Season 2: Episode 3: How did female sexuality lead to the rise and fall of Chinese empresses?
With Dr. Cony Marquez
In this episode, Kelsie shares her interview of soon-to-be Dr. Cony Marquez, with Brooke and they discuss Empress Wu and Empress Dowager Cixi.
Kelsie Eckert 0:05
The Remedial Herstory Project is a nonprofit working to get women's history into the K to 12 curriculum to help us meet our goal. We produce media lesson plans, and so much more. Check it out on our website, www.remedial herstory.com. The Remedial Herstory Project is funded through grants and by listeners like you. please head over to patreon.com and become a supporter of the remedial Herstory Project. You too can help us reform education and allow women to be seen heard and complicated. In particular funds from patrons added from here on out will help us launch a crash course YouTube channel on women's history. We will be producing short 10 minute videos that educators can play in their classes telling women's history from era to era for both us and world history. Let's make herstory together.
Brooke Sullivan 0:54
Kelsie Eckert 0:55
Brooke Sullivan 0:56
Want to tell everyone what's happening in today's episode?
Kelsie Eckert 0:58
This week we are going to be talking with soon to be Dr. Cony Marquez about the only two empresses of China who both came to power after being concubines and led China through some interesting periods of time. So I can't wait to get into it.
Hello, and welcome to Remedial Herstory: the other 50%. The podcast that explores what happened to the women in history class. Now here's your host Kelsie Brooke Eckert and her partner in crime. Brooke Neva Sullivan.
Kelsie Eckert 1:37
On this episode, we are going to be asking two questions. How does Confucianism impact the legacy of Chinese empresses? And how did female sexuality lead to the rise and fall of these empresses, so we're gonna be talking about two empresses that are about 1000 years apart in time, and yet they are the only two empresses of China. And we are so excited because we have soon to be Dr. Cony Marquez on the podcast this week. And she has been on our podcast before she is a historian of Latin American history. She is from Mexico herself, but teaches here in the US. And but she has also taught history in China, which is a really interesting experience. So I'm wondering if Cony can introduce yourself.
Cony Marquez 2:25
Hello, everyone. Thank you for listening. It is my pleasure to be here again with Kelsie in this wonderful Project, Remedial Herstory. And today we're going to be talking about two of the main female figures in the long history of China, which spans for more than 5000 years.
Kelsie Eckert 2:48
This podcast is sponsored by our patrons, patrons get access to behind the scenes, regular RHP gear, bonus episodes, insights into our research lesson plans before everybody else and more Brooke, read off these awesome people.
Brooke Sullivan 3:05
Thank you to Jeff Barbara, Christian Kent, Jamie, Jenna, Nancy, Megan, Leah, Mark, Nicole, and Sarah, Alicia and Katya.
Kelsie Eckert 3:14
Woohoo! do you know what is so awesome about this particular group of people?
Brooke Sullivan 3:18
Kelsie Eckert 3:19
very few of them are actually educators. These are badass people who care so much about equitable and inclusive education that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
Brooke Sullivan 3:31
Kelsie Eckert 3:32
Brooke Sullivan 3:32
Kelsie Eckert 3:33
Yeah, so cool. You too can become a patron of the remedial herstory project by heading over to www.patreon.com and becoming a sponsor of the remedial history project for just $5 a month.
Brooke Sullivan 3:48
Kelsie Eckert 3:49
That's one latte.
Brooke Sullivan 3:50
But I mean, it's, it's one of something but it's cheap, and you get all that stuff,
Kelsie Eckert 3:55
all that stuff. You too can give up one latte for 1000s of children and women.
Brooke Sullivan 4:02
You could also buy condoms for more than that
Kelsie Eckert 4:07
you can produce.
Brooke Sullivan 4:08
You could reduce reproduction. For less than that.
Kelsie Eckert 4:14
Brooke Most importantly, instead of lamenting that women's history isn't being taught in high school or that they didn't know these women. These people are putting their money where their mouth is and they are getting it in to the curriculum by funding us.
Brooke Sullivan 4:27
It's awesome. And they believe women stories are important.
Kelsie Eckert 4:31
Brooke Sullivan 4:32
Kelsie Eckert 4:32
Duh thanks, patrons. We love you.
Brooke Sullivan 4:35
We do love you.
Cony Marquez 4:39
Kelsie, did you know that the Chinese culture. The Chinese civilization is the longest in the planet?
Kelsie Eckert 4:49
Oh my gosh, is it really
Cony Marquez 4:51
Yes. Is the only civilization. the only country Well, back then there wasnt A country it was An empire. But it's the only one that has lasted more than 5000 years. The egyptians lasted the the Mayans lasted. But the Romans, the Greeks, but nobody has been permanently living in that land for that long as a culture. 5000 years.
Kelsie Eckert 5:26
On this episode, we're going to be talking about two empresses of China. And the first one is this Empress, Empress Wu. And before we get into it with Cony here, I want to tell you a little bit about my own experience. So I have traveled to China twice. First, as an undergrad, I was studying Asian politics, I was a political science major. And there I got to tour around Beijing. And then I actually took a train out of China and into Mongolia, where I studied for over seven weeks in Mongolia, and then came back to China and then headed home. That experience was really interesting. And what made it really special to me was seeing China in a period before the Olympics were hosted there. And a lot of Western tourists were coming over. It was very muggy, and there was a lot. It was just a very dirty city. And to see it cleaned up in my second visit, in 2018 was just really interesting. The city had transformed over that over that time. The first time I was a college student and it was a very different outlook. And the second time I traveled I was with students, I was actually leading students on an EF tour. And we stopped in three different Chinese cities, which was really neat. I stayed in Beijing, Sheehan and Shanghai, and the city had transformed it was it was really cool. I felt much more comfortable being there. And my love for China really grew in both of those experiences. The second time I was there, though, in the city of Sheehan, I got to go on a probably very touristy experience, which was I went to see an opera. And this opera was about emperess Wu. And it was the first time I had really been opened to the women's history of China, i hadn't really thought about it before that experience. And I was exposed now to an empress. And I didn't know how many Chinese Emperesses there were. But I learned pretty quickly that she was the one and only for a long time and that her legacy was basically that you shouldn't have a Chinese Empress. So I'm really excited to have Cony here today to talk to everybody about Empress Wu. And then we're also going to get into the Dowager Empress from much later in the late 1800s. So let's start with Empress Wu. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
Cony Marquez 7:58
Well, the two empresses we're talking about, they are separated are more than 1000 years. Imagine more than 1000 years and yet they're here in our episode. Yes, Empress Wu was ruled. She ruled actually for 22 years. But her, her power became since she arrived to the palace. she, her life was very interesting life, but also dramatic life. And the way she got to the power is based mostly in her beauty. Meaning she was selected. Back then the most beautiful, or the youngest girls were called mandatory by the state officials to be in meetings or to be selected for for the Emperor's as concubines, it was the equivalent of winning Miss World or, you know, the, the contest of beauty. She was called and selected to one of these tests that the Emperor sent the officials to do. She was of an upper class so it wasn't like they were doing beauty test to everyone like patient, they still had a very strong cast, if you will, or social class society in which you have to be already had to be born in certain social class to be selected. So she was selected and she was named one of the concubines of the Emperor and she was the wife of two Emperor's. the mother of two more Emperor's and just to crown all these trimpuhs because we're all the women besides who or Wu. that was enough right to be the wife of an emperor. But she wasn't not only the wife of one Emperor she was the wife of two Emperor's and then she mothered two more Emperor's. But that was not enough for her. And she was an emperor, anEmpress herself. That's amazing. She lived on our time, in the first years of our time. She lived from 624 to 705 ad. And she was a ruler in 683. So she was in her in her last years, right? But she was, in those years Confucianism was the state religion. And Confucianism became the, the way Chinese society ruled. And she was raised in this religion. But she knew that in this religion, the way that things were ordered by the precepts of this religion was that you had to obey your parents, you had to obey your husband, that was not okay with a Wu. Because she also in in her time, women were having power as a mothers, because they, they use this pool of respect for the elders of this ancient religion.
That ordered the people to obey their elders, and that also included to some extent the mother. So that's why she was able to rule over her, sons as well. But as a way to respect this religion, to respect the, the elders, she also knew the way to break with that. And the way to break with Confucianism for Wu was to embrace Buddhism, in her reign, in her, let's say, also, when she was the, the woman behind the power, she was not Empress per se, but she was the one who ruled and the, the Emperor, who was her second husband, the son of her first husband, ruled with always taking her opinion, in consideration. So she was there. And that she knew she identified that one of the main blocks or walls to stop her, her power was also the Confucianism as an ideology, but also for the, for the monks, for the ministers who follow these philosophy. This philosophy didn't fit well with her idea of being free to rule in particularly that the woman has a secondary role, always beyond a man. So she saw this as a way to be free in, by embracing Buddhism. Actually, she opened and she created many Buddhism shrines. And she also, her tomb is a Buddhist shrine. So meaning the, the figure that she is, is a Buddhism inspiration.
Kelsie Eckert 14:33
She's not exactly looked at well in history. Can you tell me a little bit about the legacy of her rule?
Cony Marquez 14:42
I consulted the book of Jonathan Clements. That he, that title is "Wu the Chinese emperors who schemed seduced and murder her way to become a living God." This book was published in 2014. And Jonathan Clements, let us know that Emperess who was one of the main, it's been one of the main figures in the only Emperess that's enough to make it to the history books, right. But she, because of that, she has been the subject of controversial. And also, the sources are very contradictory. She also had her own writers, nephew, two nephews wrote, her biography, that she was able to control when she was alive. But then when she died, those who were silenced by her power start to speak up. So her figure is so distant in time, we're talking about her dead in 705 AD, the Roman Empire contemporary, right of the Roman Empire, that this figure is just lost in the shadows of what's real, what's not real. And with the time with the years, and confronting, even confronting the letters, it's so difficult because it's so lost in time. And since she was ruling, she had the factors or the tractors, and she had people who support that. So she was to cite here, "those who praise her, and those who made her virtues such as a strong women, and smart women, too, to say that she was evil". And that seemed to be Kelsie. Sadly, the constant in female history, because female history is surrounded by these stereotypes of, of a bad woman who use her sexuality, who use the power of her body, just to tame the man. You know, when a woman is not beyond the man, and like in the case of Wu, she was in front and she became an empress. Always the sources said oh she was a bad women, she was, she manipulate men. That is part, partially because of the patriarchal way of grinding history where women cannot have their own agency. In the case of Wu, we don't know it's so far away, the sources are contradictory, to praise or to attack. her nephew, described her as a traitorous fox, she was blamed to strangle her own daughter, to get rid of the other wife's of the Emperor. And after the death of her newborn girl, the Emperor took pity on her perhaps, or he already love her, but he couldn't get rid of wife number one and wife number two. So with these, they were blamed, and this crime was made into an advantage and opened the path to Wu. So the idea of blaming her own, of blaming, Wu to strangle her own daughter also appears in the chronicles right after her death. All these gossips, all these true or not true, were made into sources and sexual allegations of how she was a tiger in the bed that she conquer and she made the two Emperor's the father and later the son to eat out of her hand, became part of the, of the way people talk on her. But when she died, all these enemies were allowed, because she was replaced by
a son who never wanted her. Because that's another part of the Wu, of Wu story, Kelsie, according to Jonathan Clements, and the other sources that I consulted because she was much into power. She wasn't liked by her own family. Her own family despise her, meaning her sons, they wouldn't say anything when she was alive. But actually she was forced to, to give up the the power of, as an Emperess months before she died, she was forced to resign months before her death and that was been made by her own son. So it is believed that, the archaeologists had found evidences of violent deaths in her family. And this is not a myth only, you know, that's important to say Chinese historians and archaeologists are still digging are still trying to create a more realistic portrait of Wu, but in the case of Wu, it is known that she had wars. I mean, she sponsored wars, and it was a very violent period. And that is perhaps why Wu is also besides the sexual and, and the characteristics of Wu as a lion, as a terrible woman. It's also the characteristics of her as a terrible ruler. The only way we know for sure, or at least, it can get us clear of the, her legacy, is that the children who survive her, left her memorial blank. She sent away her, the heir, the son, Prince Li Xian, to be banished to a distant province and later forced to commit suicide. And this was said when she was alive. So her memorial that should be full of decoration is just blank. And that is believe that the other people, other people say that the memorial is not, is blank, because she was so great that no words could express how great she was. So right now, in talk, talking about Wu, we cannot separate fiction from reality because it's not only far away in time, but also in the time she was alive the biographies were also filled with mythology. We're talking about the Middle Ages, the early Middle Ages and the end of the Roman Empire in western history. The only things we're sure that the both biographies conside on Wu, is that she was a smart by the age of 30, she had seize, seized the reins of power, she was already there as a wife of the second Emperor. And she used her second husband, incapacitation, through illness, to rule the Empire under his name. And when she entered the prime of her life, she was versed in, of course, in Chinese language, but also there was the classic Chinese language that only the elite and the ministers could speak in, she could do anything she wanted, because she married the son of her first husband, who was incapable to rule or according to the biographies, she made him behave like that. So she could be the winner, the one on the power. So that's so, so interesting, but also, it's so impossible to separate fiction from reality, especially in so far away time.
Kelsie Eckert 24:09
So 1000 years, over 1000 years later, China has a second Empress. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
Cony Marquez 24:19
Cixi, I use the for for this episode, I use the book, I consulted the book of Jung Chang. And her book is called "The concubine who launched Modern China Empress Dowager Cixi" and by the name of Dowager, meaning widow. We know that she inherited the power from her husband. But she is not considered an Empress, she is consider and she has passed through the history as a regent. There's a big difference between being an Empress and being a regent. The Empress is considered to be descendant from God. While a Regent is a political but still very powerful position. Yes, a regent, you get to be a regent in ancient, I mean in before the Chinese revolution, China, a regent was a ruler, but it wasn't an emperor because the Emperor had descended from God. Right, it was a very different, it was a god given position if you will to be an emperor, while being, Regent was a political position, a very powerful one. So Emperess Dowager Cixi, Cixi pardon for my Chinese, live from 1835 to 1908, the half of the 18th century and the first decade of the 20th century. So of course, the sources are more close to our time, and more books about her. Rather than the logical accounts like in the case of Emperess Wu. So she was a regent that's a big difference, being a regent and being an Emperess right. And she ruled behind an Emperor. She rule behind her husband who was declare, incapable to rule. And then she rule, she named a grandson, an Emperor. And the grandson was a little one, I think he was like five or six years old. So she was the one over, over the power. So first, an incapable husband to rule, an emperor. And then Grandson who was as well incapable to rule and then a nephew that she was able to get rid of him by detecting a coup. That was a plot against her that was prepared by her, her nephew, and she was able to order his death. And then there was a series of events that allow her or maybe smart
way to do politics. Very smart and successful. That made her being a regent for most of her life. She became a royal concubine when she was 16 years old, in 1851, along with her sister, and she was so beautiful that she was selected on the spot out of 60 candidates, but she was from Manchuria. Far away region from Beijing, and her family was not the, the most, the highest family in the in the nobility, Exelon, so she was placed in a very low rank as a concubine. Now, maybe it's time Kelsie to talk about the concubines. For in China, for a man, to powerful men. And that's maybe also truth in many societies in Asia, Muslims, for example, right, who have different wives, especially in the past, right? It is important, if you are an important man, you should have more than wife, more than one wife, and several or hundreds concubines. it is believed that the the power, the power and the the sexual power and with that, the force of a ruler, it's also in having the best sex. In, in being a man by having many women available for him. So the role of a concubine is also to improve the Emperor's health. Can you believe it? It was considered mandatory for the Emperor's health. To have multiple concubines. So to be a concubine is something that is hard or difficult for us in the West, to think about, and maybe today in China as well. But in the past, it was to have power was also to have women. And it was expected from an emperor to have women, to have hundreds. And the women were also important for the families, because they were able to be traded by important positions. If a daughter had married, an advantage marriage, the families will not only rise socially speaking, but economically speaking. Right now within that, in Chinese culture, women are, you know, are not well regarded. Because, you know, back even until in the early, I think it began in 1985. And it lasted more than 10 years where Chinese were forced to have only one children, right, by the government. So in that time, many families killed or abandoned girls just to have on son. Because it was believed that the son will look after the family much better than the girl, that will lose the last name because of being married. But in these times of the Emperors, the women had a very special role in the family because they could get married with advantage marriages, and they will be given a higher status to the families. That's important to consider, right the the asset, that a woman, having a woman or having a marriable woman for a family was. They could get married and increase. And that was the case of Cixi she was able to make it into a concubine. And that was an achievement itself. she was selected out of hundreds, and then out of those 1000s of girls. And once inside the palace, she got so much educated that she was able to make,
to increase her power even more because she was educated inside the palace. She spoke Manchurian, and she spoke Chinese. And she learned classic Chinese literature. And it is known that she was very smart in languages, in classical writing, something that other men couldn't do. And she access to power, by having a male heir, she gave birth to the future Emperor, she moved up while the other concubines, the other wives couldn't move up as she was able to do. So it's a combination Kelsie of different things. First, being selected for her beauty and smartness as a concubine, then, moving her way up from the lower ranks of concubines to the top in decades, it didn't come from one year to another, but then mother, the, the Emperor and having a husband, who wasn't capable to rule or at least that's what the Chronicle said that, that she was able to be a regent because her husband wasn't good enough in the power.
Kelsie Eckert 34:02
So in listening here, Cony, it seems like sexuality is a very key component to her rise to power.
Cony Marquez 34:12
It is we have to understand Kelsie that that's the dynamic we can be against that. Especially today in feminist theory and with our 21st century view. We can say 'Oh, how can we objectifies women? How can we talk about women just as a sexual objects?' Well, these two women, Empress Wu and Empress Cixi were much more than that. Yes, they use the gift of giving birth to the the Emperor's, right. But at the same time, they were smart enough to rule using those, those weapons if you will, those assests. So that was the way, there was no way that the Emperor could even look at a woman. If it wasn't a concubine, or if it wasn't within his own court, the Emperor would, wouldn't go to the provinces, wouldn't go to meet the peasents, it was a highly stratified society. So they could only see what the, what the people surrounded the Emperor, presented to the Emperor. So she was the bowed women, live in a society, live, belong to a social class, that make them in contact with the, with those officials who were in charge of selecting the concubines, and once inside the palace. That was, it was a trimpuh by itself. Remember, the the palace, it was called, is today known as the Forbidden City. Why Forbidden City? Only officials and and very few people from the vast Chinese Empire could even get close to the doors, could even make it to Beijing. To start with. People were not traveling, people will live and die in their own provinces, in their own towns, they will never get to meet the Emperor not even see a painting of the Emperor. So people couldn't get into the Forbidden City. Back in the time of Emperess Wu, and also Emperess Cixi at the beginning of the 20th century. Right. So imagine the chances and once they were selected as concubines, once inside the walls of the Forbidden City, they have to show special assets that will make the Emperor take a look on her. And then select them among, its believed that some Emperor's had hundreds of concubines, so just to be selected, and then to make your way up. That was a big trimpuh, that shows the determination, smartness. Because beauty you know, Kelsie, beauty is not enough. You need to back a beautiful face with brain. And we know that for this world and all these contests, they not only look well, so they say right. They also want to know how you're going to rule how you're going to present yourself as a, as a beautiful woman. And these perhaps one of the conclusions we can get from these two great female figures in Chinese history is that beauty and, and brain are the key combination. Because these two women were beautiful by the Chronicle and the standards of their time. They say they were mesmerizingly beauty, beautiful, Cixi, we have portraits of her because by the time she was born in, she was born in the midst of the 1800s. And then she was in power in the in the 1870s, 1880s there was photographs of her. Of course, these photographs, you know, she had to use the best makeup and amazing outfits as an emperess, as well as a regent. But she was beautiful, but she was smart. And not only bursts in languages or in writing or in literature. She was smart in political strategies. They knew how to conquer how to make alliances and how to get rid of their enemies. That's what I'm talking about being smart.
Kelsie Eckert 39:06
So I'm trying to figure out where to place these two women in my history classes, Empress Wu, I feel like is a really interesting conversation around Confucianism whereas I feel like this later Empress. I'm struggling because in my class this is the same time as we're learning about the Boxer Rebellion in US history and the open door policy. In world history we might be putting this in the context of the Opium Wars and kind of the decline of China and so I guess I'm I'm interested, where can you, can you help me place this, this Empress in in context? And do you feel like it is her or is it just the timeframe that she is in that creates this decline for China, is this an inevitable decline? Or did she contribute to that by, by failure of leadership?
Cony Marquez 40:10
Well, first let separate Wu from Cixi not only more than 1000 years apart, but in the case of Wu of Emperess Wu, she, her Empire increase with having contact with foreigner powers, it is known that she had good diplomatic and good economical connections with foreign powers. Actually, in her, tomb, you have these figures of, of people from Persia, from Middle East, right, and also even Jewish and Indian and Tibetan. So she had contact with Persian Princess, with mentioned Jewish merchants, Indian and Tibetan missioners. So she had a very different position in terms of foreigner relations in her, her time. But as you mentioned, going back to the 19th century and the 20th century, indeed, Cixi in the beginning, she was completely against any foreigner connections, and especially, she got to face the Opium War, particularly the second Opium War, which was from 1856 to 1860. She was key in the stablization of China after the second Opium War, and the way to stabalize Chinese, China, her her strategy was to oppose to strongly oppose any foreign investment and trading and refusing any modernisation. With little tolerance or no tolerance to Christians and other religions. Her, her husband had already allowed some missionaries to settle in Beijing and create Christian churches. Well Cixi refused that and with the, after the Opium War, she had the tools, if you will, to get rid of any foreigner investment and get rid of any influence, to blame men and with reason, to be honest, with reason of the terrible effects of the Opium War. But then, she also had one of the bloodiest legacies of Cixi, is the Taiping Rebellion, Kelsie, the Taiping Rebellion was, was a national rebellion that wanted to get rid of the Emperor's rule. And these rebellion was from 1850 to 1864. and is believed that more than 30 million of Chinese died in the Taiping Rebellion, that was order, I mean, not order but the ending this rebellion was ordered by Cixi. And these rebellion was against the Emperor was against to get rid of the ruling
of the Emperor. And she, she punished so violently she ordered so bloody punishment, that for these rebels against her rule, that it is believed that more than 30 Chinese died. And as you mentioned, she supported the boxers rebellion. This rebellion was against foreigners trading in China and living in China. The boxers wanted to get rid, after the Opium War, wanted to get rid completely of any foreigner in China. And also any trade. they wanted to lock, completely locked and sealed Chinese, China at any cost. And it is known that she supported, these rebellion, not openly perhaps, but she did. She allowed them to operate. And it is also known that she disliked foreigners, particularly Westerners, particularly whites and that make that some historians consider Cixi xenophobic, with xenophobic tendencies, because she despised foreigners. But, and this is the, this smartness if you will or to be utilitarian or to use the opportunities just on her own way, when she know, when she learned that Westerners were there to stay, particularly in Hong Kong, and particularly in the coast, because the trading was important for Chinese economy. And by locking up Chinese economy, the Emperor, the state, in that, in that time, became completely bankrupt. So that made Cixi accept foreigners trade after the bankruptcy of their own, of her own country. So she was, she was able to change sides just to survive, just to survive, and she was forced by the circumstances. And also inside her ruling, inside the core of the Emperor, or her as a regent. They knew that it was, there was no way to resist Westerners in China, especially trading, and especially when China was bankrupt, on her administration, and famine, attacked many provinces. So people was dying. famine was rampant. And there was bankruptcy in administration, also for their own circumstances of corruption, of taxes and all these. Also, in along with having three wars, actually four, the first Opium War, then the second Opium War. And then the Taiping Rebellion, which was a national rebellion from 1850 to 1860, for a vast majority of the Chinese population was, wanted to get rid of the Emperor. And they were violently repressed, so bankrupt, with more than 30 million deaths on her shoulders because she ordered these violent massacre repression of the Taiping Rebellion. And then the Opium War effects. The trade, the only way out for the bankrupt in her administration, and famine, was to trade with Westerners. So she started open it up. And then when she died, the next Emperor Puyi is the one who lost the power completely. And that was the arrival of the Communists. So I bear to say, Kelsie, that without these difficult moment of bankruptcy, and famine, and sufferings for Chinese people, Empress Cixi
when she was the, the regent under Cixi, and then Puyi, who inherited or became Emperor when he was a little child, without this failure of the Chinese Emperor system, it wouldn't be possible, the Chinese revolution people was tired of these 1000 years of, of ruling, and that became, with the Westerners or with the change of times, difficult to, to be on, right. So Cixi, sadly now has these,these myths of Cixi as the one who gave the last, although she wasn't the last emperor, but she created this big problem that ended up being the death and the complete failure of the Emperor's system in China.
Kelsie Eckert 49:38
Do you think that's because of her leadership? Or do you think that she just happened to be the leader in that time and it was inevitable?
Cony Marquez 49:46
I think it was both. It was both. She, I was saying that she was very smart, very well, well versed in culture and in political science, in political strategies. She got to power, she got to be the longest Regent in in China, right? But she got to be there because she was smart and she used the system. Right? She did not embrace another religion like Wu did with Buddhism. She continued the Confucianism religion within the rules, she, she played the game within the rules. But by playing the games within the rules, she was unable or she refused to see that there had to be important changes. And I'm not only talking about accepting Westerners and trading. No is much more than that, it's about changing, for example, she she strongly opposed the creation of a Chinese University with Western professors. She refused that, she refused Chinese to be learned to be learning English for example, when England was the main partner or was one of the main. We have to understand that in those years, the UK and we're talking about Victorian era she was contemporary of Victorian queen in England, Cixi, England was in the in the top of their power as a colonial power right especially in Asia, Asia and Africa as well, but it's not only to accept them into trade. it's also to make important changes from the route, from the laws, the taxes, the way the ministers, the way the judges, the way the local governors, the the mayors and then the governors of the provinces, all these apparatus all these state apparatus became corrupted became inefficient, I should say, became inefficient. And with the modernity brought new changes and new technologies, and even a new way to to use money, to produce money. And she refused all that, that became the, that sealed the fate of the Emperor's dynasty. And she was the last one who faced these, refused to see the changes. And when the changes were there, because her people was dying of famine, when the state was broke, bankrupt, and she refused to see that. Finally she said, okay, we might as well open the doors to foreigners, we might as well do some reforms, but it was too late. So I will say it was both, she was part of the problem. And she was part of the solution. And by being part of the solution, it was the end of the Emperor's era.
Kelsie Eckert 53:10
These two women are so interesting and powerful and I think their failures teach us a lot about historiography. They teach us a lot about women and how they can gain and keep and maintain and, and even lose power. And I'm just so grateful to have Cony here and to teach us a little bit about this this has been an incredible experience I feel like I've gained a lot of depth from my classes that I can now bring about these two women and I think this is you know, just because there were only two I think this is one of those moments in a history class where we have to say okay, there were two and the the difficulty in becoming an empress versus becoming an emperor is something that needs to be acknowledged and therefore almost demands that they be taught because they are so, so unique and and that challenge for them is so much harder. So I'm so grateful to you for giving me that depth so that I can really expand on on these two women and is there anything else that you want to add before we sign off here?
Cony Marquez 54:21
Yes, I want to recommend the audience, two books that I use for this account in this podcast. One is the book by Jonathan Clements, "to become a living God", you can buy it on on Amazon, and the other is the one I'm sure you're gonna love. You're gonna love If you have time, because I know you're very busy. But I want to recommend the book of Jung Chang, "the concubine who launched modern China Emperess Dowager Cixi" that's from 2013. And it's a wonderful book. It's a wonderful book, it is said, as a book, but also as a novel. Both, both books are are just engaging. You want to know whats next. And in the case of Cixi is so recent, if you will in history, that is more perhaps realistic, is less mythological than Wu. But it's fascinating, the way she made her way up from a lowest class concubine to be a regent, who ruled for 47 years, being a woman in ruling 47 years, which was her asset, and her downfall, as we discussed. So beautiful history and big lessons to learn there, right? It takes brains and beauty. The two are lethal combination as Wu, and Cixi shows us.
Kelsie Eckert 56:10
Oh my gosh, you're amazing. Thank you Cony
Cony Marquez 56:13
They are amazing.
Thanks so much for listening to remedial herstory the other 50% please subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to your podcasts to bring more voices to the conversation. We'd really appreciate that effort. Until next time,
Cony Marquez is a Ph. D. Candidate in Latin American History from the University of Arizona. She specializes in Gender Studies, Cultural History, Musicology, and Art History. Her dissertation"Voices of Women in Mexican Army", is an original study based on the oral history of Mexican Army Wives, their traditional roles, and how they've challenged them. She has almost more than a decade of teaching history courses in Mexican, American, and Chinese Universities. Her approach is multidisciplinary and focuses on the history of minorities often ignored in mainstream history dominated by male academics with political agendas. She is a non-aggressive but convinced feminist advocating for equality in academia and life.