Empress Dowager Longyu

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For the county in Zhejiang, China named 'Longyou', see Longyou County.
Empress Xiaodingjing
An Imperial Portrait of Empress XiaoDing of Dezong.JPG
Regent of the Qing Dynasty
Regency 2 December 1908 – 12 February 1912
alongside with Zaifeng, Prince Chun
Predecessor Empress Dowager Cixi
Successor Dynasty abolished
Emperor Xuantong Emperor
Empress consort of the Qing Dynasty
Tenure 26 February 1889 – 2 December 1908
Spouse Guangxu Emperor
Full name
Yehenara Jingfen 叶赫那拉静芬
Posthumous name
House Yehenara (noble family; by birth)
House of Aisin Gioro (by marriage)
Father Yehenara Guixiang
Born 28 January 1868
Died 22 February 1913 (aged 45)
Forbidden City, Beijing
Empress Dowager Longyu
Chinese name
Chinese 孝定景皇后
Lady Yehenara
Traditional Chinese 葉赫那拉氏
Simplified Chinese 叶赫那拉氏
Manchu name
Manchu script ᡥᡳᠶᠣᠣᡧᡠᠩᡤᠠ ᡨᠣᡴᠣᠩᡤᠣ ᠠᠮᠪᠠᠯᡳᠩᡤᡡ ᡥᡡᠸᠠᠩᡥᡝᠣ
Romanization hiyoošungga toktonggo ambalinggū hūwangheo

Empress Xiaodingjing (Chinese: 孝定景皇后; 28 January 1868 – 22 February 1913), better known as Empress Dowager Longyu (Chinese: 隆裕太后), personal name Jingfen (Chinese: 静芬),[1] was the Empress Consort of the Guangxu Emperor, the penultimate emperor of the Qing dynasty and imperial China. She is best remembered for signing the abdication documents in 1912 on behalf of Puyi, the Last Emperor.


Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor and Empress Xiaodingjing
Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor and Empress Xiaodingjing

Empress Xiaodingjing was the second daughter of Guixiang (桂祥), a Manchu general of the Yehenara clan and a brother of Empress Dowager Cixi. She was born in 1868 during the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor. In 1889, Empress Dowager Cixi, who served as regent during the Guangxu Emperor's minority, decided that the emperor had to marry before he could formally take over the reins of power. She chose her niece, Empress Xiaodingjing, to be the Empress Consort of the Guangxu Emperor because she wanted to strengthen the influence of her Yehenara clan within the imperial family.[citation needed] Empress Xiaodingjing married the Guangxu Emperor, her cousin, on 26 February 1889, and became his Empress directly after the wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony of the Guangxu Emperor and Empress Xiaodingjing, 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 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.[citation needed]

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, the Empress was detested and ignored by the Guangxu Emperor, who favoured Consort Zhen of the Tatara clan. 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 Consort Zhen, and sent her to the "cold palace", a place reserved for an emperor's disfavoured consorts.[2]

As she firmly opposed the Guangxu Emperor's 1898 Hundred Days' Reform programme, Empress Dowager Cixi had the emperor placed under house arrest in the Summer Palace. The Empress would frequently spy on the Guangxu Emperor and report his every action to the Empress Dowager. In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, the Empress fled with Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor to Xi'an when Beijing was occupied by the forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance. Upon their return, Consort Zhen drowned in a well within the Forbidden City.[3]

Both Princess Der Ling and Katherine Carl, who spent time in Empress Dowager Cixi's court, recalled Empress Xiaodingjing to be a gracious and pleasant figure.[4][5]

Both the Guangxu Emperor and Empress Dowager Cixi died within one day of each other in 1908, after which Empress Xiaodingjing was promoted to the status of Empress Dowager, with the honorable titles Longyu, meaning "Auspicious and Prosperous".

Immediately after the Guangxu Emperor's death, Empress Dowager Cixi appointed Puyi, a nephew of the Guangxu Emperor, as the new emperor before dying on the following day. As Empress Dowager Longyu did not have any children with the Guangxu Emperor, she adopted the infant Puyi as her child. Although Empress Dowager Cixi had decreed before her death that the Qing imperial court would never again allow women to serve as regents, Empress Dowager Longyu nonetheless remained the leading figure in the Qing government and was consulted on all major decisions. However, because she was inexperienced in politics, in the first few years of Puyi's reign, the emperor's biological father, Prince Chun, served as the regent for Puyi alongside the general Yuan Shikai.

Empress Dowager Longyu's funeral procession at Tiananmen in 1913.

On Yuan Shikai's advice in the fall of 1911, Empress Dowager Longyu agreed to sign an abdication on behalf of a three-year-old Puyi. 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 taels.
  • The imperial mausoleums would be protected and looked after.
  • The new government would pay the expenses for the funeral and construction of the tomb of the Guangxu Emperor.

The Qing dynasty became non-existent in 1912 and was replaced by the Republic of China.

Within a few months after the fall of the Qing dynasty, on 22 February 1913, Empress Dowager Longyu died in Beijing after an illness. She was 45 years old, and was the only Chinese empress 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, praised her for being "most excellent among women". The empress dowager was buried in the Chongling tomb of the Western Qing tombs with the Guangxu Emperor.


Titles from birth to death[edit]

  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A descendant of Empress Dowager Longyu's father, Yehenara Genzheng (叶赫那拉·根正), stated that Longyu's name was Jingfen (静芬), her older sister Jingrong (静荣) and younger sister Jingfang (静芳).
  2. ^ Rumours were circulated that Consort Zhen was put under house arrest because she supported the Guangxu Emperor's political reform programme, but documents confirm that Consort Zhen was already demoted by the time the emperor started his reforms in 1898.
  3. ^ Many stories say that Consort Zhen was killed on the orders of Empress Dowager Cixi, but documents do not record this event. Some sources say that she committed suicide during the foreign invasion.
  4. ^ Der Ling, Princess Two Years in the Forbidden City Dodd, Mead & Company 1929, pgs. 18 & 146 retrieved 2 July 2013 http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DerYear.html
  5. ^ Carl, Katherine A. With the Empress Dowager of China The Century Co., 1907, pg. 77 accessed 2 July 2013 http://archive.org/stream/withempressdowag00carliala/withempressdowag00carliala_djvu.txt

Sources and literature[edit]


Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Xiaozheyi
Empress of China
Succeeded by
Empress Xiaokemin
Preceded by
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager of China
Succeeded by