She entered the world of an ancient empire as a teenage concubine, chosen by the emperor to share his bed for her good looks, immaculate comportment and, above all, her ability to sing.
她作为一名十几岁的嫔妃进入了一个古老帝国的皇宫,皇帝选中她与自己同床共枕,因为她有美丽的容貌,完美的举止,尤其是她歌唱的能力。
The male-dominated court was a swirl of intrigue, forced suicides and poisonings. Eunuchs assigned to the emperor prepared her for sex with the ruler, undressing her and carrying her to his bed. After the Emperor Xianfeng’s death, she governed in the name of young male heirs — from behind a screen.
在这个男性主导的宫廷里,阴谋、强迫自杀和下毒层出不穷。伺候皇帝的太监们为她与统治者行房事做准备,脱掉她的衣服,把她抬上皇帝的龙床。咸丰皇帝死后,她垂帘听政,以年幼的男性继承人的名义治理帝国。
Perhaps as an escape from these oppressive restrictions, Empress Dowager Cixi (pronounced TSIH-shee), the de facto ruler of China in the final decades of the imperial dynasty, rebuilt a fantastic wonderland, the Summer Palace. It’s an extended estate of glittery lakes, luxurious gardens and elaborate wooden pavilions on the edge of the nation’s capital, attracting up to 100,000 visitors a day.
也许是为了摆脱这些不公的制约,清朝最后几十年的实际统治者慈禧太后重建了一个神奇的仙境:颐和园。颐和园由大片闪闪发光的湖泊、奢华的花园,以及精美的木亭组成,位于北京城的西北角,现在每天吸引的游客可达10万。
Most of them are curious Chinese from across the country who read in their Communist Party-authorized school books that Cixi was a harridan who stole the nation’s wealth and was responsible for China’s humiliating defeat by the Japanese in 1895.
游客中的大多数是来自中国各地的猎奇者,他们上学时曾在共产党认可的教科书中读到,慈禧太后是一个脾气暴躁的女人,把国家财富据为己有,对中国在1895年耻辱地败给了日本负有责任。
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But was she? Cixi, a peer of Queen Victoria’s and apparently iron-willed, has invited revisionist interpretations that view her as a feminist, at least in the context of the late 19th century, when women in China were treated little better than spittoons.
真是这样吗?这位堪比维多利亚女王的人物显然十分强硬,以至于一些修正主义的历史诠释视她为一名女性主义者,至少放在19世纪末的语境下是这样,当时的中国女性受到的待遇不比痰盂好多少。
Strong women in China are often portrayed as power-hungry, and sometimes irrational, and are notably absent from the highest ranks of government. There is no Hillary Clinton figure in contemporary China (the real Mrs. Clinton is vilified by the government for talking about human rights in the country), or an Angela Merkel, who has stood up to China on trade.
在中国,强势女性常常被描绘为迷恋权力的人,有时还不理性,在政府高层中显然极少能见到她们。当代中国没有希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)式的人物(希拉里本人因为在中国谈论人权而受到中国政府的诋毁),也没有安格拉·默克尔(Angela Merkel)那样的人,默克尔敢在贸易问题上与中国抗衡。
When Bo Xilai, a rival to the current ruler Xi Jinping, was put on trial for corruption, he described his wife as “insane” in an effort to lessen his sentence.
当现任国家主席习近平的政敌薄熙来因腐败接受审判时,为了减轻自己的刑罚,他把妻子描述为“精神错乱”。
So harking back to the pre-communist era for a feminist trailblazer makes sense. And to search for feminist ideals in a woman who ruled for nearly 50 years, from 1861 until her death in 1908, is understandable.
所以,回到共产主义时代之前去谈论一位女性主义开拓者是有道理的。在一位统治国家将近50年(从1861年直到1908年去世)的女性身上寻找女性主义理想也是可以理解的。
从佛香阁望出去的景色。
从佛香阁望出去的景色。 Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
But the case of Cixi — who was isolated, undereducated and never made a break for personal freedom — is a hard argument to make.
但是,把慈禧太后当作这样的例子很难有说服力,她生活在一个与世隔绝的世界里,没受过多少教育,也从未试图逃脱限制、获得个人自由。
A Chinese historian, Jung Chang, began the re-evaluation of Cixi with her biography, “Empress Dowager Cixi.” Ms. Chang, who lives in exile, argues the empress brought medieval China into the modern age, calling her an “amazing stateswoman.”
华裔历史学家张戎从她写的传记《慈禧太后》(Empress Dowager Cixi)入手,对慈禧进行重新了评价。身居海外的张戎认为,慈禧太后把中国从中世纪带入了现代社会,她称慈禧为“了不起的女政治家”。
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But Ms. Chang’s damn-the-man portrait of Cixi is a tad too generous even for some sympathizers. How could the empress dowager have ushered in groundbreaking innovation when much of her career was devoted to her drive to preserve the imperial family that crumbled three years after her death?
但是,张戎以都是男人之罪的手法描绘出来的慈禧,即使对一些同情慈禧的人来说,也有点太慷慨了。西太后的政治生涯大部分花在致力于维护皇家的努力上,而清朝在她死后三年就崩溃了,慈禧怎么可能是开创了突破性创新的人物呢?
And Cixi did undermine a bold reform program begun by her adopted son, Emperor Guangxu, who favored a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute one. She then supported the Boxer rebellion, an anti-foreign, anti-Christian uprising that cost China dearly, a move she later blamed on her bossy male advisers.
其次,慈禧的确破坏了她的养子光绪皇帝的大胆改革计划。后者支持君主立宪而非绝对君主制。之后,慈禧还支持过义和团运动,那是一场排外的、反基督教的起义,让中国付出了沉重的代价。她后来将支持义和团的做法归咎于对她发号施令的男性顾问。
A Chinese scholar, Zhang Hongjie, recently took up the cause of the empress in a sympathetic essay, “Woman Cixi,” featured in an anthology about Chinese women and men who have struggled against the odds.
在近期发表的文章《女人慈禧》中,中国学者张宏杰也以一种同情的态度探讨了她的事业。此文收录在一本关于与逆境作斗争的中国女性和男性的集子里。
He argued that she was held back by her lack of education, a given at the time because she was a woman, and that she should be given credit for trying to make amends for her mistakes at the end of her rule. But Mr. Zhang said his positive portrait made little impact.
他认为,缺乏教育拖累了她,而在当时,女人不受教育是理所当然的,在她的统治快要结束时,慈禧曾试图弥补自己的错误,她应该因此而受到表扬。但张宏杰说,他对慈禧的正面描述几乎没有产生任何影响。
“Cixi is still a negative character,” he said.
“慈禧仍是一个负面人物,”他说。
Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
Her endeavors to preserve the imperial family above all else make for comparisons with Michael Corleone, the fictional Mafia boss.
慈禧不顾一切维护皇家的努力,让有些人将她与虚构人物、黑手党头目迈克尔·考利昂(Michael Corleone)相提并论。
“She had one of the most ruthless, savvy political minds, she was like a gangster,” said Jeremiah Jenne, a historian who leads visitors on walking tours around the Summer Palace, where he points out 500-year-old juniper and cypress trees, and paint-faded pavilions like the Hall for Dispelling Clouds, which was renovated in 1895 for her 60th birthday extravaganza.
“她有着一种最无情、最精明的政治头脑,就像一个黑帮分子,”组织了颐和园徒步游的历史学家章志劢(Jeremiah Jenne)说,他会在沿途介绍500年的杜松和柏树,以及排云殿等油漆已退色的华美建筑,排云殿是慈禧为庆祝自己60岁生日于1895年重修的。
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Cixi had the Summer Palace rebuilt after an invading European army looted and burned the original, which, with its jewel-encrusted furniture and over-the-top silks, was said to be on par with Versailles.
最初的夏宫圆明园遭欧洲列强的军队洗劫和烧毁之后,慈禧太后重建了颐和园。据说,拥有镶满珠宝的家具和华丽丝绸的圆明园可以与凡尔赛宫媲美。
Her reconstruction was not quite as opulent, but it was a sumptuous personal pleasure ground, intended to signify the strength of the family and its immense retinue of courtiers.
慈禧重建的颐和园并不那么富丽堂皇,但作为一处个人享乐场所也足够奢华,重建的目的是显示皇家及其群臣的力量。
Despite the scholarly ruminations about Cixi, many Chinese tourists seem more interested in her extravagant lifestyle and come to see what is left of the loot, much faded because of neglect by the Communist Party’s cultural administrators.
学界在反思慈禧,但许多中国游客似乎还是对她的奢侈生活方式更感兴趣,他们想要看看劫后残留下来的东西,由于共产党的文化管理部门疏于照顾,它们早已失去了昔日的光彩。
A favorite is the “marble boat,” officially known as the Boat of Purity and Ease, a two-story wooden pavilion with wide verandas built into the side of the lakeshore and painted to resemble pale marble.
其中最吸引游客的是石舫,正式的称呼叫清晏舫,这是一座有宽阔游廊的两层木亭,建在从湖岸伸出去的石头平台上,亭子漆成白色大理石的颜色。
The official school curriculum says Cixi stole funds from the imperial Navy to renovate the boat just two years before the outbreak of war with the Japanese. Because of her thievery, the textbooks say, China lost the naval battles against Japan in 1894.
官方教科书的说法是,就在与日本开战的两年前,慈禧挪用了帝国海军的资金来翻修石舫。教科书上说,因为她的挪用,中国在1895年的甲午海战中输给了日本。
Crowds, shoulder-to-shoulder on a recent spring day, pressed against the lakeside rail, taking selfies framed by the newly green willow trees that dipped into the water.
在最近的一个春日,熙熙攘攘的人群挤在湖边的石栏前自拍,新长出绿叶的垂湖柳树为他们的照片做陪衬。
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“She had an expensive lifestyle, and China had one disaster after another,” said a middle-aged primary schoolteacher, who identified herself as Ms. Ye. She said she had no sympathy for Cixi.
“她过着奢侈的生活,中国却经历了一场又一场的灾难,”一位小学老师说,这位自称姓叶的中年女士说,她一点也不同情慈禧。
“When you are backward as China was then, people will take advantage of you,” she said.
“一个国家像中国当年那样落后的时候,别人会来瓜分你,”她说。
In the gift shops, there are no images of Cixi, just a few pieces of pink silk emblazoned with her calligraphy, sold as wall hangings. Commemorative coins with the portrait of Mao Zedong, cheap bangles, tea sets and hand fans do a brisker trade.
礼品店里没有慈禧像,只有几件印有她的书法的粉色丝绸,作为挂在墙上的装饰物出售。更畅销的是有毛泽东肖像的纪念币、便宜的手镯,还有茶具和扇子。
“No one likes her,” one of the young saleswomen said. “In history she is bad. Who would buy souvenirs of Cixi?”
“没人喜欢慈禧,”一个年轻的女售货员说。“她是历史上的坏人。谁会买慈禧纪念品呢?”
中国的孩子们学到的是在中日战争开始前,慈禧挪用了海军的经费,以修建石舫。
中国的孩子们学到的是在中日战争开始前,慈禧挪用了海军的经费,以修建石舫。 Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
Young Chinese tourists showed more sympathy.
年轻的中国游客则对慈禧表现出更多的同情。
“As a woman, she couldn’t make decisions in politics like the men,” said Xiao Yangchuan, 18, a first-year university student. “I think we should see her as a real person. She has her own flaws, and we should understand her era,” she said.
“作为一个女人,她不能像男人那样在政治上做决定,”18岁的大学一年级学生肖阳川(音)说。“我认为我们应该从把她作为一个真实的人来看。她有自己的缺点,我们也应该了解她所处的时代,”她说。
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In the last decade of her life, the empress dowager tried to polish her image by making herself more accessible, especially to Western diplomats. But in the end, she could barely overcome the impression that, like many royals in the West, she was most interested in her dogs, gardening and fancy clothing, wrote Sterling Seagrave in his empathetic biography, “Dragon Lady.”
在生命的最后十年里,慈禧太后试图通过让外界、尤其是西方外交官更了解自己,来提升自己的形象。但最终她也几乎无法克服一种印象,那就是,与许多西方皇室成员一样,她最感兴趣的东西是自己的狗、园艺和华丽服装,斯特林·西格拉夫(Sterling Seagrave)在持同情态度的传记《龙夫人》(Dragon Lady)中写道。
Pictures of her are banished to a pavilion near the exit of the palace grounds, where a large sepia photo shows her, surrounded by ladies in waiting, dressed in an embroidered gown with pearls said to be the size of canary eggs, and long talon-like finger nails.
她的照片被打入冷宫,搬到了颐和园出口附近的一间房子里展览,在一张黑褐色的大照片上可以看到宫廷女侍站在慈禧身边,她穿着一件带有珍珠的刺绣套服,据说上面的珍珠和金丝雀蛋差不多大小,她还有长长的像爪子一样的指甲。
排云殿内部,慈禧在这里庆祝了自己的生日。
排云殿内部,慈禧在这里庆祝了自己的生日。 Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
The day before she died, the young emperor, Guangxu, was found dead — of natural causes, imperial records show. In 2008, Chinese medical investigators found extraordinarily high levels of arsenic in his remains, leading to a popular conclusion that the Empress had killed him to try to stop him from introducing political reforms after her own death.
在她去世的前一天,年轻的光绪皇帝驾崩,宫廷记录显示是自然死因。2008年,中国的医学调查人员在光绪的遗骸中找到了超高含量的砷,从而得出了一个广泛接受的结论:西太后为了阻止光绪在自己死后推行政治改革,杀掉了皇帝。
Did she do it? “I am going with Cixi,” said Mr. Jenne, the historian.
是她干的吗?“我认为是慈禧干的,”历史学家章志劢说。
In her final years, she was known as the “old Buddha,” a term that friendly biographers say was a term of endearment. Others see it as an appropriately scornful term for a woman who was barely literate, left little for other women to emulate and led the bankrupt Qing dynasty to its downfall in a country whose government remains as male-dominated as ever.
在她生命的最后几年,人们称她为“老佛爷”,在对她友好的传记作家眼里,这是一种爱称。其他人则认为,这是对一个几乎不识字的女人的一种恰当的蔑称,慈禧几乎没有留下任何其他女性可以效仿的东西,她把破产的大清王朝带向了灭亡,而她所在国家的政府仍一如既往地由男性主导。