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When therefore the time came for the selection of concubines for
the Emperor Hsien Feng, and our little Miss Chao was taken into
the palace, her parents, like many others, had every reason to
consider it a piece of ill-fortune which had visited their home.
The future was veiled from them. The Forbidden City, surrounded
by its great crenelated wall, may have seemed more like a prison
than like a palace. True, they had other children, and she was
"only a girl, but even girls are a small blessing," as they tell
us in their proverbs. She had grown old enough to be useful in
the home, and they no doubt had cherished plans of betrothing her
to the son of some merchant or official who would add wealth or
honour to their family. Neither father nor mother, brother nor
sister, could have conceived of the potential power, honour and
even glory, that were wrapped up in that girl, and that were
finally to come to them as a family, as well as to many of them
as individuals. Their wildest dreams at that time could not have
pictured themselves dukes and princesses, with their daughters as
empresses, duchesses, or ladies-in-waiting in the palace. But
such it proved to be.
The Empress Dowager--Her Years of Training
The kindness of the Empress is as boundless as the sea.
Her person too is holy, she is like a deity.
With boldness, from seclusion, she ascends the Dragon Throne,
And saves her suffering country from a fate we dare not own