Emperor Guangxu, personal name Zaitian, born in 1871, is the ninth emperor (reigned 1875-1908) of the Qing dynasty, during whose reign the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) totally dominated the government and thereby prevented the young emperor from modernizing and reforming the deteriorating imperial system.

As the nephew of Cixi, at the age of 4, Zaitian was chose as the emperor after the previous emperors death. Cixi adopted the boy as her son so that she could act as regent and dominate the government as she had since 1861. Although this action broke the sacred dynastic law of succession, opposition to the move was squelched, and on Feb. 25, 1875, the young prince ascended the throne, taking the reign name of Guangxu.

Although the emperor came of age in 1887, he had to wait two more years before taking over the government from Cixi, who continued to influence policy. In 1898, at the age of 27, he finally tried to assert himself. During what has come to be known as the "Hundred Days of Reform," he collected a group of progressively oriented officials around him and issued a broad series of reform edicts. Empress Dowager Cixi was outraged and with the support of conservative officials, she cruelly suppressed this reform movement and confined the young emperor to his palace for about 10 years. On Nov.14, 1908, Guangxu died secretly and Empress Dowager Cixi also died the next day. Before Cixis death, she passed the throne to the emperors three-year-old nephew, who reigned as the as the Emperor Xuantong (1909-1911).