Tongzhi Emperor

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The Tongzhi Emperor, born Zaichun (April 27, 1856January 12, 1875) was the ninth emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875.

The only son of the Xianfeng Emperor and the Empress Dowager Cixi, Tongzhi attempted political reform in the period of the Tongzhi Restoration. His first reign name was Qixiang (祺祥), but this name was later abandoned by Cixi in favour of Tongzhi, a contraction of the classical phrase tonggui yu zhi (同歸與治), which means "to reform/restore together a state of order", although it has been interpreted as "to rule the state with an united mother/son team" (母子同治天下), which fits the description, as his mother, Empress Dowager Cixi, wielded the real power and ruled behind the scene. The traditional Chinese political phrase "attending audiences behind a drawn curtain" (垂簾聽政), which had already been used earlier in Chinese history, was used to describe Cixi's rule through her son the Tongzhi Emperor. The phrase can still be heard in contemporary Chinese politics sometimes.

Tongzhi became an emperor of the age of five when his father, the Xianfeng Emperor passed away. His birth mother, Empress Dowager Cixi, his father's Empress, the Empress Dowager Ci'an, and his uncle, the Prince Gong, became regents after getting rid of the former regent, Sushun.

Tongzhi married Lady Alute from a Mongol clan and died of smallpox at the age of 19. He had no sons to succeed him. There are those who say Tongzhi died from STD, in particular Syphilis (due to his alleged affairs with prostitutes outside of the palace), and that the smallpox diagnosis was given only because the mere discussions of STD in China is a taboo, even in present day. However, such an allegation cannot be substantiated with credible evidence.

His mothers, the two dowagers, resumed regency after appointing 1st Prince Chun's son, Guangxu, his reigning title.

A few months after Tongzhi's death, Empress Alute committed suicide. It is also said that Cixi ordered her to be pushed down a well for reasons unknown.


Preceded by:
Xianfeng Emperor
Emperor of China
(Qing Dynasty)
1861–1875
Succeeded by:
Guangxu Emperor

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