For many Hongkongers, the arranged, some would say forced, marriage between the mainland and their city has not been a happy union. As the rancour over national education demonstrates, China may have had physical possession of Hong Kong for the last 15 years, but it has yet to win the SAR’s unconditional love.
In imperial China, royal marriages were often loveless political arrangements. Consider the sad career of Jingfen (1868-1913), the empress of the Guangxu Emperor. Her father’s sister was the formidable Empress Dowager Cixi, who wanted a close relative to keep a tight leash on the emperor, the son of Cixi’s sister. From the beginning of their marriage, the first cousins hated each other.
Guangxu saw his wife as Cixi’s spy and sought solace in other consorts, while the empress resented her husband’s wilful neglect.
It didn’t help that the empress was unattractive in both appearance and personality, and lacked the gravitas to command respect among the ladies of the inner court.
When Cixi and Guangxu died within hours of each other in 1908, she became the Empress Dowager Longyu, who ruled as a co-regent for the new three-year-old emperor, Puyi, her husband’s nephew. Within four years, the wretched Jingfen had to bear the historical responsibility of declaring the emperor’s abdication and the ignominious end of not only the Qing dynasty, but of China’s imperial era.