Despite scorn for ties to a 'traitor', Manchu descendant treasures his lineage If Yehenala Genzheng had been born 150 years ago, his lineage would have ensured him a place in the Qing imperial court rather than the obscurity of the Summer Palace's complaints department. Mr Yehenala, 54, hushed up his blood ties to Empress Cixi until a few years ago, when news media focused attention on his surname and prompted him to tell his family's side of the empress' story. As a boy, Mr Yehenala was captivated by his grandfather's stories about their family's past, but he learned from a young age not to repeat them to anyone outside the home. Family tradition instilled a sense of pride in his bloodline, but the name inspired others to label him 'descendant of a traitor'. Empress Cixi is reviled in mainland textbooks as a traitor to the Chinese people, and for nearly 100 years her descendents tried to cover up their imperial links by adopting a shortened version of the family name, 'Na'. Then, in 2002, a newspaper reported on Mr Yehenala's hobby of collecting tickets to the Summer Palace - the park built in honour of the empress' birthday - and it became public knowledge that his grandfather was Cixi's nephew. 'It was only a matter of time before my real surname came out. It was inevitable,' he said. Earlier this year, he co-authored a biography of the empress, which for the first time revealed family anecdotes and exclusive accounts of the powerful woman. The book generated a great deal of debate on the mainland, with some critics saying it was an attempt to rehabilitate her role in Chinese history. 'I simply tried to present history as it really was,' Mr Yehenala said. 'My book is a family memoir. As part of the fourth generation of Cixi's descendants, I hope to get close to her real story. 'I can't guarantee that what I heard from my grandfather or relatives was all true, but I tried to be factual and fill in historical gaps from a family perspective.' Mr Yehenala denied he was seeking a reversal of the verdict on Cixi, since 'the social situation is not ready'. But he did hope to counter claims that she should never have been the empress of China. 'I wish people could have a factual and impartial judgment of Cixi,' he said. In Mr Yehenala's eyes, Cixi was a great stateswoman. Despite being a widow, she was able to rule China and hold the Manchu Qing dynasty together for more than 50 years. Mr Yehenala treasures his bloodline despite the dark shadow it has cast over his life. When the Kuomintang overthrew the Qing empire, ejecting Mr Yehenala's great uncle, Emperor Puyi, from the throne, the family's fortunes were reversed overnight. But the darkest days came during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, when the family had to throw their money into a river, burn a photo of Cixi and destroy one of her wooden beds to avoid prosecution. Mr Yehenala has only a brief answer to questions about the fate of his family under communist rule: 'The past has passed.' Any lasting antagonism was erased in the late 1980s when Deng Xiaoping's reforms opened a new era in Chinese history and allowed Mr Yehenala to join the party. 'I am a Manchu descendant, but I grew up in Mao's time which left an indelible mark on me, just as it did with my peers,' he said. 'But I also cling to my heritage. I was told I am the oldest grandson, a vitally important position in the family, and have to shoulder its historic expectations.' Mr Yehenala's only regret is that his 23-year-old son does not share his interest in the past. The computer science major sometimes laughs at his father's insistence that he learn the Manchu language, and pours scorn on his father for displaying Cixi's photo among the modern furniture in their home. Nevertheless, his son has helped him compile reviews of the book on the internet. 'This is probably the so-called generation gap,' Mr Yehenala said. 'Maybe when he becomes more mature, he will take a greater interest in the family history.'