The Life of Empress Cixi
Political Divisions and Struggles for Power
The new emperor, Guangxu, was skinny, sickly, and terrified of the dowager empress. When he turned 17 in 1889, Cixi surrendered her power to him, in theory. She retired to her summer palace, six miles away from the Forbidden City. From there she spread rumours that the emperor was childlike and incompetent. However, the young emperor did have a mind of his own. And he started listening to people who, unlike Cixi, were in favour of westernizing China. In 1889, he initiated his famous "Hundred Days of Reform". He issued decrees ordering the building of railroads; the modernisation of the military; reform of the legal system, and so forth. He also dismissed hundreds of Manchu officials who opposed his reforms. Cixi was outraged by these changes; she cleverly bided her time and allowed the emperor to make enemies among the Manchu elite.
As it happened, a friend of Cixi"s old boyfriend, Jung Lu commanded Guangxu"s troops. This man told Jung Lu of the emperor"s plan to strip Cixi of power. So Cixi arranged for the emperor"s palace guard to be replaced by Jung Lu"s men. As the result, Empress Cixi returned to the Forbidden City.
Supposedly the emperor was so terrified by the sight of her that he threw himself on the ground and said, "I am unworthy to rule. Punish me, as I deserve."
There was an artificial lake in the Forbidden City called the Winter Palace Lake. In the middle of the lake was an island, Ying Tai or "Ocean Terrace". Cixi locked the Emperor up in a palace on the Ocean Terrace. In there, he was totally isolated from the rest of the court and his servants were either put to death or banished. He saw no one except for four guards and his wife, who was spying for Cixi. Occasionally, he was allowed out for the ceremonial occasions. But Cixi was in charge and she put an end to his policies for modernisation.