10.07.2019 Forbidden Images of the Last Dynastic Funeral processions: Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi

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The only western account of the Empress Dowager’s death ritual – despite some casual notes by members of the diplomatic body – was provided by the London Times correspondent G. E. Morrison, who gave a detailed eye-witness description of the funeral procession in 1909.

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Photography was forbidden, this group of twelve silver prints come from the circle of Theophile Piry, and could be attributed to this diplomat and master of the Imperial Post Office, a known amateur photographer. The composition and general aspect of the twelve pictures confirm the hypothesis of unofficial unauthorized snapshots of the Emperor Guangxu’s funeral procession in May 1909.

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Elaborate details on imperial death rituals during the Qing were presented in the Collected Statutes and Precedente and in the Collected rituals of the dynasty…

Born in the year 1835, the later Empress Dowager Cixi was selected as a low- ranking imperial concubine in 1851.

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By her death the Manchu rule over China was greatly weakened: Cixi died on November 15, 1908, less than one day after the demise of the Emperor Guangxu, a coincidence which gave rise to countless rumors about the causes of death of the late Majesties.

Yun Yuding, a court officiai, recorded the Empress Dowager’s famous words ”I cannot die before him” (the Emperor) supporting the rumor that the Emperor had died at the hands of the Empress Dowager – Now proved by DNA.

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… In Confucian state ideology, ritual, the performance of rites and roles, was conceived of as essential background of order and unity. Rituals explicitly differentiated the social relations. The correct performance of the prescribed rites functioned as a means to order the family structure, to stabilize the social hierarchy, to consolidate the state, and thus to prevent all these organizations from disorder.
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