China’s last Empress Dowager-regent

April 8, 2013

The Last Empress of China ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, and her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young to rule China.

Technically, The Empress Dowanger Tzu Hsi (Cixi) wasn’t the last empress.

However, she was the last empress to rule China as a regent for her son, and then her nephew after her son died at age 19.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, writes, “Absurdly little was known about her life. The New York Times printed a long, error filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent, who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts have slandered the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women—a ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through prevision, corruption and intrigue.

This is how many still think of Tzu Hsi. In addition, she has been accused of murdering her son, and then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, her son may have died of syphilis because it was rumored he preferred prostitutes to the hundreds of virgin concubines that belonged to him.

Some rumors claim that Tzu Hsi had her nephew poisoned, but Yuan Shikai may also have poisoned him. There is no evidence to support either theory.

How did the Tzu Hsi earn such a bad reputation? It seems that she earned this reputation similar to how today’s China has been smeared in much of the Western media.

To understand how this came about, I will make a comparison to Jayson Blair, a young reporter for the New York Times who wrote more than 600 articles for the newspaper. During his short career with the New York Times, Blair committed repeated “acts of journalistic fraud”, including stealing material from other papers and inventing quotes.

Blair’s fraud was revealed in 2003, while he was still working for the newspaper. Source: BBC News

However, Jayson Blair was not the first reporter to commit “acts of journalistic fraud”.

Edmund Backhouse did the same thing writing about Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi at the beginning of the 20th century, and his lies and deceit wouldn’t be discovered until Sterling Seagrave was researching for his book Dragon Lady decades later.

And Backhouse’s journalistic fraud served as the foundation for most history texts still used today that continue to slander Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, one should read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China.

To learn who the real woman was we may want to consider what Robert Hart had to say about Hzu Hsi in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854 to learn the language and work as an interpreter for the British consulate in Ningpo. In 1859, almost five years later, Hart quit his job with the British and went to work for the Emperor of China as an employee. He returned to England in 1908.

For most of his stay in China after 1859, Hart was Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England, Hart met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha” since she was a devout Buddhist and it is obvious that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

In fact, Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered, clever and had ability.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911.

Discover more of The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911)

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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A Brief History of the Age of Consent

August 20, 2012

An honest 21st century review of The Concubine Saga at ColReads.com brought up a good subject for a post—the history of the changing attitudes of when a girl becomes a woman (You may want to click on the link to ColReads and read the entire review).

ColReads said, “The girls were younger than 15, for goodness sake. I had a hard time getting past that,” which is understandable when we take into account that in 21st century America the law makes a girl/woman a child until age 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 depending on which U.S. state you live in (watch the video to discover the age of consent in each U.S. state).

However, the age of consent laws in the middle of the 19th century (the time period of The Concubine Saga, which is based on a real story) were not the same as they are today.

To understand the difference between now and then, today in the People’s Republic of China the age of consent for sexual activity is 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. In Hong Kong, it is 16 and in Macau 18.

However, “Depictions of ‘child-romance’ in ancient or modern Chinese literature are not difficult to find. They include passages on joyous heterosexual or homosexual activities by children as young as 12 to13 years old with one another or with adults. Children are usually described as natural sexual beings and erotic stimulation and sex-play are seen as beneficial to their healthy development (Chen 2000).” In fact, “For most of Chinese history, the minimum marriage age suggested by the government had ranged between 12 and 16.” Source: Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong

 

For a comparison, in 1875 in the UK, a concern that young girls were being sold into brothels let Parliament change the age of consent to 13. Prior to that, the age of consent was 12.

However, in the United States in 1875, each state determined its own criminal law and the age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years of age. It would not be until after the 1930s that the term “jail bait” came into use in America as the age of consent laws changed.

I could have sanitized The Concubine Saga and made both Ayaou and her sister Shao-mei much older to fit the attitudes of today but then that would have been historically incorrect. Sterling Seagrave in his book Dragon Lady, the Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China, wrote, “He (Robert Hart) had just turned twenty. Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years.”

If Ayaou was barely 14, then there was only a six-year age gap between the two, while Hart’s arranged marriage to a young Irish woman named Hester Jane Bredon a decade later sees the gap double to twelve years when he was thirty and she was eighteen. In fact, Seagrave says, “He (Hart) sought a wife as straightforwardly as he had bought a concubine.” After returning to Ireland for a brief stay in 1866, Robert proposed marriage to Hester five days after he met her. The courtship lasted three months before they were married.

Should authors ignore historical fact and rewrite history to reflect the moral sensitivities of today’s readers?

This post first appeared on June 15, 2012 at Lloyd Lofthouse.org

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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My Mother Would Have Burned this Book – Part 1/5

March 30, 2011

The reason my mother would have burned “The Concubine Saga” was because she grew up in a country with the soul of a church. After my mother died, I found a video collection of the Bible, an audio version and about thirty different published versions.

I didn’t know then that there was that many ways to speak for one God.

After my father died, mother spent her last decade to the age of eighty-nine studying the Bible several hours a day. This was her attempt to discover the answer to salvation that haunted her most of her life.

My mother loved to read other books too, as did my father, who was not a religious person. However, if my mother ran into a vivid sex scene in a novel, she threw the book in the fireplace.

Since I was born and raised a Catholic and when I was twelve my mother switched to the Jehovah Witnesses, I know why she would have burned my book.

To Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and most devout Christians of all sects, lust is a mortal sin.

In fact, Catholic Questions in a Secular World says, “The seven deadly sins are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.… Lust is the self-indulgent desire for gratification … without the sanctifying graces of marriage.”

When I was single in my thirties, I had a lusty relationship with a lawyer, who ended the relationship due to Christian guilt. She wasn’t a Catholic but she attended two different Christian churches on Sundays, and she made it clear that it was the guilt that drove her to stop seeing me.

By the way, the “Concubine Saga” is historical fiction about a real man that went to China in 1854, bought a concubine and stayed until 1908 to become the most powerful Westerner in China’s history and the only foreigner trusted by the Emperor.

To be continued on March 31, 2011 in Part 2 or View as Single Page

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

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The Last Empress Dowager

December 14, 2010

The Last Empress of China ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, The Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, and her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young to rule China.

Technically, The Empress Dowanger Tzu Hsi (Cixi) wasn’t the last empress.

However, she was the last empress to rule China as a regent for her son then her nephew after her son died at 19.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, writes, “absurdly little was known about her life. The New York Times printed a long, error filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts have slandered the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women—a ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through prevision, corruption and intrigue.

This is how many still think of Tzu Hsi.

She has been accused of murdering her son then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, her son may have died of syphilis because it was rumored he preferred prostitutes to his virgin concubines.

Some rumors claim that Tzu Hsi had her nephew poisoned, but Yuan Shikai may also have poisoned him. There is no evidence to support either theory.

How did the Tzu Hsi earn such a bad reputation? It seems that she earned this reputation similar to how today’s China has been smeared in the Western media.

To understand how this came about, I will make a comparison to Jayson Blair, a young reporter for the New York Times that wrote more than 600 articles for the newspaper. During his short career with the New York Times, Blair committed repeated “acts of journalistic fraud”, including stealing material from other papers and inventing quotes.

Blair’s fraud was revealed in 2003 while he still worked for the newspaper. Source: BBC News 

However, Jayson Blair was not the first reporter to commit “acts of journalistic fraud”.

Edmund Backhouse did the same writing about the Tzu Hsi at the beginning of the 20th century, and his lies and deceit wouldn’t be discovered until Sterling Seagrave was researching Dragon Lady decades later.

Backhouse’s journalistic fraud served as the foundation for most history texts that have slandered Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, one should read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China

To learn whom the real woman was we may want to consider what Robert Hart had to say about Hzu Hsi in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854. He returned to England in 1908.

For most of his stay in China, Hart was Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England, Hart met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha” since she was a devout Buddhist and it is obvious that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

In fact, Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered but she was clever and had ability.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911.

Discover more of The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911)

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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When the News becomes Propaganda

June 5, 2010

As a teen in China, my wife saw news film showing American solders using spoons to dig eyeballs out of Vietnamese children—blinding them. This is one example of how easy it is to use lies to demonize an enemy.

During the 19th century, to justify the Opium Wars and the brutal suppression of the Boxer Rebellion, the Western media demonized China and the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. Then, about a century later in “Dragon Lady”, Sterling Seagrave revealed that radicals and reformers who were in exile at the time spread lies saying the empress was an evil hag, and the Western media gobbled those lies up as if they were sweet chocolate.

In fact, a Western journalist, Dr. George Ernest Morrison was responsible for many of the slanders and half-truths about China that persist to this day.

In the June Smithsonian, one of those half- truths surfaced in 110 Years Ago, Sobby Boxers. The piece said the empress ordered the peasant’s known as the “Righteous and Harmonious Fists”, called Boxers by the Western Media, to kill all foreigners.

What it didn’t say was that the empress also told her military to make sure no foreigners died and water and food was carried to the legations through tunnels while the “Boxers” thought the empress was on their side.

The politics were complex. The Empress had nothing to do with the uprising. It was a popular peasant uprising against Christianity and the foreign powers. If she hadn’t supported the “Boxers”, the peasants might have turned on her.

Also see Media Slugfest Using Taiwan

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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