Famous Rulers in History Empress Dowager of China Tzu Hsi Part 6

About the famous Chinese Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi, little-known facts and random trivia.


Little-Known Facts: Tzu Hsi had a secret liking for tough guys and outlaws. Jung Lu, who may have been her lover, was a Manchu general, and she was fascinated with the fanatic, belligerent Boxers. It is possible she had a streak of sadomasochism in her nature. She liked to order bizarre punishments, such as having two maids slap each other's faces while she watched. Once she said, when ordering a beating, "They have not been punished for several days and they are looking forward to it. I will not disappoint them, but give them all they wish to have."

Her favorite heroine was the Chinese Joan of Arc, Mu Lan, a warrior who disguised herself in her father's armor.

Tzu Hsi was bothered by insomnia, which caused her to wander around the gardens at night. She slept in a traditional Chinese brick bed, 10 ft. long, heated by a fire underneath, and on a pillow stuffed with tea or rose leaves. By her bed she kept a portrait of Queen Victoria and many clocks (a cause of her insomnia?).

The yearly cost of running her court was a mind-boggling pound 6.5 million. She ate gourmet foods like fried magnolia and lotus flowers, ducks' tongues in lots of 30, and stuffed melons. It is possible that she smoked opium once in a while, and every 10 days she ate crushed pearls as a kind of preventive medicine.

Her superstitiousness was legendary. When Prince Ch'un, Kuang Hsu's father, died in 1897, seers said the ginkgo tree near his grave would assure perpetuation of his line to the throne. Tzu Hsi ordered the tree cut down. In the stump were snakes, symbol of the Chinese Dragon. She believed the Boxers when they told her their eerie stories of superhuman returns to life from death.

Always vain, she once went into a fury when a hairdresser inadvertently pulled two hairs from her head; in fact, she ordered him to put the hairs back. Her dresses were elaborate embroidered affairs, as were her shoes. An attendant who bathed her when she was 68 was astounded at the youth of her skin and breasts. Yet she gave up sex at a young age, as far as we know, and enjoyed the appellations "Old Buddha" and "Venerable Ancestor" given her by members of the court.

She had a habit of clapping her hands at a party and asking the female guests (there were no men) if they wanted to urinate.

She was a painter of some talent and had such an eye for color that she once chided a dyer for leaving out one shade of green.

She invented a game called "Eight Fairies Travel across the Sea."

It was only when she was 67 that she had her first train ride.

In 1928 bandits desecrated her tomb. She was found with her body stripped to the waist and her pants pulled down.

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