Yuhang Li. 50 Painting Empress Dowager Cixi as Guanyin for Missionaries’ Eyes
At the turn of the 20th century, Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) orchestrated
portraits of herself to reconstruct her image as the de facto monarch of Qing dynasty
(1644–1911) China. Recent scholarship has focused in particular on images in which
she embodies the female deity Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion. Produced
following the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901), these images can be seen as efforts to
overcome her anxiety during the tumult of the late Qing dynasty. This article introduces an anomalous example of Cixi masquerading as Guanyin.