Cixi, known first as Yehenara, was once a simple concubine, but through cunning and manipulation she ultimately came to rule the Middle Kingdom.
A simple concubine, one of sixty women serving the Xianfeng Emperor, rose to become the de facto ruler of the Qing dynasty. This is the story of Cixi, who, using charisma, political shrewdness, and manipulation, governed the Forbidden City through the latter half of the nineteenth century, and who, by breaking with tradition, may have heralded the end of an empire.
Access even more free Smithsonian Channel full episodes and documentaries online through participating TV providers.
Find out if your television provider carries Smithsonian Channel.
Don't panic! It's simple to upgrade to the latest version of one of these browsers:
Don't panic! To get the best possible experience on smithsonianchannel.com we recommend you upgrade your operating system.
For the best possible site experience, please use Chrome for Android.
Add username "SmithsonianChan" on Snapchat for fun and fascinating facts. We'll be sharing spontaneous photos and videos as inspiration strikes.