Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Mary Hanneman


Empress Dowager Cixi1 is commonly blamed as the main cause of the fall of Chinese dynastic rule early in the twentieth century. The historical narrative consistently states that Cixi’s thirst for power, backwardness, and conservative values inevitably meant she was unable to make necessary reform. This narrative does not account for other possible influences Cixi was examining to help her sculpt ideas and possibly resolve the mounting crisis China was facing. The rationale for this study is based on a methodological review of known literature from primary and secondary biographical sources, historical narratives, as well as additional sources regarding gender and race that altered the prevailing views of Cixi. I argued that she attempted to look beyond the limited views of her advisors to the unlikely source of Western women. She utilized unorthodox “tea parties” in her private quarters to gain political knowledge, thus finding an avenue to blend Western and Chinese ways in order to reform China. This paper will review how Cixi has been portrayed through the literature and then examine how she sought to modernize China through her interactions with Western women.

Included in

Asian Studies Commons