Zhenfei and The Well Of Zhenfei

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zhenfei
zhenfei

Further north, the visitor will see a well (altogether there are 72 wells in the palace grounds) located in the north of the Palace of Peace and Longevity where Pearl Concubine was drowned.

This ill-fate woman was a daughter of Tatala Zhangxu, an official of the Ministry of Rites in the Qing Dynasty. She was born in 1867, and was the favourite concubine of the Qing Guangxu emperor (Qing emperor Guangxu had an empress and two concubines,while Qing emperor Kangxi had 79 concubines). In 1888,she was chosen to come to the palace together with her elder sister ( late given the honourable title of Jingfei, meaning: the Brilliant Concubine). She was given the honourable title of Zhenfei(Pearl Concubine)in 1894. She was fond of painting and calligraphy and was ambidextrous, able to write with either hand. So she was deeply loved by the Guangxu emperor. She supported the emperor when he strove for reform and political power, and soon became his favourite. By evoking the jealousy and hatred of the dowager empress Cixi, the concubine suffered brutal treatment, demoted in 1894 and was placed under house arrest and denied access to the Guangxu emperor. The dowager empress Longyu, Guangxu’ s widow, spread gossip about her so-called infidelity. Legend has it that Longyu had held many secret meetings with the powerful eunuch Li Lianying (1848-1911) in the Hall of Mental Cultivation in order to lay plans to persecute Zhenfei.

The Well Of Zhenfei
The Well Of Zhenfei

It was at the height of the Boxer Rebellion or the Yihetuan Movement(an anti imperialist armed struggle waged by North China peasants and Randi-craftsmen in 1900), on the mid-afternoon of 15th of August 1900. All Peking was in alarm as the Eight-Power Allied Forces(aggressive troops sent by Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Tsarist Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria in 1900, to suppress the anti-imperialist Yihetuan Movement of the Chinese people, known to the West as the Boxer Rebellion or Righteous Harmony Bands, their nickname deriving from the emphasis they placed on the art of boxing for exercise and self-defense) were approaching Beijing to relieve the besieged legation quarter. Raising the standard of rebellion against both the Manchus and the Western powers, the Boxer Rebellion, soon seized control of the countryside in the north and marched on Beijing. In the Forbidden City, the dowager empress Cixi decided to flee. Legend goes that the murderous Old Buddha had ordered her chief eunuch. Li Lianying, to obtain disguises. She put on the clothes of a peasant, and changed her Manchu hairstyle to Chinese. Carriages waited to spirit them out from the back gate, the Gate of Divine Pride, to safety at Xi’an in the west. Informed of her decision to take him along, the young Guangxu emperor came to plead with her, accompanied by his favourite, the Pearl Concubine. This spirited wisp of a girl, elegantly dressed in layers of embroidered silks, was devoted to the twenty-nine-year-old emperor. But she had never toadied to gain the Old Buddha’s favour. Now she prostrated herself and implored the dowager empress to let the emperor remain, to carry out negotiations with the foreign generals. The Pearl Concubine had been a thorn in the dowager empress Cixi’s eyes, interfering with palace intrigues by giving independent advice to the emperor. It was time to dispose of her. The dowager empress Cixi bellowed orders. When the Dowager fled with Guangxu to Xi’an, leaving orders with the deputy superintendent eunuch Cui Yugui to dispose of the 25-year-old skinny Pearl Concubine in her shimmering cocoon of silks by pushing her into the well. Zhen Fei’s sister, also a concubine, set up a shrine for her in the courtyard, while the well is known as Zhen fei’s Well. As the mouth of the well is very small, and Zhen Fei was slim.