The Dowager Empress Cixi popularly known in China as the Western Empress Dowager, and officially known posthumously as Empress Xiaoqin Xian, was a powerful and charismatic figure who was the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, ruling over China for most of the period from 1861 to her death in 1908.
Cixi was a major concubine of the Emperor Xianfeng. Soon after Emperor Xianfeng died in 1861, Cixi along with Empress Ci'an became regents for the deceased emperor's boy. The two Dowager Empresses, counseled by the late Emperor's brother, maintained this position until 1873 when Emperor Tongzhi came of age.
Two years later, the young man was dead. Cixi violated the normal succession and had her three year old nephew named the new heir. The two Dowager Empresses continued as regents until the death of Ci'an, the other Dowager Empress, in 1881, when Cixi became the de facto ruler of China.