Did You Know? Ruling from Behind the Curtain

Rishav Dasgupta    tumblr_nev1rzHdr31ruepzno1_1280 Splash! And there goes the Imperial Tutor. He’s in the well (he’s also dead!). But what happened? He was so powerful at court! Cixi happened. Dowager Empress Cixi of the Qing Dynasty came from humble beginnings. Not much is known about her origins except for the fact that she came from the Bordered Blue banner of the Manchu tribes. When she entered the Imperial Court as a young concubine, she knew she had to change things. Luckily, she happened to be the only woman in the Emperor’s Harem to give him an heir and she was propelled into the highest rung of the court instantly. She was elevated further upon the death of her husband. Being the Empress Dowager, with the new Emperor as an infant, thus made her regent and she was overjoyed. She was finally able to voice her opinions and make sure that China was fair for women too. One of the first acts she approved was to ban foot binding, a horrid practice that destroyed women’s feet in order to make them smaller. Although the law could not be enforced due to societal resistance, it represented the aim of her rule—to overcome ignorance and be more sensible. She acted as regent for over forty-seven years and two imperial reigns. She made sure that people who resisted a woman’s rule (like the aforementioned Imperial tutor) met their fate. However, there was one issue throughout her rule. According to Court Law, a woman could not attend Imperial audiences. So what did Cixi do? She ruled from behind the curtain. Literally. She sat behind a silk curtain behind the Imperial throne. This worked miracles in making sure the country was ruled fairly, but unfortunately did nothing for women. People knew of her power but also knew that she was not the symbol of power. After her death, she ceased to be the face of the government and slid into relative obscurity. Now you’re sitting here thinking– what does this have to do with me? Actually, quite a lot. There has been a lot of talk recently about how to make people understand that women are fit to rule. Look to Cixi– she did so much to clean up the Qing bureaucracy, but is she remembered? No. There is still a curtain between her and our memories: a curtain I wish to destroy. And you can too! Go forth and tear down the curtain and sit on the throne. Only if women take up visible positions of power will people realize their worth. Else, their ideas will forever be forgotten after they are gone, wrapped in a thick imperial curtain.]]>