Chinese Civil War and Revolution Might Have Been Avoided If Dowager Embraced Constitutional Monarchy

An exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington DC gives a glimpse of the remarkable life of China’s Empress Dowager Cixi. More videos.

What if the original Dragon Lady, the Empress Dowager Cixi of the Chinese Qing Dynasty and effective ruler of China for 47 years, from 1861 to 1908, had embraced a constitutional monarchy or republican government? China might have been able to avoid a bloody 23-year civil war beginning in 1927 and full-blown revolution in the 1940s.

At the turn of the century, she made the unwise decision to crush reformers who wanted an Imperial Assembly similar in power to the British Parliament. She also mistakenly encouraged the disastrous Boxer Rebellion, “a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement that culminated in a bloody siege of the foreign legations in Beijing,” and massacred Christian missionaries, foreign ministers and their families.

Isabel Hinton in The (UK) Guardian reviews a revisionist history of the Empress Dowager, “the concubine who launched modern China,” suggesting she wasn’t quite as bad as historians have painted her.

(Hat tip, Gavin Bowen, Alternate History Online Facebook Group.)

Drill Deeper:

Related articles

Pehlwani’s Fading Footprint; A Pakistani National Past-Time Headed for Ruin
Role as China’s first lady silences voice of popular singer
China has taken a dark turn
Pulp History: Our Man in Peking
China Dream symbol splits an artisan family – Ian Johnson
The Story of China, episode two, review: ‘a delightful travelling companion’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.