The traditional view of the Empress Dowager Cixi was that of a devious despot who contributed in no small part to China's slide into corruption, anarchy, and revolution. During Cixi's time, she used her power to accumulate vast quantities of money, bullion, antiques and jewelry, using the revenues of the state as her own. By the end of her reign she had amassed a huge personal fortune, stashing away some eight and a half million pounds sterling in London banks. The lavish palaces, gardens and lakes built by Cixi were hugely extravagant at a time when China was verging on bankruptcy. The recent discovery that her nephew died of acute arsenic poisoning casts a sinister shadow on the events of her reign, as do the many examples of her ruthless elimination of enemies throughout her life, from Sushun and his entourage to the martyrs of the 100 Days' Reform to Empress Alute and the Consort Zhen, whether or not the details were embellished by critics.
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