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Cixi: Ambivalent Empress

The empress dowager Cixi demanded loyalty from her subjects but changed her mind over time about what the right path for her country really was.

She rose to power behind the scenes in China's late 19th century imperial court, and became one of the most powerful women ever to exercise authority in the empire. Cixi was a dowager empress, and her influence shaped China through the tragedies of the late 19th century. She prevented her own nephew from launching reforms to modernise China, and endorsed one of the most xenophobic movements ever to convulse China: the Boxer uprising of 1900. Yet she ended up, ironically, as the woman who nearly turned China into a constitutional monarchy. Cixi's story embodies the wrong turns and empty hopes of one of China's most turbulent eras.
Presenter: Rana Mitter
Producer: Ben Crighton
Researcher: Elizabeth Smith Rosser.

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15 minutes