Empress Xiaozheyi

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Empress Xiaozheyi
《孝哲毅皇后朝服像》局部.jpg
Empress Consort of the Qing dynasty
Tenure 15 September 1872 – 12 January 1875
Born (1854-07-25)25 July 1854
Beijing, China
Died 27 March 1875(1875-03-27) (aged 20)
Chuxiu Palace, Forbidden City, Beijing, China
Spouse Tongzhi Emperor
Posthumous name
Empress Xiaozhe Jiashun Shushen Xianming Gongduan Xiantian Zhangsheng Yi
(孝哲嘉順淑慎賢明恭端憲天彰聖毅皇后)
Father Coci
Mother Lady Aisin-Gioro
Empress Xiaozheyi
Chinese name
Chinese 孝哲毅皇后
Jiashun Empress
Chinese 嘉顺皇后
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 阿魯特氏
Simplified Chinese 阿鲁特氏
Manchu name
Manchu script ᡥᡳᠶᠣᠣᡧᡠᠩᡤᠠ ᠰᡠᠯᡨᡠᠩᡤᠠ ᡶᡳᠯᡳᠩᡤᠠ ᡥᡡᠸᠠᠩᡥᡝᠣ
Romanization hiyoošungga sultungga filingga hūwangheo

Empress Xiaozheyi (25 July 1854 – 27 March 1875), also known as the Jiashun Empress, was the Empress Consort of the Tongzhi Emperor of the Qing dynasty.

Family background[edit]

Empress Xiaozheyi was born in the Alute clan (阿魯特氏), which was of Mongol origin and under the Mongol Plain Blue Banner. Her personal name is unknown. Lady Alute's father, Coci (崇綺; Chongqi; 1829–1900), was the top candidate in the 1865 imperial examination, and was also the only top candidate of Mongol ancestry in Qing dynasty history. He was a shijiang (侍講; lecturer) at the Hanlin Academy and also served as Minister of Revenue. Lady Alute's mother was a daughter of Duanhua (Prince Zheng), a member of the imperial clan, and his wife, a paternal aunt of Empress Dowager Ci'an. Lady Alute was thus a first cousin once-removed of Empress Dowager Ci'an.

Lady Alute was tutored by her father since young and she demonstrated high potential and intelligence as a child. She also showed interest and talent in poetry, literature, music and art. Under the influence of her father, she learnt to write with both hands aptly. She was famous among the Manchu aristocracy for her talent, moral character and looks.

As Empress[edit]

On 15 September 1872, Lady Alute was chosen to be Empress Consort by the Tongzhi Emperor. She was specially chosen to help in the reconciliation of rivals in the Qing imperial court. Lady Alute's maternal grandfather, Duanhua (Prince Zheng), was a former political rival of the emperor's mother, Empress Dowager Cixi. It was said that there was an argument between the Empress Dowagers Cixi and Ci'an over the choice of empress. Ci'an, who favoured Lady Alute, claimed that the empress should possess high moral standards, while Cixi felt that the empress should be wise and shrewd. The conflict was resolved by the Tongzhi Emperor when he eventually chose Lady Alute to be his Empress. Cixi was displeased with her son's decision. Another four candidates chosen for Empress became the emperor's concubines. One of them was Lady Alute's aunt, who later became known as Imperial Noble Consort Zhuanghe.

Empress Dowager Cixi once complained about Lady Alute:

"We made a mistake in selecting a wife for him. How could we tell that her beauty was false? She was very beautiful, but she hated us."[1]

On the night of 15 October 1872 at around 2330 hours (an auspicious hour recommended by imperial astrologers), Lady Alute left her family residence for the Forbidden City. Her furniture – a bed, a mirror, two wardrobes, chairs and eight marriage chests – had symbolically preceded her.[2] After their marriage, the Tongzhi Emperor evidently favoured his empress over his four other consorts. He spent almost every night with her, while the four consorts waited in vain for the emperor to summon them. Empress Dowager Cixi was unhappy about the unfair treatment of the emperor's other consorts and she turned hostile towards the empress. She warned the empress that, as empress, she should allow the emperor to share favour equally among his consorts and not seize him for herself. Cixi also reminded the empress that since both she and the Tongzhi Emperor were still young, they should spend more time learning how to govern the country. When she saw no signs of change in her son's attitude, Cixi eventually ordered the emperor and empress to be separated, so that they could focus more on learning how to become ruling sovereigns.

The Tongzhi Emperor could not cope well with loneliness so he grew more ill-tempered over time. Once, a eunuch secretly suggested to the emperor to sneak out of the Forbidden City and visit brothels.[citation needed] As a result, it was assumed that the emperor contracted syphilis. Empress Dowager Cixi regarded this incident as a humiliating scandal, so she warned the imperial physicians to remain silent about it. The physicians lied that the emperor was ill with smallpox and prescribed medicine and treatment for smallpox.

A court official, Yun Yu-ting, wrote in his memoirs that the empress visited the Tongzhi Emperor on his sickbed while he complained about his mother's interfering and domineering ways. She was looking forward to the day the emperor recovered and they could live and rule together. Empress Dowager Cixi, tipped off by eunuchs, entered the room in stockinged feet, and hearing the empress's criticisms, flew into a rage and rampaged through the room, seized the empress by the hair and hit her, shouting that by making love to the emperor she would cause him to be ill again. She ordered the eunuchs to take her away and slap her on the face.[3]

Death[edit]

The Tongzhi Emperor died in January 1875. Some sources claim that the empress was pregnant at the time.[4] The Tongzhi Emperor had not chosen a successor before his death, so it was up to Empress Dowager Cixi to decide who would be the new emperor. Cixi chose her three-year-old nephew Zaitian, who was enthroned as the Guangxu Emperor.

The empress was not mentioned in the crisis over the succession. Neither was she granted the title of Empress Dowager, which was customary after the death of an emperor. She received the title "Jiashun Empress" (嘉顺皇后) instead. Within 100 days of the death of the Tongzhi Emperor, Empress Dowager Cixi pushed the blame of the emperor's death on the Jiashun Empress. She ordered the empress's food rations to be reduced. The empress wrote a letter to her father asking for help, but his reply was simply, "Your Highness knows what to do."[citation needed] It was said that the empress committed suicide but official court records state that she died after a long and serious illness. Empress Dowager Cixi granted the empress the posthumous title "Empress Xiaozhe".

In 1876, a censor to the throne wrote that the Jiashun Empress, as a wife who had committed suicide after her husband's death, should be posthumously honoured. Empress Dowager Cixi rebuked him curtly for writing a memorial based on rumours.[5]

In 1900, when the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing, Empress Dowager Cixi asked the Jiashun Empress's father, Coci, to remain behind and take charge of state affairs. Coci and his family committed suicide after the capital fell to the foreigners.[6]

Posthumous title[edit]

Empress Xiaozheyi's full posthumous title is:

  • Empress Xiaozhejiashunshushenxianminggongduanxiantianzhangshengyi
    (孝哲嘉順淑慎賢明恭端憲天彰聖毅皇后)[7]

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Derling, Imperial insence, 1934, P. 161.
  2. ^ Maria Warner", "The Dragon Empres": Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China", P. 121.
  3. ^ Maria Warner", "The Dragon Empres": Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China", P. 125.
  4. ^ Maria Warner", "The Dragon Empres": Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China", P. 126.
  5. ^ Hummel, Arthur William, ed. Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644–1912), P. 731.
  6. ^ Draft history of the Qing dynasty, part 255.《清史稿·列传二百五十五》
  7. ^ Draft history of the Qing dynasty. 《清史稿》卷二百十四.列傳一.后妃傳.穆宗孝哲毅皇后.

Sources[edit]

  • Draft history of the Qing dynasty. 《清史稿》卷二百十四.列傳一.后妃傳.
  • Royal archives of the Qing dynasty (清宫档案).
  • Qing imperial genealogy(清皇室四谱).
  • Biographies of the Qing dynasty consorts (清历朝后妃列传).
  • Sterling Seagraves, "Dragon Lady" ISBN 0-679-73369-8.
  • Maria Warner", "The Dragon Empres": Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China". ISBN 0-689-70714-2.
  • Daily life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen. ISBN 0-670-81164-5.
  • Hummel, Arthur William, ed. Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644–1912). 2 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1943.

Succession[edit]

Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Ci'an
Empress of China
15 September 1872 – 12 January 1875
Succeeded by
Empress Xiaodingjing