangxu Reign, 12th Year

6th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi orders the Directorate of Astronomy to select a day in the first month of the upcoming year on which the Guangxu Emperor will begin to manage state affairs. The Prince of Chun and others submit a memorial to Empress Dowager Cixi asking her to continue his tutelage, but the request is declined. The chosen date is the fifteenth day on the first month of the upcoming year. When the Prince of Chun and other key leaders make the same request once more, Empress Dowager Cixi agrees and orders the prince to continue to manage affairs.

Dinghai Year (approx. 1887)
Guangxu Reign, 13th Year

1st Month:
Upon coming of age, the Guangxu Emperor begins to personally manage state affairs.

2nd Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi grants the Prince of Chun the hereditary rights to the title of imperial prince for the eldest male descendants of successive generations. She also orders that the Prince of Chun should be consulted on state affairs.

Wuzi Year (approx. 1888)
Guangxu Reign, 14th Year

2nd Month:
The Garden of Clear Ripples (Qingyi yuan) is renamed the Garden of Nurtured Harmony (Yihe yuan, now called the Summer Palace). The garden complex is ordered to be repaired in preparation for the empress dowager's arrival.

6th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi orders that the wedding ceremony of the Guangxu Emperor be held in the first month of the coming year. She will then hand over state power to him on the third day of the second month.

10th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi orders to designate Lady Yehe Nara, the daughter of Commander-in-chief Guixiang, as empress and the two daughters of Vice Minister Zhangxu of the Tatara clan as Concubine Jin and Concubine Zhen (both imperial concubines of the fourth rank, pin).

Yichou Year (approx. 1889)
Guangxu Reign, 15th Year

1st Month:
The grand wedding ceremony is held for the Guangxu Emperor.

2nd Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi hands over state power to the Guangxu Emperor.

3rd Month:
At the order of Empress Dowager Cixi, the Guangxu Emperor visits the Garden of Preserving Harmony (Yihe yuan) to inspect naval and ground-troop exercises.

Gengyin Year (approx. 1890)
Guangxu Reign, 16th Year

11th Month:
The Prince of Chun, Yixuan, the biological father of the Guangxu Emperor, dies, and the court is suspended for seven days. According to the wishes of the empress dowager, the Guangxu Emperor beholds his father's encoffining ceremony at his residence. Zaifeng, the son of Yixuan, inherits the title of the Prince of Chun.

Xinmao Year (approx. 1890)
Guangxu Reign, 17th Year

4th Month:
The renovations of the Garden of Nurtured Harmony (Yihe yuan, the Summer Palace) are complete.

Renchen Year (approx. 1892)
Guangxu Reign, 18th Year

12th Month:
In preparation for the sixtieth birthday (in sui) of Empress Dowager Cixi, the grand ministers and princes meet with the Imperial Household Department and Ministries of Revenue, Rites, and Works. They undertake a comprehensive study on ancient rituals and ceremonies and discuss what befits the occasion. An office is established to administrate affairs related to the ceremony.

Kuisi Year (approx. 1893)
Guangxu Reign, 19th Year

6th Month:
Officials in Zhili (present-day Hebei Province) are ordered to recommend to the Imperial Household Department experts versed in astrology, medicine, divination, mathematics, and geomancy.

Jiawu Year (approx. 1894)
Guangxu Reign, 20th Year

1st Month:
On the occasion of her sixtieth birthday (according to sui), Empress Dowager Cixi orders honorific noble titles for imperial consorts and concubines.

7th Month:
The Japanese fleet attacks Chinese naval vessels in the Battle of Pungdo (also known as Fengdao), marking the eruption of the First Sino-Japanese War.

9th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi orders Yixin, the Prince of Gong, to manage the Foreign Office and the Navy Office in the inner court and administrate military affairs. The Chinese Beiyang Fleet suffers great losses in the Battle of Yalu River against the Imperial Japanese Navy.

10th Month:
For Empress Dowager Cixi’s sixtieth birthday (in sui), foreign envoys present letters of credence in the Hall of Literary Brilliance and celebrate the empress dowager's longevity.
Sun Yat-sen founds the Society for Reviving China (Xingzhong hui) in Honolulu. Purposing to “expel the Tartars, restore China (Zhonghua), and establish a united government”, the society is considered to be the first bourgeois revolutionary group of China.

12th Month:
The Chinese Beiyang Fleet is almost annihilated in the Battle of Weihaiwei against the Japanese navy.
This year, Yuan Shikai begins to train the New Army according to German military disciplines in Xiaozhan, Tianjin.

Yiwei Year (approx. 1895)
Guangxu Reign, 21st Year

3rd Month:
The Qing official Li Hongzhang signs the Treaty of Shimonoseki with Japan.

4th Month:
Kang Youwei unites more than 1,300 candidates for imperial examination in Beijing and urges the Censorate to move the capital, institute legal reforms, and revoke the Treaty of Shimonoseki. This movement is later known as the Provincial Graduates Memorial (Gongche shangshu).

6th Month:
Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao establish the Society for the Study of Self-Strengthening (Qiangxue hui) in Beijing.

10th Month:
Russia, Germany, and France intervene in treaty negotiations between China and Japan, forcing the latter to retract the demand for the Liaodong Peninsula.

Bingshen Year (approx. 1896)
Guangxu Reign, 22nd Year

4th Month:
China and Russia sign the Sino-Russian Secret Treaty, which grants Russia the right to build and operate a railway in Manchuria. Russia extends its power into the northeastern provinces of China.

5th Month:
At the order of Empress Dowager Cixi, the Guangxu Emperor pays several visits to the residence of the Prince of Chun to see his ailing mother Lady Yehe Nara, the Prince of Chun’s wife. The imperial mother dies. Court proceedings are suspended for eleven days.
Empress Dowager Cixi orders for Lady Yehe Nara to be granted the title Deceased Birth-Mother of the Emperor.

6th Month:
The late Lady Yehe Nara is laid to rest in a golden coffin.

Dingyou Year (approx. 1897)
Guangxu Reign, 23rd Year

10th Month:
Two German missionaries are killed in Juye County, Shandong Province. The Germans capitalize on the incident to seize Jiaozhou Bay. Prompted by this seizure, imperialist powers vie with each other for concessions in China.

Wuxu Year (approx. 1898)
Guangxu Reign, 24th Year

1st Month:
The lunar New Year ceremonies are performed at the Hall of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong). The new year’s feast for the imperial family is suspended.

3rd Month:
The Society for Preserving the State (Baoguo hui) is founded by Kang Youwei and his fellows. They select the following principles as their motto, namely, “Preserving the State, preserving the Race, and preserving the Confucian Teachings” (Baoguo, baozhong, baojiao).

4th Month:
Selected members of the imperial clan make a tour abroad. Among them, the Guangxu Emperor chooses various princes (qinwang, prince of the blood of the first degree; and beile, prince of the blood of the third degree). The Court of the Imperial Clan (Zongren fu) recommends dukes and various lower-ranked officials. Kang Youwei is designated as the secretary of the Foreign Office. The Guangxu Emperor issues an edict announcing reform, starting what is later called the Hundred Days’ Reform.

5th Month:
By imperial edict, the Imperial Capital University (Jingshi daxuetang) is founded. The civil-service examination of all levels will include an analysis of current issues during its next administration.
The army begins training in Western military disciplines. Half of the military forces of the Eight Banners begin training with Western firearms.

6th Month:
An edict is issued announcing the new regulations concerning the civil-service examination.

7th Month:
Several institutions are abolished, including the Household Administration of the Heir Apparent (Zhanshi fu), Office of Transmission (Tongzheng si), Court of Judicial Review (Dali si), Court of Imperial Entertainments (Guanglu si), Court of the Imperial Stud (Taipu si), and the Court of State Ceremonial (Honglu si). The duties are transferred to the Grand Secretariat (Neige), with assistance from the Ministry of Rites (Li bu), Ministry of War (Bing bu), and the Ministry of Justice (Xing bu).
The Guangxu Emperor orders Grand Secretariat Reader-in-waiting Yang Rui, Grand Secretariat Secretary Lin Xu, Secretary of the Ministry of Justice Liu Guangdi, and Prefect Tan Sitong of Jiangsu Prefecture to be granted fourth-rank positions and oversee reforms. He also summons Yuan Shikai to the capital.
In Shanghai, reform activists publish Current Affairs (Shiwu bao), with Wang Kangnian serving as chairman and Liang Qichao as the chief editor.

8th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi resumes her regency behind the curtain after a series of measures against the Guangxu Emperor and reform activists. She condemns Kang Youwei as a conspirator and orders the capture of the reform activists. Kang flees, but Yang Rui, Tan Sitong, Liu Guangdi, Yang Shenxiu, Lin Xu, and Kang Guangren are captured and executed. The six of them are later called the Six Gentlemen of the Hundred Days’ Reform (Wuxu liu junzi). The Guangxu Emperor is held captive at the Ocean Terrace (Ying Tai). Empress Dowager Cixi orders the revocation of all changes made during the Hundred Days’ Reform.

9th Month:
The Ministry of Revenue is authorized to issue sincerity-bonds (zhaoxin gupiao).
This year, the boxer organization Righteous and Harmonious Fists (Yihe quan) changes its name to the Righteous and Harmonious Union (Yihe tuan). Boxers in Shandong first use the slogan “Support the Qing, Annihilate Foreigners” (Fuqing mieyang).

Jihai Year (approx. 1899)
Guangxu Reign, 25th Year

8th Month:
American Secretary of State John Milton Hay proposes the Open Door Policy to provide equal commercial opportunity in China among world powers.

12th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi orders to name Pujun—the son of Zaiyi, the Prince of Duan—as crown prince. She also orders Chongqi to educate Pujun at the Hall of Promoting Virtue (Hongde dian). (This event is later called the Establishment of Heir in the Jihai Year, Jihai jianchu.)

Gengzi Year (approx. 1900)
Guangxu Reign, 26th Year

1st Month:
Prefect Jing Yuanshan and his fellows are convicted and penalized, their personal property confiscated, for submitting a memorial urging against the designation of Pujun as crown prince. Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao are listed as wanted, and their publications are destroyed and banned.

4th Month:
The Boxers invade Beijing.

5th Month:
The Boxers burn the Due South Gate (also known as the Front Gate, Qian men) near the imperial palace. German diplomat Clemens von Ketteler is killed.
The Qing imperial court declares war against eleven foreign powers, grants the honorific title Righteous Civilians (Yi min) to the Boxers, and orders provincial governors to recruit common people as defenders. These measures are taken to put an end to foreign invasions. Empress Dowager Cixi convenes court officials and imperial family members for a meeting to seek advice on the war. Sheng Xuanhuai telegrams provincial governors Li Hongzhang, Liu Kunyi, and Zhang Zhidong to protect the provinces by suppressing the declaration; together they strategize the Southeast Mutual Protection Movement (Dongnan hubao).

6th Month:
The Eight-Nation Alliance assembles. The Southeast Mutual Protection Movement develops.

7th Month:
Ronglu provides foreign envoys military escort to Tianjin. Beijing falls to the Eight-Nation Alliance, which includes Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan, Italy, and Russia. The Guangxu Emperor and Empress Dowager Cixi flee to Xi’an. Consort-in-ordinary Zhen (an imperial concubine of the third rank, fei) is killed in the imperial palace. (This flight is later called the Westward Survey in Gengzi Year, Gengzi xishou.)
Many civilians are killed in the battles on the Amur River between China and Russia.

9th Month:
The Guangxu Emperor and Empress Dowager Cixi arrive at Xi’an and temporarily reside at the court of the provincial governor. The Society for Reviving China (Xingzhong hui) incites insurrection in Huizhou.

12th Month:
In Xi’an, Empress Dowager Cixi orders to implement reform, beginning what is later called the New Policies (Wanqing xinzheng, or Late Qing Reform).

Xinchou Year (approx. 1901)
Guangxu Reign, 27th Year

7th Month:
Yikuang and Li Hongzhang sign the Boxer Protocol (also known as the Xinchou Treaty) with representatives of eleven countries.

7th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor depart Xi’an for Beijing.

10th Month:
The royal caravan arrives at Kaifeng. Empress Dowager Cixi orders to revoke Pujun’s title as crown prince.

11th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor return to the imperial palace in Beijing. The empress dowager issues an edict granting Consort-in-ordinary Zhen (an imperial concubine of the third rank, fei) the posthumous title Honored Consort Jin, noting that Consort-in-ordinary Zhen died with dignity when the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing in the previous year.

12th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor meet with foreign envoys and their wives at the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian).

Kuimao Year (approx. 1903)
Guangxu Reign, 29th Year

3th Month:
In order to accommodate her regal visit and ancestral rites, Empress Dowager Cixi issues an edict ordering the construction of a railway from Beijing to the Western Qing Tombs.

5th Month:
Returning to China from Japan, Zou Rong publishes The Revolutionary Army in which he proposes to establish a Chinese republic.

10th Month:
The British army invades Tibet. The Qing government puts forth no organized resistance.

Jiachen Year (approx. 1904)
Guangxu Reign, 30th Year

4th Month:
Tibetan troops counter the British army at Gyantse (Jiangzi).

5th Month (Intercalary):
Zou Rong and Zhang Binglin are imprisoned for publicizing revolutionary ideas. (This event is remembered as the Subao Incident, lit. Su Newspaper Incident.)

6th Month:
The British army occupies the city of Lhasa.

10th Month:
Empress Dowager Cixi meets with the envoys of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, Russia, Belgium, and other nations at the Hall of Imperial Supremacy (Huangji dian).

Yisi Year (approx. 1905)
Guangxu Reign, 31st Year

7th Month:
Sun Yat-sen founds the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmeng hui) and proposes a plan to “expel the Tartars, restore China (Zhonghua), establish a republic, and distribute land equally”. The Qing imperial court sends five grand ministers overseas to learn about the political systems of foreign powers. Supporters of constitutional monarchy begin the constitutionalist movement.
This year, an anti-American boycott arises due to the mistreatment of Chinese workers in the United States. A popular, patriotic movement with an anti-imperialist philosophy fuels these sentiments.
The Russo-Japanese War begins in China's Northeast.

Bingwu Year (approx. 1906)
Guangxu Reign, 32nd Year

1st Month:
Puyi, the son of Zaifeng, the Prince of Chun, is born at the family residence.

7th Month:
After returning from a tour of Europe, Japan, and the United States to learn about various political systems, Grand Minister Zaize advises the Qing government to immediately establish a constitutional monarchy in order to preserve Qing rule. An imperial edict is issued in preparation of constitutionalism. The first measure taken is institutional reform. Some institutions remain unchanged, including the Grand Secretariat, Council of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Personnel, Ministry of Rites, Ministry of Education, Court of the Imperial Clan, and the Hanlin Academy. Others are reformed. For example, the Ministry of Police is changed to the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Revenue to the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of War to the Ministry of the Army, and the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Judicial Administration. The Ministry of Works merges with the Ministry of Trade, forming the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce. Some institutions are newly established, including the Ministry of Posts and Communication, Office of the Military, Ministry of the Navy, National Assembly, and the Audit Department.

Dingwei Year (approx. 1907)
Guangxu Reign, 33rd Year

8th Month:
The Guangxu Emperor is seriously ill. The Qing government agrees to establish the National Assembly, with Prince Pulun (a Manchu beise, son of a prince) and Grand Secretary Sun Jianai serving as executives. Cen Chunxuan travels to Beijing, marking the beginning of the Political Struggle of Dingwei Year (Dingwei zhengchao).

Wushen Year (approx. 1908)
Guangxu Reign, 34th Year

10th Month:
The Guangxu Emperor is critically ill. Empress Dowager Cixi issues an edict ordering Puyi, the eldest son of Zaifeng, the Prince of Chun, to be raised in the imperial palace and for his father to serve as the prince regent. At the age of thirty-eight (in sui), the Guangxu Emperor dies in the Hall of Incorporate Origin (Hanyuan dian) on the Ocean Terrace (called Ying tai, and previously Nan tai, a small island located on the lake west of the Forbidden City). Empress Dowager Cixi issues an edict ordering that Puyi become the named successor of the late Tongzhi and Guangxu emperors, and that she herself be titled Grand Empress Dowager. The next day, Grand Empress Dowager Cixi dies. Empress Yehe Nara is named as empress dowager.

11th Month:
Puyi ascends the throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) with the reign name Xuantong. The following year is the first year of the Xuantong reign.

Translator: Kang Shitong
Editors: Adam J. Ensign, Li Yang

The Guangxu Emperor (r. 1875-1908)

The Guangxu Emperor, Aisin Gioro Zaitian, was the cousin of the Zaichun, the Tongzhi Emperor (r. 1862-1874). In 1874, the Tongzhi Emperor died without an heir. The Empress Dowager Cixi selected Zaitian, son of Prince Chun, as the new Emperor, with the reign name Guangxu. The transition to the new reign was apparently smooth, although a few officials did remonstrate that according to Qing dynastic laws, the new emperor should be chosen from a succeeding generation, in order to maintain the ritual observances demanded by filial piety. Zaitian was only four years old; his biological mother was the younger sister of Cixi. For a second time the two dowager empresses (Ci’an and Cixi) assumed the regency and because their charge was only four years old, they could expect to continue as active rulers for a long time. 

  In the second year of the Guangxu reign (1876), Zaitian began to attend classes under the tutorship of the eminent scholar Weng Tonghe (1830-1904) in the Palace of Nurturing Joy (Yuqing gong) in the Forbidden City. As the imperial preceptor of the late Tongzhi Emperor, Weng strived to cultivate Zaitian into an able young emperor. 

  In 1887 (the thirteenth year of the Guangxu reign), a ceremony was held to mark Zaitian’s assumption of power. However, the Empress Dowager Cixi still wielded her authority in the name of “guiding administration” (xunzheng) for another two years. She even arranged for the marriage of the Guangxu Emperor with her niece, the daughter of her younger brother Guixiang, so that the Emperor was still kept under her control.
  The Guangxu Emperor was most severely demoralized by the defeat of Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the debacle of the Wuxu Reform in 1898. In the Sino-Japanese War, he resolutely advocated resistance and against compromise to Japanese invasion. But as a puppet ruler he could not save China from its ultimate failure caused by the corrupt government administration. He resorted to the political reform proposed by Kang Youwei (1858-1927) for the country’s self-strengthening, and issued a decree to launch the reform campaign, claiming it as national policy. The reform program defied the empress dowager's authority and directly menaced her power and the fortunes of the officials whom she patronized. While the Guangxu Emperor was busy issuing edicts, the empress dowager and her powerful faction consolidated their power. On 21 September, the empress dowager staged a successful coup d'etat which stripped the Guangxu Emperor of power and forced him into solitary seclusion in Sea Terrace (Ying tai) of Mid-south Sea, west of the Forbidden City. On the same day she also announced her return to power, and thus began her third regency, which lasted for another decade until her death. 
  In 1900 (the twenty-sixth year of the Guangxu reign), the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded and seized Beijing. Cixi fled to Xi’an with the Guangxu Emperor. On the eve of their hasty flight, the Empress Dowager, having been holding a grudge against the Pearl Concubine who was supportive of political reform and strongly urged the Guangxu Emperor to stay in Beijing to resist the invasion, asked eunuchs to drown her in a well. The Guangxu Emperor could do nothing about his official mother’s wanton behavior but kneel down and beg for mercy for his beloved concubine. The next year after returning to Beijing, the Guangxu Emperor was still kept under house arrest in the Sea Terrace. He was virtually a dethroned emperor, with only his reign name still in use. 
  The Guangxu Emperor had a weak constitution. That plus many years of depression and resentfulness led to his early death at the age of thirty-eight (by traditional account). His death preceded by one day that of the Empress Dowager Cixi. His temple name is “Dezong” (the Virtuous Ancestor). The Guangxu Emperor was buried in the Chong Tomb, Western Qing Tombs, Yi county, Hebei province. 


Lady Tatala, Imperial Honored Consort Keshun

Introduction: Consort Zhen was the favourite of the Guangxu Emperor (r. 1875-1908). The well where she was drowned is a popular site in the Forbidden City. 

In 1888 at the age of twelve, Lady Tatala, the Imperial Honored Consort Zhen, popularly known as the “Pearl Concubine,” was married to the Guangxu Emperor (r. 1875-1908) along with her elder sister the Consort Jin (1874-1924).

  In 1894, both sisters were promoted within the Consort system. Pretty and talented with a lively personality, Consort Zhen was doted upon by the Guangxu Emperor, which enflamed the jealousy of Lady Yehenara, the Primary Consort of the Emperor (niece of the Empress Dowager Cixi), to whom the emperor was indifferent. Concubine Zhen’s encouragement to the emperor to initiate reforms and her casual behaviour aroused even more distain from Cixi who took charge of the situation. At the end of 1894, Cixi issued two imperial instructions: the first noted the sisters interference in political affairs and the second noted their extravagance. Therefore the rank of the Tatala sisters was reduced. Two days later, Empress Dowager Cixi issued two prohibitions. The first prohibited the sisters’ involvement with dynastic politics, and the second admonished them to start afresh: to speak and act with courtesy and to follow palace protocol in behaviour and dress.

  A year later in 1895, their Consort title was restored. But later during the “Wuxu coup” in the ninth month of 1898, the Empress Dowager Cixi put the Guangxu Emperor and Consort Zhen under house arrest separately. The Guangxu Emperor was confined to the Yingtai compound in Zhongnan Hai and was sometimes kept in the Hall of Jade Billows at the Summer Palace. The consort Zhen was restricted to the back courtyard of the Pavilion of Auspicious Fortune (Jingqi ge) at the northeast side of the Forbidden City. On the eve of the invasion of the eight-nation alliance in 1900, the Qing court was preparing to flee from Beijing to Xi’an. Cixi ordered Consort Zhen to be thrown in a well near her place of detention. She was twenty-four years of age. The so-called Zhenfei Well has become a popular site for visitors.

  In early 1902, more than a year after Consort Zhen was murdered, the Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor, upon returning to Beijing from Xi’an, finally ordered her body removed from the well and designate the posthumous title Honored Consort Zhen. Her elder sister Consort Jin built a memorial hall for her in the back courtyard of the Pavilion of Auspicious Fortune, naming it Hall of Distant Recollections. Consort Zhen was originally buried outside Xizhi Gate in the village of Enji. Later her remains were interred in the consort cemetery of Chongling, the Guangxu Emperor’s tomb complex at the Western Qing Tombs. 

About the
Palace Museum