Empress Dowager Cixi [cnwnews.com]
Empress Dowager Cixi, the regent who effectively controlled the Chinese government in the late Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) for 47 years, enjoyed longevity of 74 years at a time when life expectancy in the country was around 50.
At 60, her skin was "tender and smooth, as fair as that of a young lady," her maid Der Ling recorded in one of her texts.
"Dowager Cixi was 70, but she looked just like in her 30s," wrote Katharine Carl, a U.S. artist who often painted portraits of the empress.
What are the secrets of such a healthy and beautiful long life?
Zhang Jingchun, professor at China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, studied the medical records of the Qing royal family and found five main points:
Delicate Diet to Prolong Life
Empress Dowager Cixi ate various foods generally thought conducive to long life by the Chinese people, such as honey, walnuts and sesame oil, as is recorded in historical documents.
In addition, the empress regularly consumed ginseng, which works to supply "qi", the vital energy that is said to animate the body internally in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also used to help energize those who are tired and weak.
Another regular component of her diet was harsmar, a fatty tissue found inside frogs, which has since been proved by modern research to contain hormones that promote protein synthesis, hence enhancing the immunity of people, especially menopausal women.
Menstruation Regulation and Liver Care
Empress Dowager Cixi drank rose tea, and chrysanthemum tea with mulberry leaves, supposedly to regulate menstruation and benefit the liver.
Traditional Chinese medicine takes the liver as critical to the fitness of women. Rose tea is said to work effectively in dispersing stagnated liver "qi" and promoting blood circulation to relieve menstrual cramps.
Meticulous Prescriptions for Hair Care
Empress Dowager Cixi was once troubled by greasy and dull hair, along with occasional hair loss. The imperial physicians attributed it to her weak kidney and started increasing her renal blood flow. In the meantime, multiple herbal remedies were prescribed to tend to her hair.
By washing her hair with a concoction called Juhuasan, consisting of nine Chinese herbs including chrysanthemum, her hair's greasiness was effectively controlled.
Whilst combing her locks, the empress would spray it with Mintoushui, a medicinal liquid that made her hair smooth and shiny. The potion was made by boiling eight herbs including mint, patchouli leaves and holy basil, then cooling it and adding a plant extract called borneol. The empress stuck to the remedy for over two decades till her 70s.
In addition, Cixi adopted a prescription that could promote hair growth. It was made of mashed Chinese torreya leaves, walnuts and arborvitae plant tops, soaked in snow water and was also used during hair-combing.
Regular and Natural Daily Routine
Throughout her life, Empress Dowager Cixi kept almost the same schedule of work and rest every day.
She got up from 5–6 a.m., had breakfast at around 7 a.m. and lunch at 10:30 a.m. Then she would take a rest from 11 a.m.–1 p.m., an afternoon tea at 2 p.m., and supper around 5 p.m. About an hour after dinner, she took a bath and went to bed between 9–10 p.m. Whatever problems she might be facing, the empress could fall asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.
Such a routine is totally in line with the natural way of life advocated by traditional Chinese medicine. It holds that people should sleep during the "Zi" period (11 p.m.-1 a.m.), have breakfast in the "Chen" period (7-9 a.m.), take a nap in the "Wu" period (11 a.m.-1 p.m.), and work during the "Shen" period (3-5 p.m.).
Young and Open Mind
Empress Dowager Cixi had wide interests and was a big fan of Peking Opera. She also introduced many western creations to the Forbidden City, such as foreign food, photography and the telephone. Her positive attitude and open mind towards life and new things may also have significantly contributed to her long and healthy life.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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