Bowers Museum opens exhibition on China’s Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi

“H.I.M The Empress Dowager of China, Cixi” 戴泽 after the original by Hubert Vos, 1905. Image credit: Bowers Museum


SANTA ANA, Calif. – Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) stands in the center of modern Chinese history. While most commonly viewed as a politician, this formidable matriarch was also introduced to Western audiences or readers as a connoisseur, patron and even creator of art in the early 20th century, a phenomenon that interestingly fell unnoticed in modern scholarship.

A newly opened exhibition at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana is the first of its kind in the United States to explore the empress dowager’s roles beyond politics. It has been organized through a groundbreaking partnership with the Summer Palace Museum in Beijing.

Upon viewing this exhibition, it becomes clear that Cixi not only led politics, but also China’s art at the crossroads of tradition and innovation. The exhibition reconstructs the matriarch’s everyday life in the Summer Palace, presenting her multi-faceted roles of politician, matriarch and connoisseur of various arts through four different sections and more than 100 objects that have never before been seen in the United States.

Empress Dowager Cixi: Selections from the Summer Palace is guest curated by Ying-chen Peng, Assistant Professor of Art History at American University.

For additional information, visit the Bowers Museum online.

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