Names of the Empress Dowager Cixi

Names Of The Empress Dowager Cixi

Names of the Empress Dowager Cixi

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Cixi had many different names at different period of her life, which can be quite confusing. Moreover, most of her Western biographers, who in general do not read Chinese, frequently confuse these names, and biographies on Cixi written in English are flawed with errors. Here is an accurate account of all her names, as drawn from the most serious Chinese sources (i.e. the archives of the Forbidden City and several serious historical works in Chinese).

Birth name

The original name of Cixi at her birth is still an unresolved issue (see Youth section). At her entrance in the Forbidden City, she was recorded as "the Lady Yehenara, daughter of Huizheng" (惠征). Thus, she was called by her clan's name, the Yehe-Nara clan, as was customary for Manchu girls. Cixi was quite a secretive person, and she seldom talked about her childhood. While she was on the throne, the subject of her life before entering the Forbidden City was taboo, and people avoided talking about it. So it is no surprise that the record of her original name as well as the history of her youth were lost.

Early life

When she entered the Forbidden City in September 1851 (or June 1852, depending on sources), Cixi was made a concubine of the fifth rank (贵人), and she was given the name Lan (兰 - meaning "Orchid"). Her name was thus "Orchid Noble Person" (兰贵人). At the end of December 1854 or the beginning of January 1855, she was promoted to concubine of the fourth rank (嫔)....
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