Empress Dowager Cixi

26 May, 2024 950 History of Asia

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the woman who, for almost fifty years, was the most powerful figure in the Chinese court. Cixi (1835-1908) started out at court as one of the Emperor’s many concubines, yet was the only one who gave him a son to succeed him and who also possessed great political skill and ambition. When their son became emperor he was still a young child and Cixi ruled first through him and then, following his death, through another child emperor. This was a time of rapid change in China, when western powers and Japan humiliated the forces of the Qing empire time after time, and Cixi had the chance to push forward the modernising reforms the country needed to thrive. However, when she found those reforms conflicted with her own interests or those of the Qing dynasty, she was arguably obstructive or too slow to act and she has been personally blamed for some of those many humiliations even when the fault lay elsewhere.

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  • Yangwen Zheng 2 episodes
    Professor of Chinese History at the University of Manchester
  • Rana Mitter 8 episodes
    The S.T. Lee Professor of US-Asia Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Ronald Po No other episodes
    Associate Professor in the Department of International History at London School of Economics and Visiting Professor at Leiden University

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Related episodes

Programme ID: m001zdw0

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001zdw0

Auto-category: 951.03 (Modern China (1644-1912))