Empress Dowager Longyu
|Regency||2 December 1908 – 12 February 1912
alongside with Zaifeng, Prince Chun
|Predecessor||Empress Dowager Cixi|
|Tenure||26 February 1889 – 2 December 1908|
|Yehenara Jingfen 葉赫那拉靜芬|
|House||Yehenara (noble family; by birth)
House of Aisin Gioro (by marriage)
|Born||28 January 1868|
|Died||22 February 1913 (aged 45)
Forbidden City, Beijing
Empress Xiaodingjing (Chinese: 孝定景皇后), better known as the Empress Dowager Longyu (Chinese: 隆裕皇后), (given name: Jingfen 靜芬 ). She also had the nickname Xizi (喜子). Empress Xiaodingjing was the Qing Dynasty Empress Consort of the Guangxu Emperor who ruled China from 1875 to 1908. She is best remembered for signing the abdication on behalf of the child Emperor Puyi, in 1912, ending imperial rule in China.
Empress Xiaodingjing née Yehenara (叶赫那拉氏) was the second daughter of Vice General Guixiang (桂祥) by his wife of Mongolian origin. Lady Yehenara was born in the seventh year of Emperor Tongzhi's reign and lived from 1868 to 22 February 1913. In 1889, it was decided that the Guangxu Emperor had to marry before ruling the country in his own right. Among many girls, Lady Yehenara was chosen as the Empress Consort because her aunt, the Empress Dowager Cixi, wanted to strengthen the power of her own family. She married the Guangxu Emperor, her cousin, on 26 February 1889, and became his Empress directly after the wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony of Guangxu and Longyu, an extremely extravagant and spectacular occasion, took place on 26 February 1889. However, prior to the wedding, on 16 January 1889, the Forbidden City caught fire, and the Gate of Supreme Harmony was burnt down. According to the traditions of the Qing Dynasty imperial court, the route of the Emperor's wedding procession had to pass through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, which was completely destroyed. As a result, many people took this incident as a bad omen.
Due to the fact that the reconstruction of the gate would be extremely time-consuming, and the wedding date of the Emperor could not be postponed once decided, Empress Dowager Cixi ordered a tent resembling the gate to be constructed. The artisans used paper and wood to build the tent, and after it was done, the tent had exactly the same height and the same width as the original gate, with ornamentation extremely similar to the original. As a result, even people who walked through the inner palace on a regular basis could not tell the difference between the original gate and the temporary tent at first.
However, after their marriage, Yehenara was detested and ignored by the Guangxu Emperor, who favoured Consort Zhen of the Tatara clan (Chinese: 他他拉氏珍妃). At first, Empress Dowager Cixi regarded Consort Zhen favourably, but, after finding out she had overspent her allowance, she demoted her. Cixi eventually grew more hostile to the Imperial Consort, and sent her to a "cold palace", a place reserved for an emperor's disfavoured consorts.
Due to her opposition to the Guangxu Emperor's Hundred Days' Reform of 1898, Empress Dowager Cixi had him imprisoned inside the former Imperial Residence. Lady Yehenara would frequently spy on the Emperor and report his every action to Empress Dowager Cixi. In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, Lady Yehenara fled with the Empress Dowager and Emperor Guangxu to Xi'an when Beijing was occupied by foreign armies. Upon their return, Consort Zhen drowned in a well within the Forbidden City.
Both the Guangxu Emperor and Cixi died within one day of each other in 1908, after which Empress Yehenara was made Empress Dowager, with the honorable titles Longyu, meaning "Auspicious and Prosperous".
The end of a dynasty
Immediately after Emperor Guangxu's death, Empress Dowager Cixi appointed Puyi, a nephew of Guangxu, as the new emperor. Longyu had no children of her own, and thus as Empress Dowager adopted Puyi. The Empress Dowager Cixi had decreed before her death that the Qing Dynasty would never again allow the regency of women, but that Longyu was to remain the leading figure and was to be consulted on all major decisions. When Longyu assumed the title of Empress Dowager, she was, theoretically, in a position to make all important decisions. However, because of her inexperience in politics, in the first few years the Imperial Court was dominated by the young regent Zaifeng, Prince Chun, the father of the new emperor and Longyu's brother-in-law, and then by Yuan Shikai; Longyu was dependent on both.
On Yuan's advice in the fall of 1911, Empress Dowager Longyu agreed to sign an abdication on behalf of the six-year-old Xuantong Emperor. She agreed only if the Imperial family were allowed to keep its titles. Other agreements were these:
- The Imperial family could keep its possessions.
- They could stay in the Forbidden City temporarily, then would eventually move to the summer palace.
- They would receive an annual stipend of 4,000,000 silver yuan.
- The Imperial graves would be protected and looked after.
- The new government would pay for the funeral and tomb of the late Guangxu emperor.
In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was abolished, making way for the new Republic of China.
Within a few months after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, on 22 February 1913, Longyu died in Beijing after an illness. She was 45 years old, and was the only Empress of China whose coffin was transported from the Forbidden City to her tomb by train. At her funeral, the Vice President of the Republic of China, Li Yuanhong (黎元洪), praised Empress Dowager Longyu as the "most excellent among women".
Titles from birth to death
- 1868 – 26 February 1889: Lady Yehenara
- 26 February 1889 – 2 December 1908: Yehenara, Empress Longyu
- 2 December 1908 – 22 February 1913: Yehenara, Empress Dowager Longyu
- A descendant of Longyu's father, Yehenara Gēn zhèng （葉赫那拉·根正）, stated that Longyu's name was Jingfen （靜芬）, her older sister Jingrong （靜榮） and younger sister Jingfang （靜芳）.
- Rumours were circulated that Consort Zhen was put under house arrest because she supported the Emperor's political reform program, but documents confirm that Consort Zhen was already demoted by the time Guangxu started with his reforms in 1898.
- Many stories say that Consort Zhen was killed on the orders of Cixi, but documents do not record this event. Some sources say that she committed suicide during the foreign invasion.
- Der Ling, Princess Two Years in the Forbidden City Dodd, Mead & Company 1929, pgs. 18 & 146 retrieved July 2, 2013 http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DerYear.html
- Carl, Katherine A. With the Empress Dowager of China The Century Co., 1907, pg. 77 accessed July 2, 2013 http://archive.org/stream/withempressdowag00carliala/withempressdowag00carliala_djvu.txt
Sources and literature
- Sterling Seagrave: Dragon Lady ISBN 0-679-73369-8
- Maria Warner: The Dragon Empress: Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China. ISBN 0-689-70714-2
- Anchee Min: Empress Orchid ISBN 978-0-618-06887-6
- Een Vrouw op de Drakentroon (A woman on the dragonthrone), Mayli Wen (foreword Lulu Wang), ISBN 90-5429-222-9
- Daily Life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen ISBN 0-670-81164-5
|Empress of China
Empress Dowager Cixi
|Empress Dowager of China