Empress Xiaozheyi

Empress Xiaozheyi (25 July 1854 – 27 March 1875), also known as the Jiashun Empress, was the Empress Consort of the Tongzhi Emperor of the qing dynasty.

Family background

Empress Xiaozheyi was born in the Alute (阿魯特) clan, which was under the Mongol Plain Blue Banner. Her personal name was unknown.


Lady Alute's father Coci (崇綺) was the top candidate in the 1865 imperial examination, and was also the only top candidate of Mongol ancestry in the qing dynasty. He was a professor (侍講) in the Hanlin Academy and also served as Secretary of Ministry of Revenue. Lady Alute's mother was the daughter of Duanhua and Empress Dowager Ci'an's aunt.


Alute was tutored by her father since young and she demonstrated high potential and intelligence as a child. She could read "ten lines at a glance". She also showed interest and talent in poetry, literature, music and art. Under the influence of her father, Lady Alute learned to write with both hands aptly. She was famous among the Manchu aristocracy for her talent, moral character and looks.


As Empress

On 15 September 1872, Lady Alute was chosen to be Empress Consort by the Tongzhi Emperor. She was specially chosen to help in the reconciliation of rivals in the Qing imperial court. Lady Alute's maternal grandfather Duanhua used to be an enemy of Empress Dowager Cixi in the past. It was said that there was an argument between the empress dowagers Cixi and Ci'an over the choice of empress. Ci'an, who favoured Lady Alute, claimed that the empress should possess high moral standards, while Cixi felt that the empress should be wise and shrewd. The conflict was resolved by the Tongzhi Emperor when he eventually chose Lady Alute for Empress. Cixi was displeased with Tongzhi's decision. Another four candidates chosen for Empress became Tongzhi's concubines. One of them was Lady Alute's aunt, Imperial Honoured Consort Zhuanghe (1857 - 1921).


Empress Dowager Cixi once complained about Lady Alute:

We made a mistake in selecting a wife for him. How could we tell that her beauty was false? She was very beautiful, but she hated us


On the night of 15 October 1872 at around 11. 30pm (an auspicious hour recommended by imperial astrologers), Lady Alute left her family residence for the Forbidden City. Her furniture - a bed, a mirror, two wardrobes, chairs and eight marriage chests - had symbolically preceded her. After their marriage, the Tongzhi Emperor evidently favoured Lady Alute over his four other concubines. The emperor spent almost every night with Lady Alute, while the four consorts waited in vain for the emperor to summon them. Empress Dowager Cixi was unhappy about the unfair treatment of the emperor's spouses and she turned hostile towards Lady Alute. She warned Lady Alute that as empress she should allow the emperor to share favour equally among his wives and not seize him for herself. Cixi also reminded Lady Alute that since both she and Tongzhi were still young, they should spend more time learning how to govern the country. When she saw no signs of change in Tongzhi's attitude, Cixi eventually ordered the emperor and empress to be separated, so that they could focus more on learning how to become ruling sovereigns.


The Tongzhi Emperor could not cope well with loneliness so he grew more ill tempered over time. Once a eunuch secretly suggested to Tongzhi to visit brothels outside the Forbidden City As a result, it was assumed that the emperor contracted syphilis. Empress Dowager Cixi regarded this incident as a humiliating scandal, so she warned the imperial physicians to remain silent about it. The physicians lied that the emperor was ill with smallpox and prescribed medicine and treatment for smallpox.


A court official Yun Yu-ting wrote in his memoirs that Lady Alute was visiting the Tongzhi Emperor on his sickbed, and complaining about Cixi's interfering and domineering ways, was happily looking forward to the day Tongzhi would be well again and they could live and rule together. Cixi, tipped off by eunuchs, entered the room in stockinged feet, and hearing Lady Alute's criticisms, flew into a rage and rampaged through the room, seized the empress by the hair and hit her, shouting that by making love to the emperor she would cause him to be ill again. She ordered the eunuchs to take her away and slap her on the face


Death

The Tongzhi Emperor died in January 1875. Some sources claim that Lady Alute was pregnant at that time. Tongzhi had not chosen a successor before his death, so it was up to Empress Dowager Cixi to choose the new emperor. Cixi chose her three year old nephew Zaitian, who succeeded Tongzhi as the Guangxu Emperor.


Lady Alute was not mentioned in the crisis over the succession. Neither was she granted the title of Empress Dowager, which was the custom after the death of an emperor. She received the title of Jiashun Empress (嘉顺皇后) instead. Within 100 days of the death of the Tongzhi Emperor, Empress Dowager Cixi pushed the blame of the emperor's death on Lady Alute. She ordered Lady Alute's food rations to be reduced. Lady Alute wrote a letter to her father asking for help, but his reply was simply, "Your Majesty knows what to do. " It was said that Lady Alute committed suicide but official court records state that she died after a long and serious illness. Empress Dowager Cixi granted Lady Alute the posthumous title of "Empress Xiaozhe".


In 1876 a censor to the throne wrote that Lady Alute, as a wife who had committed suicide after her husband's death, should be posthumously honoured. Empress Dowager Cixi rebuked him curtly for writing a memorial based on rumours.


n 1876 a censor to the throne wrote that Lady Alute, as a wife who had committed suicide after her husband's death, should be posthumously honoured. Empress Dowager Cixi rebuked him curtly for writing a memorial based on rumours.


Last update 08-05-2012

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