period makeups: Empress Dowager Longyu

The Empress Dowager
other portrayals

Period makeups: Empress Dowager Longyu

Empress Xiaodingjing (1868–1913) is better known as the Empress Dowager Longyu. She came from the Manchu Yehenara clan and was the Qing Dynasty Empress Consort of the Guangxu Emperor of China who reigned from 1875 to 1908. She was chosen as the Empress Consort because her aunt, the Empress Dowager Cixi, wanted to strengthen the power of her own family. The new Empress was detested and ignored by the Guangxu Emperor who favoured the Imperial Consort Zhen of the Tatala clan.

The Guangxu Emperor and Cixi died within days of each other in 1908. Immediately after Emperor Guangxu’s death Empress Dowager Cixi appointed Puyi, a nephew of Guangxu, as the new emperor. Longyu had no children of her own and as Empress Dowager adopted Puyi. The Empress Dowager Cixi had decreed before her death that the Qing Dynasty would never again allow the regency of women, but that Longyu was to remain the leading figure and was to be consulted on all major decisions.

Longyu is best known for signing the abdication on behalf of the child Emperor Puyi in 1911, thereby ending imperial rule in China. She died in February 1913 only a few months after signing the abdication. She was forty-five years old and was the only Empress of China whose coffin was transported from the Forbidden City to her tomb by train.

At her funeral the Vice President of the Republic of China praised her as the ‘most excellent among women’. Both Princess Der Ling and Katherine Carl, who had spent time in Dowager Empress Cixi’s court recalled Empress Longyu to be a gracious and pleasant figure.