Updated: 2011-05-06 07:50
Cixi, 16, enters the Forbidden City. She competes with 60 other Manchu girls to win a berth as Emperor Xianfeng's concubine-in-waiting, and is subsequently promoted to concubine of the fifth rank.
Her son Zaichun, the only male heir of Emperor Xianfeng, is born, elevating Cixi to consort of the fourth rank. A year later, Cixi becomes "Noble Imperial Consort Yi", second only to the Empress Consort Ci'an.
Emperor Xianfeng nominates his son Zaichun (Tongzhi) as the future ruler on his deathbed. Both Cixi and Ci'an are elevated to the rank of Empress Dowager. Cixi sidelines Ci'an, forms an alliance with ambitious royals Prince Gong and Prince Chun and dismisses the Eight Regent Ministers that Xianfeng had appointed. Three regents are executed.
Cixi clips the wings of Prince Gong, with whose help she crushed the regents, demoting him from the post of chief policy adviser.
Emperor Tongzhi dies without leaving a male heir. Cixi chooses Prince Chun's son, 5-year-old Zaitian (Guangxu), as his successor.
Guangxu officially assumes the emperor's role but Cixi continues to run the show from the newly constructed Imperial Summer Palace.
Inspired by the idea of switching to constitutional monarchy, Guangxu begins the Hundred Days' Reform program, bringing about drastic changes in the legal, political and social realms. A disgruntled Cixi alleges treason, and reassumes the regent's role. Guangxu is relegated to being a shadow of his imperial self, serving only as a titular head.
Cixi supports the Boxer Uprising, a peasants' revolt directed primarily against corrupt officials, European missionaries and foreign intervention in the Chinese economy. But after the imperial army is sabotaged by General Ronglu, Cixi and Guangxu flee to the well-protected Muslim quarters of Xi'an. A truce is called after Cixi agrees to pay 67 million pounds ($110.68 million) in war reparations to the Western alliance and concedes to the presence of an international military force in Beijing.
Cixi names Prince Chun's grandson Puyi as Guangxu's successor after the latter's death. She dies the next day.
Chinese household care goods producers eye big cities, once stronghold of multinational players
The world's most wanted man was killed in a US raid in Pakistan.
Full coverage of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London. Best wishes
Xinjiang is a mysterious land of extremes that never falls to fascinate.