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One of the characters in a play that had some vogue in London a dozen or fifteen years ago declared, nightly, that he was at his 37th conspiracy. The Empress-Dowager Tze-hsi-tuan-yu has not yet rivalled that record, but she is getting on. When persons have attained to the position of Empress, moreover, they no longer conspire; they make coups d'état. The Empress Tze-hsi has made several. The first was in 1861, when she combined with Prince Kung and her sister Empress, Tze An, to seize the reins of power after the death of their consort, the Emperor Hien Fung.1 The next was in 1875. Having grasped the reins in 1861, the two ladies succeeded in holding them and governing, as regents, during the long minority of Hien Fung's son and successor, Tung Che. They had to retire for a while when the latter came of age, in 1873; but his death, two years later, gave them another opportunity which they were prompt to seize. Tung Che died childless, but leaving a widow, Ah-lu-tê, who might hope to give him a posthumous heir. The due procedure, under those circumstances, would have been to await the course of events, and if

1 It may conduce to lucidity to explain at the outset that Tze-An was the Empress proper, but was childless. The present "Empress-Dowager"

these failed to meet the exigencies of Salic Law, to select for posthumous adoption to the deceased Emperor a child during whose minority the widowed Empress Ah-lu-tê would become regent in turn. Such women as Tzehsi, however-for it is she who has always been credited with the initiativerise superior to rules. The possibilities connected with the Empress Ah-lu-tê were ignored. The obligation to select as heir a child capable of adoption to Tung Che was ignored; the succession was fixed, on the contrary, upon one who had the inestimable qualification, in the Empress's eyes, of being a minor, but had the disqualification of being of the same generation as his predecessor and incapable, therefore, of per forming the ancestral rites. The Empress Ah-lu-tê's claims were ignored, and shortly obliterated by death-declared to be suicidal, but so convenient that it was always spoken of with a shrug.

The selection of an Emperor, under such circumstances, devolves really upon the heads of the Imperial Clan. Tsai Tien, as the present Emperor Kwang Su was originally named, seemed an outside chance. He is a

was not originally an empress at all, but was given that honorary rank as the mother of Hien Fung's only son, Tung Che.

son of Yih Hwan, Prince of Chun, the seventh son of the Emperor Taokwang (who was reigning at the time of the Treaty of Nanking), and brother of Hien Fung (who was reigning at the date of the Treaty of Tientsin). There was nothing in his birth to distinguish him above others; while he labored under a defect which we may estimate by recalling the supreme importance, in Chinese eyes, of the ancestral rites. His mother was a sister of the Empress Tze-hsi, who is his aunt, therefore, by blood as well as by marriage; but considerations other than those of relationship were held to have influenced the choice. It was, at any rate, upon Tsai Tien, who was at that time only three and a half years old, that the choice of the Imperial Clan Court fell. The death of the Emperor Tung Che, the selection of a successor and the appointment of the Dowager-Empresses as regents, are described in a series of edicts possessing curious interest, both on account of the insight they give into the customs of the Court and the quaint eloquence of the lanof The sequence guage employed. thought in Europe is, le roi est mort: vive le roi; but the practice, at any rate, in China is diametrically opposite. The first thing is to proclaim a new Emperor; then the latter announces his predecessor's death. Tung Che died on the 12th January, 1875; at least, that was the date officially given; and the Peking Gazette of the 13th contained a series of edicts announcing the fact and the choice of a successor-or rather the succession and the death.

In the first, eight of the Imperial Princes and twenty-one Ministers and Magnates of the Court state that they have received the benign mandate of

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their Majesties the Empresses Tse An and Tze-hsi, in the following terms:

Let Tsai Tien, son of Yih Hwan, the Prince of Chun, become adopted as the son of the Emperor Wen Tsung Hien (Hien Fung), and enter upon the inheritance of the great dynastic line as Emperor by succession.

The second edict announces the receipt of another mandate from the Empresses, as follows:

Whereas His Majesty, the Emperor, has ascended upon the Dragon to be a guest on high, without offspring born to his inheritance, no course has been open but that of causing Tsai Tien, son of Prince Chun, to become adopted as the son of the Emperor Wen Tsung Hien, and to enter upon the inheritance of the great dynastic line as Emperor by succession. When a Prince shall have been born to the Emperor, he shall be adopted as inheritor of His Majesty now departed."

A third decree appoints certain Magnates to arrange the obsequial rites. A fourth degrades the two Imperial physicians. The fifth purports to be an acknowledgment, by the child Emperor, of the benign mandate of the Empresses "commanding him to enter upon the inheritance of the great the succession;" grief, eulogy of late Emperor's character, and awe at the magnitude of the trust bequeathed are expressed in pathetic language; and the Ministers and servants, high and low, in the ranks of the civil and military administration, are exhorted to "strive in uprightness and loyalty to maintain an ever-improving rule." The sixth purports to be a valedictory edict by the deceased monarch, penned in recognition of the fact that

this left Tung Che without an heir, it is promised that Kwang Su's first son shall be adopted to Tung Che.

for some days past his strength had gradually failed, until the hope of recovery had passed away; "mindful of the graver interests of the dynastic line, he feels that it behooves him to transmit his charge to worthy hands," and states that he has received the benign mandate of the Empresses appointing Tsai Tien to succeed him; the latter is exhorted to accept with reverence the trust that is bestowed; to exert himself continually, to choose his servants wisely, and to cherish filial devotion for the Empresses; while the Ministers and officials are to unite in upright and loyal efforts that they may "uphold for him a more and more glorious rule."

On the 15th January the Empresses formally accept the Regency which they had practically assumed. The formality is accomplished through the medium of a memorial from the various magnates of the Court, which the Emperor "reverently presents for the affectionate perusal of their Majesties." The latter reply that it has made them feel with added poignancy the sorrow they are unable to dispel; "the institution of a Regency from behind the curtain is essentially a temporary expedient; in consideration, however, of the fact that His Majesty, who has succeeded to the throne, is at present of a tender age; and moreover that, in times so filled with trouble, the Princes and Ministers cannot be left without a source to look to for authority, we have no choice but to yield consent to their entreaty until His Majesty shall have fulfilled the period of his education." A decree of the 16th announced that the designation "Kwang Su" had been chosen as the style of the new reign. Another, of the 21st, relieved Prince Chun from the embarrassment to which he was subjected as being father to an Emperor, but subject to a son. It is contrary to all Chinese notions of propriety that the father should perform

acts of homage to his own child. Prince Chun was excused, therefore, from taking his place in the ranks of attendance to offer homage on His Majesty's enthronement, but was enjoined still to attend to the ceremonial at the various ancestral temples and the annual sacrifices at the eastern and western mausolea, and was made a Prince of the first order with perpetual hereditary succession.

Waters which had been so violently disturbed were not likely to subside at once. It was felt that the natural course of succession had been diverted, to serve the ambition of the Dowagers; but they were able to make good their position. The death of the young Empress Ah-lu-tê, two months after her husband, cleared the way. A distinguished literate was found with courage to denounce the disturbance of the line of descent which left Tung Che without a son to perform the ancestral rites, and to commit suicide by way of emphasizing and expiating his protest. But all passed without external disturbance; and the august ladies entered upon a second Regency which lasted-in the case of Tze An, till ber death in 1881, and in the case of her still surviving colleague, till Kwang Su came of age, in 1889.

Chinese names are a weariness to the European flesh, and the interest of Chinese dynastic episodes to the European reader is in inverse ratio to their importance at Peking. The interests of Great Britain in the Far East are, however, considerable; and it is because these may be considerably affected by ambitions which disregard every canon of Chinese propriety that I have ventured to recall the leading features of a story which finds its sequel in the incidents of the last two months. Some may have been puzzled by the stress laid, in recent telegrams from China, on the adoption of an heir to the throne who is to rank as heir

to Tung Che. Having discovered the key to that riddle, we shall find that we have obtained the key to much else that may have seemed obscure in recent intrigues.

The Empress-Dowager retired, avowedly, from the Regency on Kwang Su's coming of age, in 1889; but her continued influence was repeatedly made manifest in edicts which the Emperor admitted having received her instructions to issue or endorse. DowagerEmpresses are traditionally a Power, in Peking. We find, for instance, the Emperor Tao Kwang, who was by no means a fainéant, paying extraordinary respect to the lady who occupied that position in his day; and the tradition of prolonged tutelage would combine with the prestige of position to give exceptional influence to an able, determined and ambitious woman like Tze-hsi. It would be superfluous to recapitulate at length the circumstances of the Emperor's revolt against that influence, and practical supersession, in 1898; nor need we attempt to ascertain the precise measure of his individual capacity and force. What is certain is, that he stood for reform, and that the EmpressDowager stands for reaction. He had surrounded himself with reforming advisers, and had issued a number of edicts designed to get the State-carriage out of the ancient ruts into which it had sunk. Such attempts have excited antagonism enough, upon occasion, in the comparatively young countries of the West. They excited something akin to horror among moss-grown

3 The Empress Wu Tsi-tien, who flourished during the greater part of the seventh century, was originally a concubine of the Emperor Tai-tsung (A. D. 627-50), one of the most famous sovereigns in Chinese history. It was during his reign that the Nestorians came to China, and were allowed to set up the famous monument which stands to this day at Singan, the capital of Schense. He was succeeded by a son, Kao-tsung, whose indolence and incapacity were more remarkable by contrast with the vigor of his predecessor, but whose reign derived notoriety from the extra

scholars, who saw their venerable curriculum in danger of change; among Palace creatures and Placemen, who saw their sinecures in danger; and among the whole host of Permanent Officials, who saw their perquisites and the stereotyped routine of things likely to be thrown into the crucible. The Emperor was backed by thousands of the younger literati, mandarins and merchants in the provinces, and by some of the highest officials in the Empire. But the coup d'état was effected in Peking, where the reactionaries practically held the field. All that they wanted was a leader; and ignorance of the forces really at work combined with personal fears and personal ambition to throw the Empress-Dowager into their hands. On the 22nd September she openly seized the reins of power, in pursuance of an edict issued in the Emperor's name, declaring his lack of capacity and begging her to resume the guidance of affairs. Six of the men who had prominently supported him in his schemes of reform were put to death without form of trial. Kang Yu-wei, the most prominent of all, escaped to Hong-Kong, and thence to Japan; leaving behind him, however, an open letter addressed to the Foreign Ministers, in which certain unamiable characteristics that have been ascribed to the Empress are frankly catalogued. She is compared, more sinicâ, to the Empress Wu, who also succeeded in keeping her son in tutelage, and keeping hold of power during a long and licentious life. She is charged with

ordinary career of Wu Tsi-tien. Wu, who had entered the harem of Tai-tsung at the age of fourteen, is said to have retired to a Buddhish convent at his death; but Kao-tsung, who had seen and been fascinated by her, brought her back to the Palace, where she soon succeeded in gaining absolute control. Aspiring to the position of Empress, she accomplished her purpose by strangling her own child and charging the crime against the actual Empress, who was tried, degraded, imprisoned, and eventually died. Installed in her stead, Wu gradually engrossed the

having tried to corrupt the Emperor, and with having poisoned her former colleague, the Empress-Dowager of Hien Fung, and her daughter-in-law, the Empress-Dowager of Tung Che. She is characterized as an Usurper, having deposed an Emperor who was full of brightness and promise; and is told that she is, after all, but a concubine-relict of Hien Fung, "whom, by her acts, she made die of spleen and indignation." Chang Yin-huan, who had been in England twelve months before as Special Envoy at the Queen's Jubilee, was banished to Turkestan, having been hardly saved from death, it is believed, by the interposition of H.B.M. Minister. High provincial officials, guilty of progressive tendencies, were displaced right and left, and their places filled by Manchus and reactionaries. It was frankly anticipated, at the time, that a drama which opened with such amenities would be consummated by Kwang Su's death; but an explosion of remonstrance from the Provinces combined with representations by H.B.M. Minister of the evil impression that would be produced by such an event to arrest the design. He was allowed to live, under close tutelage and control, and the Empress Tzehsi has ruled openly in his stead.

Having turned the tables on her adversaries, and recovered the power which those who have once tasted it are reputed to love, the Empress might have been content; though even she might grow weary of combating the hostility to her régime which centres round the personality of Kwang Su. But the reactionary clique was not happy. All was safe for the moment; but their mistress is advanced in years,

management of affairs, which she succeeded in retaining after her husband's death.

and what would happen at her death? If the Emperor regained power, there would be a fresh era of reform; and not of reform only, but of revenge, perhaps, for wrongs suffered and indignities imposed. So a fresh combination was devised. The promise of adopting a posthumous son to Tung Che had never been fulfilled, as Kwang Su has not fulfilled his share by providing the child. It was consistent, under these circumstances, to propose that one should be selected from among the younger members of the Imperial Clan. A son (adopted or otherwise) of Tung Che would stand out as heir to the Throne, and a whole vista of possibilities was opened up! On the 23rd January, 1900, accordingly, the Peking Gazette contained the following de


The Grand Secretariat is hereby commanded to transmit our instructions to the following persons:-Pu Wei, Prince of Kung, 1st Order; Princes Tsai Lien and Tsai Ying, 3rd Order; and Duke Tsai Lan; also the members of the Grand Secretariat, Lord Chamberlain, Ministers of the Presence, Grand Council, Board of ComptrollersGeneral of the Imperial Household Department, the Manchu and Chinese Presidents of the Six Boards and Nine Ministries, and the Heads of the Imperial Academy and Library. The above-named are hereby commanded to assemble in the Palace to morrow morning, and await further instructions.

The object was to choose-or sanction the predetermined choice of-a child, who should be given as heir to Tung Che; and it is part of the irony of things that the result was announced


she allowed Christianity, which Tai-tsung had tolerated, to be slandered and persecuted. Kao-tsung cused of murdering all who opposed her will, and of gratifying her pride by assuming semi-divine titles, the example of her reign has been held up as striking evidence of the evil of allowing women to meddle in politics.

left the throne to his son, Chung-tsung; but Wu displaced him in favour of his brother; herself reins of power till she was disretaining the placed in her old age by a Palace conspiracy, dying at last at eighty-one. A bigoted Buddhist,

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