Originally named Xiao Lan (Little Orchid), Empress Dowager Cixi was born to a noble family in South China in the year 1835. In 1851, she was elected as one of Emperor Xianfengs concubines and renamed Cixi, meaning "Holy Mother".

At first, she was made a concubine of the fifth rank and after she gave birth to a son, the only son of the emperor, she was made a concubine of the second rank.

In 1861, her husband, Emperor Xianfeng was died, and her six-year-old son succeeded to the throne in the following year. Cixi then became the empress dowager and began to seize power and handler the state affairs. After her sons death at the age of 19, she put her nephew on the throne. However, in fact, all the state affairs were under her control during the reign of her son and nephew. In order to usurp power, she even poisoned Cian, the first wife of Xianfeng.

In 1898, she brutally suppressed the 100-day Reform and put Emperor Guangxu in house arrest for his supporting to the reform.

Empress Dowager Cixi died in the Forbidden City at the age of 73. Before her death, she put Emperor Puyi, another 3-year-old child, on the throne.

Empress Dowager Cixi lived a luxurious and decadent life in the palace. Ruling through a clique of conservative, corrupt officials, she maintained an iron grip over the Manchu Imperial house, becoming one of the most powerful women in the history of China.