T'Zu Hsi

(1835-1908)

WHO S/HE WAS:

Tsu Hsi was popularly known in China as the West Dowager Empress. She was a powerful and charismatic figure who became the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, ruling over the Manchu Empire for 48 years from her husband's death in 1861 to her own death in 1908.

WHAT S/HE SAID:

The foreigners are like fish in the stew pan. For 40 years I have eaten bitterness because of them.

WHY S/HE MATTERED:

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was a key turning point of Tz’u Hsi’s reign. The Boxers were a secret society called the "Righteous and Harmonious Fists”—poor Chinese who blamed Westerners and their imperialism for their poor standing of living. First organized in 1898, they may have been tacitly supported by Tzu-Hsi's government. Rising in rebellion in early 1900, the empress and her government both helped and hindered the revolt. The Boxers attacked Western missionaries and merchants, as well as the compound in Peking where foreigners lived, beginning a siege which lasted eight weeks. On August 14th the 19,000 troops of the allied armies of the Western imperialist Powers captured Peking and ended the siege. Tzu-Hsi decided to flee the city with the emperor. The Boxer Rebellion was over; at least 250 foreigners had been killed and China had to accept a humiliating peace settlement.

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