The Case of An Dehai
The years after Emperor Xianfeng's death were called the Tongzhi Restoration. It was a period of peace; the Taiping Rebellion and the war with United Kingdom ceased. The treasury began growing again after decades of depletion. Ci'an was little mentioned during this period and her only notable intervention in politics was in 1869. The most feared grand eunuch of the imperial court An Dehai (Chinese: 安德海), close confidant of Empress Dowager Cixi, was on a trip south to buy some dragon robes for Empress Dowager Cixi. While traveling in Shandong province, he used his power as an envoy of Empress Dowager Cixi to extort money from people, which caused great trouble. The matter was reported to the court by the governor of Shandong, and Empress Dowager Ci'an who heard about it made up a decree which read:
Ding Baozhen (丁寶楨) (1820–1886) reports that a eunuch has been creating disturbance on the province of Shandong. According to the department of magistrate of Dezhou, a eunuch named An and his followers passed through that place by the way of the imperial canal, in two dragon barges, with much display of pomp and pageantry. He announced that he had come on an imperial mission to procure dragon robes. His barges flew a black banner, bearing in its center the triple imperial emblems of the sun, and there were also dragon and phoenix flags flying on both side, of his vessels. A goodly company of both sexes were in the attendance on this person; there were female musicians, skilled in the use of string and wind instruments. The banks of the canal were lined with crowds of spectators, who witnessed with amazement and admiration his progress. The twenty-first day of the last month happened to be this eunuch's birthday, so he arrayed himself in dragon robes and stood on the foredeck of his barge, to receive the homage of his suite. The local magistrate was just about to order his arrest when the barges set sail and proceeded southwards. The governor adds that he has already given orders for his immediate arrest.
We are dumbfounded at his report. How can we hope ever to purify the standard of morals in the palace and frighten evil-doers unless we make an example of this insolent eunuch, who was dared to leave Beijing without permission and to commit these lawless deeds? The governors of these three provinces of Shandong, Honan and Jiangsu are ordered to seek out and arrest the eunuch An whom we had formerly honored with the rank of the sixth grade and the decoration of the crow's feather. Upon his being duly identified by his companions, let him be forth with beheaded, without further formalities, no attention is to be paid to any crafty explanations which he may attempt to make. The governors concerned will be held responsible in the event of failure to affect his arrest
An was beheaded on 12 September 1869. This was quite an unusual reaction for Empress Dowager Ci'an, and the execution of An Dehai is said to have greatly displeased Empress Dowager Cixi. Some sources say that Prince Gong forced Ci'an to take an independent decision for a change. A several days after the arrest an edict was issued by Ci'an:
"Ding Baozhen now reports that the eunuch was arrested in the T'ai An prefecture and has been summarily beheaded. Our dynasty's house law is most strict in regard to the proper discipline of eunuchs, and provides severe punishment for any offences to which they may commit. They have always been sternly forbidden to make expeditions to the provinces, or to create trouble. Nevertheless, An Dehai actually had brazen effiontery to violate this law, and for his crimes his execution is only a fitting reward. In future, let all eunuchs take warning by his example; should we have further cause of complaint, the chief eunuchs of the several departments of the household will be punished as well as the actual offender. Any eunuch who may hereafter pretend that he has been sent on imperial business to the provinces shall be cast into chains at once, and sent to Beijing for punishment".
Other articles related to "the case of an dehai, an dehai, of an dehai":
... The most feared grand eunuch of the imperial court An Dehai (Chinese 安德海), close confidant of Empress Dowager Cixi, was on a trip south to buy ... This was quite an unusual reaction for Empress Dowager Ci'an, and the execution of An Dehai is said to have greatly displeased Empress Dowager Cixi ... Nevertheless, An Dehai actually had brazen effiontery to violate this law, and for his crimes his execution is only a fitting reward ...
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