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Forbidden City
Well of Concubine Zhen

Concubine Zhen was the concubine of Emperor Guangxu. Guangxu was a reformer who wanted to liberalize laws and education during the late Qing Dynasty. His mother, the Empress Cixi, disagreed and held much of the power of government. In the late 1890s there were more and more protests among the populace against high taxes, corrupt officials, and the general injustice of the system. One of these groups, the Boxers, gained a large following and began rioting throughout China. The Boxers attacked anything that had to do with wealth and government, but also directed their attacks against foreigners and foreign missionaries because they were perceived as holding wealth and withholding it from the poor.

Emperor Guangxu's solution was to try to solve the problems by reforming government. Empress Dowager Cixi's solution was to suppress the Boxers. Unfortunately the military wasn't up to the task and the Boxers made it to Beijing. Empress Dowager Cixi took a novel course and sided with the Boxers and declared war against the European powers, including Russia and Japan. This was all the Eight Powers needed. Their legations were under attack from the Boxers and they brought forces from Tianjin to suppress the rebellion in 1900.

When Empress Dowager Cixi and the court were boarding boats and carriages to flee to the hills in the face of the invasion, Cixi ordered eunuch Cui Yugui to drown Concubine Zhen in the well. Emperor Guangxu remained under house arrest.

Concubine Zhen (1876-1900) had been brought to the palace when she was 12 with her elder sister. They were to serve as consorts in Guangxu's retinue. She was promoted to concubine in 1894 as Guangxu became more and more devoted to her. In 1901, she was promoted posthumously to Noble Concubine. She was survived by her sister, the Concubine Jin.

The hole in the well cover is very small, but does not reflect the well that lies beneath. The well is narrow, but the cover was added later to keep pesky tourists from getting themselves in trouble.

Concubine Zhen

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Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009