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Background

An oft reproduced narrative about the Empress Dowager Cixi asserts that she held the Guangxu Emperor captive within the Forbidden City. Lately, I heard a version that disputes all of this and contends that he was free to go wherever he pleased. I think it is based on the newish book 說慈禧, but have not located the quotes yet.

To the point

Der Ling’s book »Two Years in the Forbidden City«, Chapter 9 relates that:

She also gave orders that everyone should bathe the body and wash out the mouth in order that we might be cleansed from all impurities and be ready to fast and pray to the Gods. Also that the Emperor should go to the temple inside the Forbidden City, to perform a ceremony of sacrifice (called Chin Tan). He was not to eat meat or hold converse with anyone, and to pray to the Gods to be merciful and send rain to the poor farmers.

And further on:

His Majesty, the Emperor Kwang Hsu, was to pray at the Forbidden City and Her Majesty always wanted to accompany him wherever he went.

If the Emperor’s praying in the Forbidden City -as opposed to the Temple of Heaven outside it -is an irregularity, this might support the narrative that Cixi had restricted his movements. Hence my question:

Was it abnormal for His Majesty to pray inside the Forbidden City as opposed to the Temple of Heaven? An answer based on official protocol rules would be the most desirable.

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