Empress Dowager Cixi - Death and Final Resting Place

Death and Final Resting Place

Empress Dowager Cixi died in the Hall of Graceful Bird at the Middle Sea (Chinese: 中海儀鸞殿) of Zhongnanhai on 15 November 1908, after having installed Puyi as the new Emperor of the Qing Dynasty on 14 November. Her death came only a day after the death of the Guangxu Emperor.

On 4 November 2008, forensic tests concluded that the death of the Emperor was caused by acute arsenic poisoning. China Daily quoted a historian, Dai Yi, who speculated that Cixi may have known of her imminent death and may have worried that Guangxu would continue his reforms after her death. CNN has recently reported that the level of arsenic in his remains was 2,000 times higher than that of ordinary people.

Empress Dowager Cixi was interred amidst the Eastern Qing Tombs (Chinese: 清東陵), 125 km (78 mi) east of Beijing, in the Dong Dingling (Chinese: 東定陵), along with Empress Dowager Ci'an. More precisely, Empress Dowager Ci'an lies in the Pu Xiang Yu Ding Dong Ling (Chinese: 普祥峪定東陵) (literally: the "Tomb East of the Ding Ling Tomb in the Broad Valley of Good Omen"), while Empress Dowager Cixi built herself the much larger Pu Tuo Yu Ding Dong Ling (Chinese: 菩陀峪定東陵) (literally: the "Tomb East of the Ding Ling Tomb in the Potala Valley"). The Dingling tomb (literally: the "Tomb of quietude") is the tomb of the Xianfeng Emperor, the spouse of Empress Dowager Ci'an and Empress Dowager Cixi, which is located indeed west of the Ding Dong Ling. The Putuo Valley owes its name to Mount Putuo, one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China.

Empress Dowager Cixi, unsatisfied with her tomb, ordered its destruction and reconstruction in 1895. The new tomb was a lavish grandiose complex of temples, gates, and pavilions, covered with gold leaf, and with gold and gilded-bronze ornaments hanging from the beams and the eaves. In July 1928, Empress Dowager Cixi's tomb was occupied by warlord and Kuomintang general Sun Dianying and his army who methodically stripped the complex of its precious ornaments, then dynamited the entrance to the burial chamber, opened Empress Dowager Cixi's coffin, threw her corpse (said to have been found intact) on the floor, and stole all the jewels contained in the coffin, as well as the massive pearl that had been placed in Empress Dowager Cixi's mouth to protect her corpse from decomposing (in accordance with Chinese tradition). Urban legend states that the large pearl on Empress Dowager Cixi's crown was offered by Sun Dianying to Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and ended up as an ornament on the gala shoes of Chiang's wife, Soong May-ling, but this is unconfirmed.

After 1949, the complex of Empress Dowager Cixi's tomb was restored by the People's Republic of China, and it is still today one of the most impressive imperial tombs of China.

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